There has never been a more promising and profitable time to be a developer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of software developers will grow an impressive 17% by 2024. Compare that with a 7% average growth rate across all occupations (and consider that the $102,280 median wage among developers nearly triples the median for all occupations), and it’s clear skilled coders are in increasingly high demand.
Finding the right job fit can be tricky when there exist varied options for developers, including positions at traditional tech companies, startups, remote and location-independent gigs, and more. Even so, data has shown an increased interest in freelance and contract work. In fact, the freelance economy accounted for 35% of the total U.S. workforce last year. That means 55 million Americans have opted for flexible work, giving them the freedom to choose the companies and projects that are the right fit for them.
If you’re interested in striking out on your own as a freelance developer, here are some tips to get you started. (And once you’re done reading, browse listings for contract developers to find your next gig.)
Determine A Niche
Many veteran freelancers make the same suggestion. “As a ‘web designer’ I was competing with a huge number of people and companies, using a very generic skill,” writes long-time freelance WordPress developer Keith Devon. “As a ‘WordPress developer’ I had a much clearer skill. People that had, or wanted, a WordPress website would see that I knew how to work with the platform.”
Selling your services as top-of-the-line in a couple specific areas, rather than advertising broad, general knowledge, will attract the companies offering projects you want to work on most.
Embrace New Roles
First-time freelancers will typically exchange the one defined role they had at an office job for many roles when building a new career in contract work. Unlike working full-time for a company, where responsibilities are distributed across teams, they will assume responsibility for their own PR, accounting, sales, and all other aspects of running a business. Although top notch coding will be priority number one in building and maintaining a successful freelance web development career, know that you’ll be wearing new hats when going solo as an independent worker.
“Running a business goes way beyond programming,” says Katy Lynch, the serial tech entrepreneur behind coding camp Codeverse. “Be willing to roll your sleeves up, get scrappy, work incredibly hard, and learn all aspects of your business.”
Build Brand Awareness
Building a website to showcase your work is one of the most important first steps to getting your new freelance business off the ground. If you’re a front end developer, make sure your website shows off those skills and serves as an impressive front door so companies are enticed to further explore your work. If front end isn’t your thing, that’s fine; just be sure whatever you’re sending clients is a good demonstration of the skills you do have.
The website should include a “work with me” section with pricing information, links to your social media accounts, and client testimonials (once you get some). Companies will also want proof points of your skills: Depending on your expertise, you might want to include links to your work in public repositories, functioning products in the real world, or even your answers and comments on Stack Overflow.
Not sure you have something to show off yet? Because clients will always ask for examples, it’s worth investing the time to create something simple you can share publicly. If you’re struggling for inspiration, consider donating your skills to a good cause. Abdullahi Muhammed, an expert in building a career in freelancing, suggests, “Do some free work. As a freelance coder, you can develop a website for a non-profit or your friend’s small business.”
But work doesn’t end after landing a couple contracts with companies. “You need to market yourself a lot. Don’t rely on just your work speaking for itself or word of mouth taking you far, especially if you’re a newbie,” Muhammed continues. “The more leads and interest you can generate in your services, the more clients you can land and the higher you can charge.”
When you’ve taken these steps and you’re ready to start courting clients, Stack Overflow Jobs can help. Browse listings for contract developers now.