Can You Make Money As a Freelance Programmer?

Can You Make Money As a Freelance Programmer?

October 15, 2020

If you’re considering a freelance career in coding, you’re not alone. Since 2014, the number of full-time freelancers in the United States has risen by 4 million people, to a total of 57 million. According to Forbes, this means 35% of the United States workforce is freelancers! 

But for individuals building a career or changing careers to create a better life for themselves and their family, it’s not just enough to know that freelance coding jobs exist. The question is, will you be able to code online and earn money? It might reassure you to know that CNBC ranked jobs like network and system administration, data visualization, machine learning, database administration, and software development as some of the highest-paying and most in-demand freelance roles. 

But starting out as a freelance programmer or other coding professional, you will have to work your way up to the top freelance coding salary. So how do you do it, starting today? Let’s explore some of the best tips and insights about how to make money with a freelance coding career. 

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Tips About Freelance Programming Jobs for Beginners

To make sure we’re giving the best advice possible, we spoke to Rhaya Shilts at Jackson Sky Web Design and Development. Shilts built her business starting out as a freelancer, and since has hired several freelance developers, including Eleven Fifty coding bootcamp grads. 

“The number one thing freelancers need to understand going in is that reliability is more important than technical skills,” Shilts said. “A lot of my early clients had a negative perception because they had worked with unreliable freelancers in the past. It’s not enough to meet technical expectations—you also have to meet deadlines.” While technical skills can always be developed and improved, a reliable approach to work is a more innate quality that will help individuals succeed. 

Shilts says reliability is one of the biggest benefits to hiring freelancers who have completed a coding bootcamp. Because bootcamp programs are so deadline-oriented, the need to focus and deliver on time is not new to these professionals. 

Another tip for beginning freelance coders is to develop a website or portfolio where potential clients can get to know your style and see previous projects. These projects don’t need to be flashy but should show your best work. The opportunity to create a portfolio is another benefit of starting freelancing through a coding bootcamp. At Eleven Fifty Academy, all the projects that students create are reviewed by an experienced professional who helps you work through feedback and improve the final product. 

Shilts shared another tip for beginning freelancers—always get a contract, even if you’re doing small work for small dollars. “Even if it’s for $10, the agreement makes everything feel more professional and encourages both sides to take the work seriously,” she said. Explore multiple contract templates to find one you’re comfortable with and be prepared to send the contract to the client.

Building a Business Freelance Coding

The number of freelancers who work full-time rose 11% since 2014, to 28%. 14% of freelancers consider themselves “side-hustlers.” Regardless of if you will work part-time or full-time as a freelance coder,  there are essential elements to building a long-term business. 

“Treat your customers the way you want to be treated,” Shilts said. “I built my business early-on through referrals because of the way I treated my customers.”

Networking is another practice that is part of how to make money freelancing from home. Networking helps early freelancers develop connections and relationships that lead to work opportunity. Whether it’s virtual events, in-person meetups, or professional conferences, these events let you meet all types of people in many industry circles. 

The work you can expect as a freelance coder depends in part on your skill set and experience. Shilts says that at Jackson Sky, freelancers help the team increase bandwidth. “We make freelancers familiar with some of our ongoing clients so they can handle those projects with ease, stepping right in and letting us keep meeting all our deadlines.” 

Once a company finds a reliable freelancer, that usually means a recurring stream of work for the individual. Shilts says to communicate with clients regularly even if you’re just sharing updates. 

There are also freelance websites where coders can sign up to receive regular assignments, but these can be hit-or-miss. You may not be able to choose your hourly rate, or might not be able to set your own pace and requirements around the work. Developers For Hire has curated a list of the top freelance coding platforms and describes a summary of how each one works. If you decide to go this route to build your business, shop around for the platform and community that’s right for you.  

How Much Do Freelance Developers Charge?

According to Career Karma, the average freelance web developer charges $60 per hour. The average entry-level freelance coding salary is $58,000 per year. Remember that taxes for self-employed individuals are different and can be higher than those employed traditionally. Turbo Tax shares a tax guide for freelancers that sets you up to remain compliant and not get hit with a big bill at tax time. 

“Usually with entry level freelancers I ask what their hourly rate is and respect that,” Shilts said. “I value their time and want them to value their time.” She added that she may ask for an estimate on how long a project will take, or even ask if work can be completed in a certain number of hours. “We aren’t usually shopping around for cheaper options—instead, we will pay the requested rate to work with the right personality and the right skill set,” she concluded. 

Jumpstart Your Freelance Programming Career with Eleven Fifty

The potential to make a great living as a freelance coder or developer is available to everyone with the skills and initiative. With the right hourly rate and network, it’s possible to make a great salary working less than 40 hours a week. Freelancing provides schedule flexibility, the chance to pick and choose projects, and the option to be your own boss. Coding bootcamp unlocks the door to this amazing future in just a few weeks or months. If you’re ready to start making money as a freelance coder, we invite you to attend an introductory class for free, or connect with an admissions specialist to learn more about coding bootcamp at Eleven Fifty Academy. 

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