Freelance Programming: How to Start Getting Clients and Earning Money in 8 Steps

by Anna Danilec

How to start freelance programming

Starting a freelance programming career became really popular in previous years, and of course, it has lots of advantages. Hence, people are more and more interested in working this way. 

Some of us choose freelancing because it can be done anywhere, you don’t need to be in a specific location to do freelance jobs. One day you can be in South America, second in Australia and the other in Asia. And it doesn’t bother anyone until you have time to get the job done. 

For others, the idea of freedom in establishing and controlling your own workflow is something awesome. So, you don’t need to do the tasks the way your manager wants to because you are the manager here, and you don’t have to ask anyone if you can take a break to see your kids’ game at school.

Other people may just like to grow their career in the comfort of your home office, where they can decide with whom they want to work, and what kind of projects they want to do. 

There are tons of possible reasons to start a freelance programming job. Everyone who decided to go this way faces the fundamental question of how to start?

In this article, I’d like to break this process into the 9 steps, where I’m going to show you what needs to be done, to start a freelance programming career, land your first clients and start earning money on your rules.

So, are you ready to find out what the way to your dream freelancing life is?

P.S. There’s one more thing, check out the video about freelance programming based on this article.

1. Find your niche and learn coding

The first action you need to take is finding your niche. Until you don’t decide what kind of projects you’d like to work with, you cannot get the required skills. You simply don’t know what skills would be useful.

In freelancing, it would be best to be a programmer that can do a bit of everything because it’s required to do some backend and some frontend. If you have both skills, you’re much more attractive to the clients.

If you don’t have any strong preferences about what you’d like to do as a freelancer, you can always take a look at the most popular programming languages. Or the newest ones, so you could be the expert of the latest technology. 

The hottest technologies right now are: 

Javascript, as it makes you a full-stack programmer, and you can build the frontend with any of the popular frameworks, like React.js or Angular. Still, you are also able to write backend with Node.js. You can check our courses at Duomly or at our Youtube channel to learn Javascript and get the first skills on your freelancing career path.

Python becomes more and more popular lately because it allows us to work with Machine Learning and AI. Besides that, you can also build the backend and work with a bigger amount of data using it. If you are curious about Python, check our Python & AI course at Youtube or jump to Duomly, and take the interactive Python course.

Golang is a relevantly new programming language in the IT world. From some time, people knowing it may count on exciting, well-paid projects, even as freelancers. You can check how it works with our Golang Course on Youtube.

Kotlin/Swift, those two programming languages would be great if you are interested in mobile development. Kotlin allows you to create Android apps, and Swift will let you create iOS applications.

Besides the hottest technologies, that you could learn now, there’s still some older popular technology for freelancing, and it’s PHP & Wordpress. They are used for creating simple websites and e-commerce and are often wanted by the clients.

For most of the projects, you’d need to know the basics like HTML and CSS, which is also the best starting point if you don’t have coding skills yet. 

You are more familiar with the technologies you can use as a freelance programmer, you know what kind of skills you need, so we can go to the next step.

2. Get experience by building a portfolio

When you already have the skills required in your future freelance programming career, you have to make some code to get the experience. You also need to build your coding portfolio, that you’ll be able to show to your clients.

When you are learning the new programming language or new technology, it’s always worth building a few projects using it to know how to use it and fluently start another project. 

Also, the clients that would like to order a service from you would like to see some previous work you’ve done, so you need to show anything.

If you decided to learn Javascript and frontend, you could check the project ideas lists I created, that you could do to build your coding portfolio.

I think you can easily find some ideas for other technologies.

3. Create your website ###

As a freelancing programmer, you need to have space on the internet to introduce yourself to your future clients and give them the way to connect with you or see your portfolio. That’s why you need to create your portfolio website.

You can make it in two different ways. Either you can code your website from scratch as a static page or use one of the popular CMS, like Wordpress, and use any of the existing themes or building your own.

Depending on the skills you have, building your own website can be an excellent opportunity to practice your skills. You could make it exactly how you’d like it to be. But on the other hand, not everyone has design skills, and if you don’t know how to make it visually attractive, it may be a better way to trust a designer and take a ready solution.

