What is the career of your dreams? Are you ready to strike out on your own as a coder? Programming for a corporation brings stress, so many people in this position seek freedom in selecting their clients and hours.
Finding the best freelance programming jobs isn’t difficult. You need to know where to look and how to grab attention.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 250,300 computer programmers in America making a median wage of $86,550 per year. Unfortunately, this industry is an area where there isn’t as much growth as some other industries, with an expected 7% decline by 2028.
BLS predicts cheap labor from other countries will drive the trend and reduce the number of higher-paying jobs. You have to get creative to stay in the game.
Is there still a demand for programmers? If you have the right skills, you can always pick up work. As a computer programmer, you’d be wise to add some auxiliary skills, such as web design and technical troubleshooting for individuals and companies.
The dream of owning your own company and choosing your clients may be calling to you. Working for yourself gives you the flexibility to pick up jobs from anywhere in the world. There are enough freelance programming jobs to go around — you just have to look for them.
Top 12 Sites to Find Freelance Programming Jobs
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face as an independent contractor is figuring out where to find freelance jobs for programmers. In addition to letting family and friends know you’re available for hire, get your profile on some of the more popular freelance-for-hire sites.
Started two decades ago, the platform has more than 12 million users. You’ll find posts for top companies around the world. One of the disadvantages of job bid sites is the pay might not be as high as you’d like.
Know how much you want to make per hour and bid accordingly. Those who value your skills may not choose the lowest bid but the person with the experience they need.
Taking the work out of it for you, SolidGigs is a gig-finding service that scours the web for only the best freelance programming jobs and send them direct to your inbox. It’s like they put clients in your lap, and all you have to do is apply — easy peasy. Give it a shot for just $2.
The founders created the talent matching service to help companies find highly qualified programmers and technical experts. They vet those who join their community, so you won’t compete with those without the same knowledge.
They test all of their applicants and only 3% make it through, so competition is lower on this site.
One of the top job sites for finding remote work, FlexJobs offers great opportunities for freelance programming jobs. You’re able to filter jobs by freelance, as well as partial remote or “partial during pandemic” — giving you the flexibility depending on your current job situation.
Offering a method a little different from other sites, Gigster works by matching a project manager to clients. The PM then organizes developers and projects through each step of the process. The environment is a bit less stressful, with longer turnaround times and deadlines.
Stack Overflow is set up like a forum. Businesses post available jobs and members contact them to learn more. One of the biggest benefits of this site is that you can talk to other developers.
If you don’t understand some part of coding or want to add to your skills, other members chime in to offer suggestions. You can learn more about coding while also bidding on jobs.
Even though Fiverr is known for its $5 jobs, you can still set your rates on this job posting site. Let people know what services you offer and create add-ons to get your price up to where you want it to be.
If you’re just starting as a freelancer, the site is an excellent place to develop some experience and create samples of your work. It also serves as a way to pick up quick filler work when you aren’t as busy.
Create a profile on Hired and showcase your top talents. Once an employer starts finding custom matches, they can contact qualified candidates with interview requests. If you have some specialty areas, this site is a great choice for connecting with potential clients.
Similar to Upwork’s model, People Per Hour has some unique features. For example, they allow freelancers to post their own job offers. The site has 2.9 million freelancers and about 1 million business members.
Fewer freelancers compete for jobs on this platform than on Upwork, so this website might be another place to use to fill in the gap between assignments.
Guru is a more general type of freelance website. You’ll find other programmers, website developers, writers, editors and just about every other job category imaginable.
One beneficial thing about Guru is their SafePay system. You won’t have to worry about collecting payments from your clients when selling your work on this site.
This job platform offers both fixed price and hourly jobs. With 25 million registered users, you’ll find plenty of posted jobs. It can take some trial and error to find the right clients, and most projects are short term.
On Dribble, you can create a digital portfolio and show off some of your work, and you can also apply for offered job listings. This site is a great place to network online and connect with other freelancers as well as companies seeking workers.
Other Places to Seek Work as a Programmer
Your base location can make a big difference in the work you secure. Some cities are known for their benefits for web developers, freelance programming jobs, and other tech positions.
If you choose a place close to a lot of big companies needing a freelancer’s services, you open the possibility of hybrid or temporary work.
Send Out Feelers
Contact companies in your area and let them know you offer contract programming work should they have a need. Present yourself professionally. Have a physical flyer that you can put in the management’s hands. Talk to them about what you’ve done for other companies. Gather some testimonials and references from other work you’ve done.
Check Social Media
Social media can be a treasure trove of opportunities. You can run an ad for your services and narrow the audience by particular interests or locations. Sites such as LinkedIn also offer job boards for seeking temporary or permanent positions.
Yes, even contract work is available on LinkedIn. Facebook also provides job listings, which you can filter into categories such as part-time or contract work.
