How Do I Become a Freelance Programmer?

Brandi L. Brown

The desire to become a freelance programmer requires a certain technical skill set, business acumen, self-discipline and marketing proficiency. Knowing how to program is only one component of the process, though it is arguably the most important one. Programming work does not require a degree, though degreed programmers often command higher rates. If you do not have a degree in computer science, however, it will take hard work to become a freelance programmer. Start by selecting a computer language to learn, preferably from popular languages and platforms, and create a portfolio to show off your work; from there, as with most freelance work, it's a matter of determination and marketing.

Freelance programmers must be self-disciplined enough to work from home.
Freelance programmers must be self-disciplined enough to work from home.

Simply knowing how to program will help you to show clients what you can do once you are a solid prospect, but you first have to get yourself to that point. Business acumen for freelance programmers means first creating a suitable online presence. Design a website that has information about your education and work experience, and include links or samples of your work. Make sure along the way that your contracts with previous clients permit sharing their work with others.

Compiling information into a standard presentation for clients will help you work more efficiently. While customization of presentations is necessary, you can use some of the same information for all presentations. If you plan to become a freelance programmer, then you will need to learn to work efficiently to make your billable rate one that is workable for clients. Freelance programmers aren't necessarily able to bill for 40 hours a week, because they spend some of their work time handling the administrative side of the business.

Self-discipline is key when one is trying to become a freelance programmer. You will need to work on your time management skills, including your ability to know how best to use your time at any particular moment. Many freelance workers need to spend more time working than traditional office employees, especially in the early days of freelance work.

Marketing should be an important part of your path to becoming a freelance programmer. The ability to market oneself will prove important, because you will need to get potential clients’ attention. Once accepted as a prospect, you still must spend time working on putting forth an image that will appeal to clients. The marketing plan for your freelance programming business should include targeted marketing to people or firms that you identify as potential clients, as well as broad-based marketing to general audiences. These marketing efforts may cover people you did not know but who will become future clients.

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