How To Become a Freelance Software Engineer

Let’s say you’ve finished your coding education and now it’s time to start working. But should you go freelance? A freelancer takes on short-to-medium-term work for one or a number of companies. You can freelance from anywhere of course – your local coffee shop, home or even the beach. This piece looks at what it means to become a freelance Software Engineer, including some of the advantages and disadvantages as well as how to get into the industry, and what you can expect to earn as a freelance Software Engineer.

What Do Freelance Software Engineers Do?

Let’s say you’ve finished your coding education and now it’s time to start working. But should you go freelance? A freelancer takes on short-to-medium-term work for one or a number of companies. You can freelance from anywhere of course – your local coffee shop, home or even the beach. This piece looks at what it means to become a freelance Software Engineer, including some of the advantages and disadvantages as well as how to get into the industry, and what you can expect to earn as a freelance Software Engineer.

Careerlancer states that freelance Software Engineers usually ‘conceive, test, maintain, and even enable provisions for updates and innovations in software’. To break down potential jobs further, as a freelance Software Engineer you could be involved in some of these duties:

  • Talking to systems analysts, engineers, and other programmers to design systems, which includes the capabilities, performance requirements and interfaces.
  • Improving or modifying existing software to correct errors or adapt to new circumstances.
  • Assessing user needs to work out feasibility, bearing in mind time and cost constraints.
  • Consulting with customers about software system design.
  • Coordinating the installations of new software systems.
  • Developing software system testing, as well as drawing up documentation and procedures.
  • Training users on new software functionality.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Becoming a Freelance Software Engineer

The first bit of good news if you become a freelance Software Engineer is the salary. According to Glassdoor, you can expect to earn an average freelancer salary of $104,463 per annum in the United States. In addition, The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which calculates the employment growth for various occupations, projects a startling 24% employment growth for software engineers between 2016 and 2026.

Here are some other benefits of freelance Software Engineering:

  • Potential to earn more money – the freelancer has more time at his or her disposal as there’s no commuting. More time means more money!
  • Choose projects, clients and technologies that interest you – as a freelance Software Engineer, you’ll probably have a number of potential projects on offer. You get to choose the projects that intrigue you and the technologies with which you want to work.
  • Flexible work schedule – you get to choose when and where you work.
  • No boss – you’re your own boss!

But as with everything, there are drawbacks too. These might include:

  • No secure salary – it’s quite possible for you to have a bad few months. You need to ensure that you save during the cash-heavy months to tide you over the leaner times. And unfortunately, there’s no paid vacation.
  • Fears about not finding the next project could stress you out – it can take a while to line up a new project.
  • No co-workers – there’s no boss (yay!), but you also might not have co-workers, which could become lonely.
  • Need to wear a wide variety of hats – because you’re running your own business, you’ll be doing your own invoicing, sales and administration. Are you comfortable wearing this many hats and can your skillset stretch this far?

If the advantages outweigh the drawbacks for you, then read on about how to break into this lucrative field.

How Do I Get Into Freelance Software Engineering?

If you want to start freelancing as a Software Engineer, here are some tips:

Getting Work

Here are three things you can do immediately:

  • Start a blog (backlink it to more visible blogs, and try and get some links from other sites to your blog). Some famous tech blogs include Mashable (‘mashes’ together what techies are talking about on Twitter, Facebook, entertainment, news, etc.), ZDNet (for tech news), TechCrunch (younger but no less influential than ZDNet) and Gizmodo (many relevant posts, a great vibe and some very funny commentators).
  • Set up a website and include testimonials. For your website, which is really your portfolio, include fresh, original content for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and make sure you include how people can contact you. Include relevant testimonials.
  • Network, both online and in-person. As far as networking goes, set up a LinkedIn account and try and meet as many people as you can for a quick coffee. Start with family and friends before working your way outwards. You can also sign up for GitHub, where you can host and review code, manage projects, and build software alongside millions of other developers.

If You Become a Freelance Software Engineer, Watch Out For…

Again, it’s not all roses – here are some potential red flags from Upwork:

  • Not having the proper workflow. Project are more likely to go as planned if you have proper workflow, including planning, development and a QA phase (testing and bug fixes).
  • Not scoping correctly. Novice freelance software engineers want to please the client rather than providing accurate estimates of cost and time. Remember to add extra time if you’re inclined to be overly optimistic.
  • Taking any and all jobs. This can lead to overload, missing deadlines and burnout.
  • Undercharging or offering to do jobs for free. Truthfully, clients associate poor quality with low prices. Charge a reasonable rate and value your services.

If you’re keen to freelance as a Software Engineer, consider looking at these sites: Upwork (useful for short- and long-term projects, over 1.5 million clients), Toptal (for seasoned freelancers), Freelancer (if you’re confident about your skills, here you can compete with other freelancers) and Craigslist (surprisingly, includes a great list of freelance jobs).

If you decide to become a freelance Software Engineers, the benefits are clearly enormous. It’s a great way to go if you’ve got the skills. And even if you don’t, you can certainly upskill without a Computer Science degree. If you’re looking to become a freelance Software Engineer in 2018, HyperionDev offers a 6-month part-time Online Bootcamp in Software Engineering. Book a free trial today.

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