Becoming a freelancer is certainly enticing to many coders. After all, freelancing offers you the flexibility to be your own boss, set your own schedule, and focus on doing work that really interests you. But new freelancers often face obstacles when starting out on their own, and few first-time freelancers even know where to start. Interested in striking out on your own and becoming a full-time freelance coder? Keep reading to learn some helpful tips and tricks that will set you up for success.
Learn A Language
Chances are, if you're interested in coding, you're familiar with some of the commonly used terminology in the field. For the purposes of specificity, it's important to denote here that coders are not the same as programmers: coders spend their time writing computer code for programmers, and programmers (also known as 'developers') spend their days performing a complex series of tasks (including, but not limited to, coding) in order to compete large-scale projects. If you want to be a freelance coder, you'll likely end up writing code for projects that are overseen by programmers.
In contrast, some languages — such as Python, C, and C++ — are ideal for back end coding. Back end coding is more complex and is used "behind the scenes" on websites to perform tasks such as manipulating and analyzing data. While both front and back end coding require knowledge of specific programming languages, being able to identify whether you're a front end coder or a back end coder and having the skills to back it up will go a long way in helping you start to build your business and land your first freelance clients.
Focus On Building Your Business
Although you might imagine that learning a programming language is all you need to become a full-time freelancer, think again. Freelancers are small business owners, and they need to put in the work to build their business in addition to sharpening up their coding skills. First, make sure that you're all set on the business side of things. Consider meeting with an accountant to make a plan to pay your quarterly taxes, and ensure that you're keeping your personal and business finances completely separate. You'll also need to come up with a plan for sending clients forms, contracts, and invoices, as you'll be the one handling all of your administrative tasks. As a coder, you may just want to get started on landing new clients, but as a business owner, it's imperative that you get your finances in order before you start bringing in new revenue.
Additionally, you'll want to start working on how you present yourself to the coding community. This includes working on a strong sales pitch you can use to land new clients, creating a website that shows off your portfolio, and determining how you want to price your services. It's also a good idea to set up social media accounts that you can use to promote your work and interact with other coders and freelancers. Not only is social media a great way to advertise your incredible skills, but you never know when a potential client is going to log onto Instagram and be wowed by your work.
Establish A Strong Client Base
Once you have a business plan in place, you can start coding — as soon as you land some clients. How can you land clients and turn your tiny freelance operation into a global success? Well, there's no one right answer. Different techniques work for different people. However, there are some steps you can try.
The first step is to build a strong portfolio that showcases what you can do. Consider performing a few small jobs for free to gain some experience, or offer clients a discount if they agree to write you a positive review or leave a testimonial on your website. Having a great portfolio is crucial for turning leads into actual clients.
Second, work on your sales pitch. There are two main avenues through which you can land new clients by pitching them. The first is cold emailing, which involves you sending an unsolicited email to a company or person who might be interested in your services. The second is bidding on proposals posted on job boards and freelance platforms. Although these can be a good way to find clients looking for freelancers, they're also known for taking a big cut of freelancers' total fees, and they encourage freelancers to undercut each other in order to land gigs. Job boards may be a necessary resource when you're first starting out, but they should still be approached with caution.
Overall, landing new clients isn't a one-size-fits-all operation. Try out a few different approaches, see what works, and adjust as needed to keep building a strong, reliable client base.
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Freelance Coding Isn't For Everyone
If you're excited by getting to be your own boss and work on exciting coding projects in a self-directed capacity — and you're ready to tackle all the administrative tasks that come with freelance life — then becoming a full-time freelance coder may be ideal for you. Make sure your skills are sharp, you're ready to build your business, and you're ready to put in the work to start building a strong client base, and you'll be in good shape. Follow these steps and you'll be happily coding in no time.