Go to Networking Events
Join your local chamber of commerce and go to meetings regularly. Get to know business owners in the area. Tell them what you do for a living and get your card in their hands.
Even though they may not need your services this minute, your name will come to mind when they need a programmer. People are much more likely to hire someone they know.
Attend trade shows in the industries you most want to work in. For example, if you want to develop for banks, go to banker conferences. Almost every event provides networking opportunities. Seek them out and make connections so you can start building your client list.
Develop a Specialty
Figure out a niche area in programming. Where does there seem to be a shortage of skills? What roles are companies advertising for over and over? Once you know what interests you have and what areas are understaffed, seek jobs in the industry. If you have to, work for non-profits at first to build a reputation.
Ask Current Clients to Refer You
Word-of-mouth advertising is one of the most effective ways to find clients. Once you have a lead or two, go above and beyond for them. Under-promise and over-deliver so they see how phenomenal you are.
Reach out to them and ask if they’d be willing to tell others about you and your services. Offer a referral discount if they send new work your way.
Skills Needed for Programmers
What exactly do you need to know to become a programmer? If you were seeking a full-time job through a corporation, a bachelor’s degree would be helpful. Since you’ll be working for yourself, experience is the top indicator of how well you’ll do. Some skills you should develop include:
- Ability to offer automated solutions. Your clients will want ideas for ways to free up their time, whether they run an e-commerce store or a local service.
- Math skills. You will need to do a bit of math while coding. At least brush up on basic math and algebra to have that knowledge ready when you start.
- Knowledge of coding language. You’ll write code in languages such as C++, Python, SQL and Java. Start with one type and learn it proficiently. Then, move on to others you notice employers advertising for in your area. If you see one skill pays more than another, set out to learn the software.
- Troubleshooting mastery. Clients often contact a programmer when they’ve run into an issue they can’t solve. Images won’t load on their WordPress site media library, or they can’t seem to find the error in their code. Learn to troubleshoot quickly by practicing in your spare time. Experience brings the ability to know the most common issues and find them fast.
- Good communication. You’ll need to talk to clients and other individuals on each project. Work on listening and speaking concisely.
Although most of the work a computer programmer does involves writing code, some add-on skills are beneficial.
Knowing how to work with user interfaces (UI) and even doing some light design work can keep the cash flowing during slower times. Think about which tasks complement what you already do and add a list of additional services.
How to Prepare for Freelance Programming Jobs
Freelance programming jobs are different from working as a coder within the confines of a company. There are some things you’ll need to establish and understand before taking on an entrepreneur role.
When you work for a company, they often give you a list of tasks due and have you adhere to a strict schedule. They may even have project management software keeping you on track.
As a freelance programmer, you’ll work for yourself. You are responsible for seeing projects come together and checking tasks off the list. You’ll be juggling a lot of different hats, such as coder, project manager, marketer and salesperson.
Seek out organizational tools to keep yourself on track. Set reminders on your phone and use project management tools such as Trello and Basecamp. Make to-do lists to manage your time.
Understand Self-Employment Taxes
When you work for a company, they take out taxes to send to the state and federal governments. They also pay a portion of your taxes. As a self-employed person, you’ll be responsible for paying the entirety of these fees.
Sit down with a tax professional and figure out what your responsibility is. You’ll need to pull money out of the income you’re bringing in and pay estimated taxes to the state and federal governments each quarter. If you fail to pay throughout the year, you could face penalties and a hefty tax bill at the end of the year.
Many freelancers keep a separate account for their estimated tax payments (ETPs) and send them in at the end of the quarter. You can also pay monthly if you prefer. Just keep track of your payments so you can list them on your taxes.
It is easier to list only four quarterly payments, but if you worry you won’t manage the tax liability well, go ahead and pay them every month and simply have more ETP entries.
Set up a Separate Bank Account
Keep a separate business account, so you aren’t mixing personal and business funds. Pay yourself with a check. Out of your business account, pay any expenses for your work. Pay estimated taxes, office rent, equipment purchases and supplies. If you take out an ad, use your business account to pay for it.
The same applies to any credit card you use. You should have a separate card for business purchases only. Do your best not to mix funds. It creates a lot of confusion at tax time and can land you in hot water during an audit.
Keep Careful Records
Pay attention to which clients pay on time and give you the most business. These are your A-clients, and you want to schmooze them and keep them happy. All your customers are valuable, but losing a top-paying client hurts more than losing a smaller brand.
Finalize Customer Relationship Management
When you can afford it, invest in customer relationship management (CRM) software. Automate your greetings. If a customer regularly throws a new assignment your way at the first of each month, send a reminder at the beginning of the month asking if they need any help.
Remember to greet customers on birthdays and anniversaries spent with your company. Thank them for referrals.
Reach out to let them know about new products that might interest them. Develop a relationship, and they are more likely to remain loyal to your brand.
