How To Start a Freelance Programming Career

Written By D.T. Yates

start freelance programmingAre you tired of boring 9-5 office jobs and looking for a little more freedom? Maybe there’s something about going into the office every day that has you looking for alternative, more remote programming career options. Whatever your reasoning may be, starting a career in freelance programming can be the answer you’re looking for.

Freelancing and working remotely can be a very lucrative way of making money and building a successful career, that is, so long as you work for it.

Freelancing is not, I repeat, is not an easy endeavor. While there’s a lot of freedom that comes with being your own boss, there are also a ton of responsibilities you must pick up from the start. No longer is someone else there to hold your hand or walk you through the process.

You become your own boss. Heck, you’re the CEO, COO, CFO, and head of PR. It’s you who has to pay the business taxes, hold a business license, and promote/advertise your business’s services. You do it all!

And if you fail, you fail, and you have to pick yourself back up and push on.

Now, if you’ve read all that and are still interested in becoming a freelancer, then congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming a successful freelance programmer for hire.

Below are some tips to get you set up to begin your career. If you are completely new to programming, I’d suggest learning a thing or two about the basics of programming before implementing any of the advice offered in this article. If you’d like to jump start your education, here is a course on how you can quickly learn the basics of programming.

Let’s begin!

Find Your Niche

The first thing you need to do when beginning your freelance journey is find your niche. A niche is essentially a subset of the general market that is defined by its own set of characteristics. In other words, your niche is the specific genre of programming you want to work in or find yourself working in the most.

This specialty can be anything from game or mobile development to cybersecurity or even bitcoin. And the more specific you get, the more of a specialist you become.

By niching down, you’ll be able to gain experience faster, become more efficient in your niche, market yourself with ease, and become more referable to other potential clients.

Don’t worry if you can’t decide on your perfect niche just yet. It’s okay to take your time and try out a few different areas of programming to see what best fits you. People change up their niche all the time, so take it slow if need be, do your research, and have fun while you do it.

Build an Online Portfolio

Having an online portfolio is key to your freelance programming success. Gone are the days of binder portfolios and basic resumes (although you’ll still need one of those, too). If you are serious about going freelance, then an online portfolio is the best way to showcase your work to potential clients.

You’ll want to include your best work examples and highlight any specific skills you have that would be attractive to potential clients. These can range from languages you can code in to operating systems and tools you have experience using. You’ll also want to include any positive referrals you receive from previous clients. This helps sell you to your clients and makes you stand out as a highly respected professional in your niche.

There are many different ways you can go about making an online portfolio. There’s the basic option of creating a free, personalized website and throwing all your work on there for clients to see. There are also freelancing websites you can use to create and build a free programming portfolio (more on them down below).

After a while, you may want to consider buying your own personal website domain to showcase yourself as a more professional and serious programmer.

Expand Your Communication Skills

When you’re a freelancer, you no longer have the luxury of having work assigned to you. Now you have to go out and find that work for yourself.

To do this, every great freelancer needs to have sharp communication skills. Not only do you need to know what you’re talking about, you need to know how to network and sell yourself—your programming services come later.

Sure, you could be the best programmer in the world, but if you can’t convince the client that you are someone worth investing in, you’ll never achieve lift-off.

Good communication skills also come in handy when handling a difficult client or diffusing a heated situation in which you and your work is being scrutinized.

One of the best ways to improve your communication is by working on your soft skills. 

These can range anywhere from keeping yourself proactive and organized to understanding the user perspective and maintaining a positive outlook.

Simple Programmer’s own John Sonmez has written a book about developing your soft skills where he shows you how to boost your freelance programming career by adding some soft skills to your tool belt.

Sign Up with Freelance Sites

If you don’t feel you have the experience to land those high-paying freelance programming jobs, don’t worry. There are plenty of freelancer sites you can use to find immediate work that will help you build up your online portfolio.

You can find a multitude of jobs ranging from absolute beginner to ace-level expert. In no time you’ll see your portfolio grow, and you’ll hit that expert level sooner than you thought possible.

Some great sites for freelancers include:

Signing up for a freelancing site is a quick and easy process. You could even get started with your first programming job today!

I got the first project I applied for after signing up with Upwork. So long as you can prove your worth and have the proper soft skills in place, you’ll be able to score clients quickly and easily.

While these sites may not be for everyone, or may only act as a temporary solution to build up your online portfolio, they are definitely a great way to jump start your freelance programming career.

Stay Up-to-Date with Current Technology Advancements and Trends

start freelance programmingNow that you’re all set with your work and on your way to attracting clients, the last thing you need to do is keep yourself up-to-date with the newest technology advancements and trends in the world of programming.

Keeping up with your niche and similar niches around yours is the best way to stay one foot ahead of the competition at all times. You also never want to fall behind. With how fast technology changes and upgrades, the hottest commodity could become irrelevant a literal month after its release, so it’s wise to stay on your toes.

Follow relevant programming blogs, Google the latest trends, join some Facebook programming groups, and subscribe to a few technology magazines and newsletters. Any of these is a great way to make sure you are always in the know.

And who knows, maybe you’ll learn something like a new skill or coding technique that could add extra value to your business.

You can start this endeavor by signing up for the free Simple Programmer newsletter where John Sonmez will keep you updated with the best tips and proven theories you can use to boost your brand and achieve absolute success in all your programming endeavors.

It All Starts with You

Freelance programming can be a very lucrative endeavor, as long as you apply yourself and stay dedicated to the work. Your success depends entirely on how you move forward with the information you learned here today.

Don’t just sit and wait for tomorrow to happen!

Go ahead and find your niche, build that online portfolio, work on those soft skills, and get to work. And don’t forget to keep learning every step of the way.

Happy programming!