Deciding whether to work as a conventional, full-time employee or as a freelancer can be tough. Some programmers prefer to seek out contract work and work independently rather than working at large companies as full-time programmers. Others are not suited to the lifestyle, or the work style.
Working as a freelance programmer is an attractive option. Everyone likes the idea of wearing pajamas to work, being his or her own boss, and earning unlimited income, but keep in mind that freelancing also has a few drawbacks that you should think about before getting started.
You can avoid most of the difficulties and enjoy the wide array of benefits that come with freelancing by efficiently organizing your workload.
Some tips to consider:
Be Your Own Boss: The Truth
Being your own boss and enjoying the variety and freedom of freelancing may sound great, but the flip side of freedom is that you are your own manager, administrative assistant, sales team, and accounting department. As a freelancer, you’re essentially running your own small business – you’re responsible for finding clients, convincing them to hire you, and delivering quality work on time.
Part of planning ahead is prioritizing — deciding what needs to get done now and what can wait until tomorrow. At the beginning of each work week, create a plan for the entire week. This will make it easier for you to plan how to spend your hours to keep your upcoming deadlines. And the more ongoing projects you have, the more important this is.
Establish an Online Presence
A carefully implemented online presence offers you the opportunity to tap into a marketing avenue that allows you to easily reach millions of potential clients. At the same time, when you create your online portfolio, keep it simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. This is the most effective way to showcase your talent for the world to see.
Don’t Try to Do Everything
There are dozens of programming jobs available to freelancers. And when you first enter the market, you may be tempted to accept all of the invitations you receive, especially after you have calculated your potential income.
This may leave you with missed deadlines and undesirable client reviews. Preserving a positive reputation among clients is much more important, especially if you are just entering the freelancing market.
Avoid Taking on Huge (Unmanageable) Projects
Start out with small projects, especially if you are a beginner in this field. If the project is too wide in scope to describe on a sheet of paper, or it has a schedule spanning months or years, be careful. Big projects are usually too much for one person to manage alone. If you are tempted to take on a big project, ask whether it might be divided into smaller projects with more short-term deliverables. That way, you and your client are able to track progress and accomplishments.
Take the Time to Read the Job Description Carefully
As a freelancer, one of the most important things you can do is to take the time to fully comprehend the client’s intent in regard to the project before you accept it. Misunderstanding the client’s intents and needs can be disastrous. Even if you think you’ve completed the job to perfection, if it doesn’t fit the client’s needs, he or she will most certainly not be satisfied with the outcome.
Keep Your Clients Informed
If you make an effort to keep your client in the loop, they'll appreciate the transparency. This is true even if you’re letting him or her know that the deliverable is going to be a bit late.
And also don’t forget that programming is mysterious enough to most people, so keeping all of the stages of the project visible will help your client feel comfortable about working with you. And never neglect responding to the client’s queries as promptly as possible. This not only demonstrates your ability to deal with future communication; it also means your name is listed first among the applicants.
Maintain Good Relationships
Treat clients with respect and be polite. Show enthusiasm, but don’t go over the top. Remember that clients are usually excited about their projects, and that most would prefer you to feel that way, too.
Some clients are wonderful; others are…well, awful. Learning how to find the wonderful clients and how to effectively communicate with them is a fine skill that even the world's most gifted coders will only develop with practice.
Also, when the current project ends, keep in touch with the client. Reach out from time to time, just to keep the lines of communication open.
Work on Your Self-Discipline
To be successful in the first parts of your career as a freelance web developer, it’s vital to learn to be a disciplined web developer. Learning how to manage a work schedule is invaluable for anyone working to become a full-time freelancer. Set up a work schedule for the day, and then reward yourself, but only when you’ve finished the task. Only then should you enjoy your reward.
Expand Your Skill Set to Stay Competitive
The world of programming changes often and quickly. Be aware of this and stay committed to always learning new skills. Your clients will rely on you to know the latest information, what the current software trends are, and how competitively you can price. Keeping up to date on all of these things will help you to look more reliable and useful to your clients.
There is no set, universal career path. What works for your coworker most likely won’t be a good fit for you. Understanding this will save you many headaches in the future. Make use of our tips, and never stop learning. You will be well on your way to reaching your professional goals and achieving long-term success.