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Freelance programming as a means of learning

Starting a career in any industry related to IT today can be extremely rewarding. The chances of working on leading technologies with people from around the globe are available now more than ever. By simply registering to websites such as Upwork (for inexperienced freelancers) or Toptal (for more experienced freelancers) today, you can start your career in the right direction, possibly easier than working for a IT company if you’re an extremely independent person and prefer to work by yourself, while having a flexible work schedule. Before you start you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will you be able to stay self-organized and continue working consistently with people from around the globe with being only your own boss?
  • Will you be able to “stick through” possible weeks, and possibly a few months, without having a project and the money to work on?
  • Are you a constant learner and a curious mind who doesn’t mind facing new challenges and looks for creative solutions in situations where challenges are risen?
  • Do you strive more in team oriented environments?

These are some of the questions you should ask yourself before starting to work as a freelancer. From personal experience, I’ve started working as a front-end developer / designer on Elance and oDesk at some point of my life. Since I was tired of working on the same 9-5 job, sometimes multiple jobs and not having to be paid properly for the work hours you put in. I needed to live the life that I think everyone would want to have for himself, a decent life with a solid paycheck that can grant you the security everyone wants, sooner or later in their life. With having the required knowledge to work on other areas such as development and design, this definitely got me moving in the right direction and helped me grow as a person as well as provide me with opportunities to work on projects that really do matter and which are interesting. First and foremost, you will have to have the following skills to consider working as a freelancer:

  • Ability to communicate either verbally or in written English
  • To be independent, as well as self-reliant with your responsibilities
  • Persistence and tenacity to keep working through difficult circumstances
  • Solid communication skills with clients since you will have to take care of both the work and only through communicating you can achieve it

Some of these skills can be learned as you work on projects and you should probably cultivate a healthy habit and try to be yourself during the process of learning and accepting new ideas.

If you’re looking for a little money on the side or possibly a career change at some point, but not immediately, you should probably consider freelancing part time, at least until you know that you have enough projects to possibly switch to full-time. As a newly registered member to oDesk and Elance, the success I had in getting replies to offers even, as well as interviews were pretty slim, around 95% declines in the first two months and it took me a month to get my first project. But as you keep going and keep sending those offers you’re learning more about how to talk to potential customers. What do these customers need?

They need a person who is responsible, who will realistically yet optimistically explain how their problem can be solved. A person who reads their application and evaluates the situation properly and knows how to deal with it and eventually deal with it.

By trial and error you can definitely see when your approach to the situation is working, and when it is not. Try not to be discouraged by the declines since they’re normal at the beginning when you start out and keep going. One thing that helped me in the beginning was:

Every project is as important as the first one you started and everything you do should be followed through until the very end.

Deadlines are important. This is probably the most important lesson in the freelancing world. Try not to break them and rather give yourself a larger estimate so that you can be 100% sure you will meet them. By keeping the quality of your work as high as possible, you can be rest assured that you’ve done your part of the project properly. Once you have finished your first few projects, doing quality work and making sure the client is happy, you will be rated by them. The rates and ratings vary from person to person, which you should probably evaluate before starting a project with a client, but knowing you’ve done your job properly, you can usually be assured that the client will rate you fairly. Some of the freelancing websites can take a look at potential issues if the work has been done properly and you have a proper reason for a complaint. As a newly registered freelancer, experiences from other freelancers was really helpful in the beginning.

Before applying to any projects, you should:

  • Complete your profile, with a professional photo and your skills which honestly represent your skillset
  • Read from blogs by experienced freelancers who can inform you how to write good offers and give you tips on how to stay organized
  • Prepare a system that works for you, be it Trello for notes, a to-do list or a simple plain paper and pencil will do you tremendously
  • Assess your current skillset and see where you can improve and where you’re currently content with your knowledge and work on that
  • Most importantly, enjoy the process, don’t let yourself be burned out by too many responsibilities, but rather make a good balance between them

Most importantly, learn to think for yourself and never stop improving yourself, keep an open mind to new information, since in the tech field, it is constantly changing and only with a strong basic understanding you can keep upgrading your knowledge. It is definitely a hard journey, with many ups and downs. It is hard and it never stops being hard, but if you keep working at it, you can make it.
Wish you the best and good luck on your path!