If you know anything about me, you know that I am a complete nerd when it comes to programming and software development.
I am a computer science major at The Ohio State University (Go Buckeyes), and one of the most attractive prospects for that major is that it gives me the proficiency and knowledge to work for myself as a freelance programmer, if I so choose.
What is Freelance Programming?
Freelance programming is a career path where you work as an independent programmer for various clients, rather than being a full-time employee of a company or tech firm. This type of work allows you to:
- Work For Yourself
- Pursue Projects that Interest You
- Make a Flexible Schedule
- Work 100% Remotely
This isn't some "get rick quick" scheme: making a well paying career as a freelance programmer will require a lot of time, effort, and experience just to get started, but the market prospects are unmatched for freelance work.
It isn't a cakewalk, by any stretch of the imagination. To become a successful freelance programmer, you need to have a strong set of skills:
- Experience and Proficiency in Programming: This one is pretty obvious. You need to be experienced, certified, and proficient at programming to attract customers.
- Good communication skills: You will need to not only reach out to find new clients, but also keep in touch with clients as you work on projects for them.
- Great Time Management Skills: With multiple projects comes a serious time crunch, and you will need to be able to manage multiple overlapping deadlines, especially if you pick up multiple clients.
You will only answer to 2 people, your clients and yourself. That is a double edged sword, but it is an inescapable fact of self employment.
- The Ability to Market Yourself: Arguably the most important skill that you will need to know is how to find clients. Never stop pursuing partnerships and opportunities, even if it is pro bono work to build your portfolio.
Freelance Programming With Python
One of the most popular programming languages is Python. Python is an open-source language that is pretty accessible and has a large community of developers.
Python is used often in the following fields:
- Data analysis
- Artificial intelligence
- Machine Learning
Due to its simplicity, and low barrier to mastery, Python has become an industry favorite for small tech companies and entrepreneurs. It is considered the best language for data science and machine learning, which means you will always find clients if you are certified in Python.
Some Other Niches in Freelance Programming include:
- Web development and design (creating websites, e-commerce sites, etc.)
- Mobile app development (iOS and Android)
- Software development
- Database design and development
- Game development (e.g., Unity, Unreal Engine, etc.)
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Cloud computing and DevOps (e.g., deploying applications to the cloud, maintaining infrastructure, etc.)
- Cybersecurity (e.g., testing, penetration testing, ethical hacking, etc.)
- Chatbot development (e.g., for customer service or marketing purposes)
- Blockchain development (e.g., creating smart contracts, developing decentralized applications, etc.)
How can I Get Started as a Freelance Programmer?
1. Understand the basics of the languages
Many universities and community colleges also offer classes in certain languages, though an online bootcamp may be easier in the short run. Also, unlike in school, sharing, copying and pasting code is a huge aspect of programming, so take advantage of code-sharing sites like GitHub and StackOverflow.
No matter how smart or creative you think your programming skills are, every single algorithm you could possibly need has already been created. However, it is a bad practice to just blindly copy and paste crap and hope for the best. If you choose to do so, make sure you understand what the code snippet is doing before you paste it in.
Also, Youtube and the Google are your friend, especially when it comes to learning how to code for free. You don't have to spend a dime to teach yourself how to write code in Python or Java, paid courses just let you effectively learn the fundamentals of the language in a reasonable amount of time.
Install an IDE like VSCode and just start trying out things with it. Free IDEs are your best friend when you are learning new coding languages.
2. Take a Certification Course
Once you feel like you are proficient in the language, it is time to get certified. You can get certified through tons of online sites like edX, Codecademy, and W3Schools. These courses have a structured curriculum, which covers the basics and advanced concepts of the languages.
A certification matters because it shows clients that you know what you are doing and can be trusted with their projects and software.
3. Get Experience Under Your Belt and Build a Portfolio
Finally, to gain hands-on experience, one must practice the languages by taking up projects or internships. This will help in understanding the practical application of the languages and also give yourself some real exposure to work scenarios. The projects or internships will also help in building a portfolio, which will add value to your resume.
Where Do I Look For Work?
There are tons of platforms out there that are great for finding not only potential clients, but also colleagues and portfolio building opportunities.
I'm sure I forgot quite a few, but the point is that once you are certified, you should have little trouble getting your freelancer job off to the races.
Overall, freelance programming offers an attractive alternative to a traditional career path in STEM at a firm, with the potential for more freedom and income. However, it requires a unique set of skills and traits, including technical expertise, communication skills, and strong time-management abilities. But if you are willing to take on that extra level of risk and bet on yourself, freelance programming may be for you!