Choose a Project Management Software
Once you gain a few different clients, you’ll find you have multiple projects to juggle. Your best bet is investing in some project management software. Look for systems that allow you to bring collaborators on board and show samples to your customers.
Ideally, you should be able to break your projects into smaller tasks, so you and the client can see where you are throughout the process, what you’ve completed and what still needs work. You can also set deadlines, so nothing falls through the cracks.
A few choices in project management options include Trello, Basecamp and Asana. There are dozens of options available, including some open-source software solutions you can install on your server’s backend.
Brush up on Weak Skills
If your client throws freelance programming jobs your way and you aren’t sure how to complete them, it might be time to brush up on your skills in that area. Anytime you notice a weakness, either team up with a partner to deliver that content or learn it yourself.
There are hundreds of online courses and classes you can take through local community colleges. Find one that can help you enhance your skills and invest in your business by improving in the needed areas.
Tips on Landing More Freelance Programming Jobs
With such fierce competition from freelancers worldwide, you may find some businesses pass you by for cheaper workers. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to land more freelance programming jobs and keep work flowing your way.
Stress Your Abilities
Anyone can say they are a programmer. That doesn’t mean they fully understand coding language or can troubleshoot. Use your website to push your abilities in this area.
Gather testimonials from happy customers explaining how you helped them with a problem. Stress the benefits of choosing your services in your resume and online portfolio.
Prepare Your Response
People will tell you no. Sometimes you’ll bid on a job and never hear from the job poster again. Have a response ready to go when they say no or don’t respond in a set amount of time. Be polite in your message.
Thank them for their consideration and remind them that you’re skilled in troubleshooting should they find that they still require your services.
Business owners often try to save a few bucks and go with a foreign programmer. Unfortunately, the communication between them may be lacking, or they may find the cut-rate means the person doesn’t understand the basics.
You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll lose a bid only to have the company contact you later to fix a problem for them.
Send Out More Queries Than You Want Clients
As a rule of thumb, you will only get a response from a few of the people you contact. Whether you’re sending out emails, making phone calls or sending letters via snail mail, contact five times as many people as you have time to work for.
You will never hear from some of them. You are playing a numbers game. You want a percentage of them to contact you and turn into customers.
Team up With Others
Find some like-minded freelancers who aren’t your competition. For example, if you offer programming and design, look for a freelancer who offers team building. Ask if they’d like to team up and promote one another to your current lists.
Each of you provides an introductory offer, making sure your current clients aren’t part of the other person’s list. You then send out a letter to each of your client lists, letting them know your good friend offers fantastic services and you can give a discount if they mention your name.
Know Your Bottom Line Wage
While you never want to undercharge, you also need to know how much you want to make per hour. If you can’t at least make what you would working at the local McDonald’s, then freelancing isn’t worth your time.
Figure out your hourly rate and tack on extra for the time you spend seeking new clients, getting organized, doing taxes and making other considerations.
There are numerous formulas available for calculating your hourly freelance rate. One involves figuring out how many vacation weeks you want to take and then multiplying 40 hours by the weeks you’ll work.
Next, figure out what you want your annual salary to be and divide it by the first number. This formula gives you an hourly rate, but you’ll still need to multiply the number by at least two and possibly three. Keep in mind that you’ll pay taxes and spend some time on non-paying work.
When you start freelancing, you’ll take almost any job you’re offered, even for low pay. You need to gain experience and get your name out there. However, make it a rule to go through your client list every six months or so and weed out some clients to make room for new ones.
Which ones should go? If you have any clients who don’t pay or are chronically late, they can go. Anyone who pays you well below the market rate should be cut.
You can first try raising your rates with them. This typically weeds them out, so you don’t have to “let them go.” If you have clients who eat up a lot of your time, consider freeing them from your schedule.
If they call all hours of the day and night, have constant changes to an almost finished project or are never happy with your work, you can probably serve two or three new clients in the time it takes to handle them.
Build an Amazing Online Portfolio
One of the first things clients look for is your portfolio. Build a gallery of your work potential clients can peruse. Before they invest in you, they’ll want to see what you’ve done for others.
Make sure your digital examples are responsive to mobile devices since many people access the internet from their smartphones.
Establish yourself as an expert in coding and development. Write articles for notable sites, create guides to help business owners and contribute to forums. The more you get your name out there, the more chances you have to gain new clients from being a knowledge leader.
Programming Is a Rewarding Career
As a freelance programmer, you’ll have more time to spend with your family and the things you enjoy. Strive for an equal work-life balance, so you don’t get burnt out on writing software languages.
Once you land those first few gigs, you’ll build a list of clients who turn to you when they need coding help and refer you to others.
Don’t worry about the job numbers or competition. Just focus on how you can be the best programmer there is, and you’re sure to be successful.
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