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Want to Become a Freelance Developer? Here’s Your Guide

  • November 25, 2020

Freelance is a word typically associated with creatives—artists, performers, designers and the like—but as the gig economy has expanded, it has also transformed. Today, freelance developers are on the rise. In fact, software designers are perfect candidates for independent work: their projects are wholly digital and can be managed 100 percent remotely.
For developers whose skills are particularly specific and technical, the idea of managing an independently run “business” (i.e. yourself) might be daunting. The good news is that though there are new skills to learn, these abilities can be taught and learning them will allow you to flourish into a lucrative and fulfilling career as a freelance developer.

First things first: Have a safety net

Before jumping ship and leaving the security of your full-time gig on the table, make sure you’ve socked enough savings away to sustain you until you get going.
Do your due diligence: talk to people freelancing as engineers; understand the opportunities within resourcing companies, at larger companies, within remote workforces, etc.
Create the framework of a business plan. You don’t need to have all the answers on Day 1, but you should generally know which types of clients or projects you’ll seek out, and how many of them you can manage at a given time.
Want to become a #freelance developer? Create the framework of a #business plan first. Click To Tweet

Determine your freelance rate

There are many formulas for doing this. One of the most popular methods is to research a comparable salary of someone your position (or perhaps use what you were making before).
Use Comparably to see what people at your level are making within your market. Be honest with yourself: Don’t start with a CTO salary if you’ve only been in the game for 3 years.
Now, add your expenses and overhead. Factor in things like: coworking/office space; cost of materials/supplies; health insurance; transportation, etc. Want to take a shortcut? Multiply your salary by 1.2X or 1.3X.
The resulting figure is your freelance-equivalent salary. To get to an hourly rate, divide by 2,080, which reflects the average number of working hours per year, not including sick days and vacation time.
Now, buffer for negotiation. Aim for a slightly higher rate when speaking with potential clients, so that when it comes time to negotiate, you’re able to give a bit while still sticking to your target rate. For more negotiation tips see Fiverr Workspace’s guide for freelancers here.

Get organized

If you’re going to be juggling multiple clients/projects, look into a project management tool. Asana, Trello and Evernote all come highly recommended, but cater to different styles. Find what works for you.
Start using a time tracker! Going freelance means spending time across various projects. Avoid scope creep by being meticulous about where your time is going.
Automate whatever you can! This includes creating contracts, generating and following up on invoices.
Finally, create or use a contract template. The easiest and most important way to protect yourself as a freelancer is to establish a habit of using a secure contract every time you take on new work.

Craft a marketing & sales strategy

Yes, your work will speak for itself as a developer. But it’s competitive out there, and it’s important to stand out. 41% of freelancers in Fiverr Workspace’s Slash Workers study said personal branding is a “critical job function.”

  • Set up an online hub for showcasing your work.
    • GitHub
    • Updated LinkedIn, tips here
    • Consider a simple portfolio showcase site or webpage
    • Create a prospecting spreadsheet or basic CRM
      • Include running list of opps and their status and next steps
      • Set reminders for following up
      • Create an outreach plan for reviving past clients
      • Spend 30 minutes a week refreshing with new opportunities and projects. Fill your pipeline even if you’re at bandwidth.

Manage your money like a pro

  • Business reports
  • Don’t forget to meticulously track expenses, as it will save you bigtime come tax time
  • Be hyper aware of invoices: when they are sent, when they are due. If a client isn’t paying up, send a demand letter
  • Invest some money in continued learning and development. Investing in yourself is investing in the future of your business. PS you can write these off too!

Using these tips will set you well on your way to becoming a successful freelance developer. By keeping these in mind, you’ll watch your career soar in no time.

Got any other tips or advice? Shoot us a comment below!

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