When selecting the domain for your portfolio website, I think it’s a good idea to call it your name and surname, as it’s part of your personal brand. 

The elements that should be on your portfolio page are: 

4. Build your personal brand

You will be much more trustworthy when you are active in the coding community. The easiest thing you could do to start building your personal brand besides creating a portfolio and your personal website is to start writing a blog.

Happily, you don’t need to set up your own blogging website, because you can use any of the existing platforms like Medium as your blogging tool. Automatically you could reach a bigger amount of readers by creating good quality content and choosing the right tags. Besides creating your own blog, you can try to write a guest post in other popular, coding blogs or digital magazines.

Actively helping others on popular, programming subreddits or building your Quora profile by answering technical questions from your niche, will also help you grow your personal brand, as a coding expert.

Don’t forget about the social media profiles where you can share interesting content and discuss technical topics with people that are also interested.

5. Organize the way of working

We’ve gone through the skills, some branding, but there’s one more thing that’s really important and is the key to success as a freelancer. 

It’s about organizing your own work because, as a freelancer, you need to manage the project you will be working on. You’d also need to figure out the good way to contact the client and show them the progress in your work.

Besides that, you’d also need anything for agreements and invoicing.

But happily, you can find lots of great tools for freelancers, some are free, some are paid, but I’ve learned that there’s always a way to find a free alternative. 

For the project management and creating tasks, you can use Asana or Trello, or even a plain Google Calendar.

Communication with the client can be done using chats like Slack

For proposals, you can use tools like Prospero, Draftsend, or Proposify.

For contracting and agreements, you could use a popular tool called Termsfeed, or HelloSign.

For finances, you can use PayPal for payments, Quickbooks, or Freshbooks for invoicing and accounting.

There are many more tools that you can easily find on the internet, so I just mentioned a few of them. 

6. Set up profiles on freelancing portals

When you’ve got needed skills, your portfolio, personal website. You have an idea of how you are going to manage the projects you will be working on and organizing your work, it’s the time to start getting real clients. To start, you’d need to create accounts on the freelancing portals, so you’d have access to the clients looking for the experts like you.

There are many portals where you could find orders, but there are a few that should come first, as they are the most popular and have the biggest amount of work for you.

When you are creating the profiles on those websites, remember to make them as detailed as possible. Show your projects and skills in the best possible way, to make your profile outstanding and easily visible for the clients.

7. Start searching for the clients and work 

Everything seems to be ready to start getting the clients. I’d say that the easiest way to get clients at the beginning would be taking part in the actions on the freelancing profiles. The best idea is to filter all jobs that can be in point of interest to you by the number of applications. In the first days, when you are starting without any reviews, the fewer people want to the job, the bigger chance you’ll be selected. 

The other way you could start getting jobs at the beginning could be by your social networks, like Linkedin.

You could also think of posting an advertisement about what you do on Google Adwords. 

8. Get referrals and build clients list

After you’ve got first clients and completed the first projects, you should ask the clients for the referrals or a review. Besides that, try to build a list of the clients you like to work with and try to make a long term relationship with them.

The more referrals from your clients, you will get the bigger clients list you can grow. Also, remember that one unhappy client can bring you lots of damage. So, always try to be on time with the promises you made, because one bad review can cost you a lot and you can lose your money.

Conclusion

Freelance programming becomes more and more popular, and lots of people want to work this way. We are encouraged by the freedom of location, managing our work the way we like it, working on projects we like with clients we like.

Those days we have lots of opportunities to start working as a freelancer programmer. Multiple portals to look for the clients helps to start for those who don’t have a lot of money to pay for the advertisement in the beginning. 

If you put some work to present your profile in a good way, show your portfolio and get some trust by sharing the knowledge on different blogs or social media profiles, it should be pretty easy to build your own clients list and be able to work only with people you like.

I hope you will find this article useful, especially when you would like to start your freelance programming career.

Thanks for reading, Anna from Duomly 

Anna Danilec

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