Experts assured of their talent and expertise in a particular area can choose to freelance. Instead of tying themselves down to a job with fix timings and work schedules, freelancers prefer to work on their own terms and choose work in which they are interested in.
About Freelance Software Development as a Career
Like the hired gunslingers of the wild west, freelance programmers with proven expertise always stay in demand in the wild world of software development. For upstarts looking to make a niche for themselves in the world of freelance programming, life can be tough. For some people who code as they think and hate being tied down to a 9 to 6 job, freelance software development offers challenge and a substantial variety in the nature of work. Freelance projects offered online come with an 'urgent' tag and need to be delivered on time.
You may expect all sorts of projects ranging from web development, core software development in JAVA, C++ to even database projects. You can finish big projects in 2 to 3 months, get paid handsomely and rest for a few months until some good job against pops up. Young programmers who are new to the software world are better off getting some experience in a proper software development job, instead of freelancing. Still, if you are ready to work hard and persevere and market yourself well, even newbie programmers can land up with good projects online.
Becoming a Freelance Programmer
Though freelancing is one of the most uncertain computer programming careers, if you are really good at what you do and like working independently, it's definitely an option for you.
Know Your Stuff & Decide Your Domain
I assume that you need no explanation on how to learn computer programming. You need to be well qualified with a degree in computer science and have extensive experience in programming, with mastery in wielding at least 3 or 4 core programming languages like C, C++ and Java, along with server and client side web based programming. Decide which domains you plan to work in and go after jobs offered in those.
Create an Online CV
When people look for freelance programmers, what they look for is the person's experience in the field, which they are offering work in. It's a good idea to create an online CV, with the list of projects you have worked on. This will help create an aura of credibility about you, which will definitely help you land up with projects. Each job well done will automatically spread word about you among the programming community and you will land up with jobs through references.
Market & Advertize Yourself Well
Create your own online homepage and advertise yourself through business networking sites like LinkedIn and even Facebook. Spruce up your online CV and ask your former clients to add testimonials.
Keep Scanning Sites Dedicated to Freelance Programmers
There are many sites online which list outsourced programming jobs. Regularly scan such sites for projects that fall within your area of expertise. Don't take up a job, unless you are sure, you can pull it off. Nothing can damage your reputation like an unfinished job. Honor deadlines and make sure that all the requirements of the job are met.
Do Your Job Well & Bid Reasonably
Grasp every opportunity that you get and put in your best. Try to be reasonable when bidding for jobs outsourced online. Your customers will definitely appreciate. You can raise your bid later, when your expertise is beyond question. Till then, be reasonable!
Work in the Open Source Software Field
One of the best ways of creating contacts in the programming world and gaining trust is to program for the open source movement and offer your software for free. This goes a long way in advertising your expertise and gaining credibility as a programmer.
Keep Updating Your Skills & Specialize
Needless to say, you need to keep sharpening your axe and update yourself with new developments in your field of expertise, if you plan to stay in business. Take up new programming challenges and be a student, who is constantly in the learning flux, striving to improve your programming style. The best way of ensuring that you keep getting work is to make yourself indispensable!
As discussed before, beginner programmers are not advised to opt for freelance programming jobs. The highest paid freelance programmers are people who have had a proven track record and have substantial experience in the development of software programs in the open source or private domain. If you can handle the uncertainty involved in this business of freelancing and deal with the pressure of delivering projects on tight deadlines and have the patience to wait for good opportunities that keep popping up occasionally, freelance programming is your thing. Here's me signing off, while wishing you all the very best in your freelance programming endeavors!