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Software developers have the responsibility of designing and building computer programs. Some software developers build underlying operating systems whereas others develop new applications for desktop or mobile use. 

Either way, software developers will identify the needs of users, create programs, test out new software, and make enhancements. 

Working closely alongside computer programmers, software developers fulfill vital roles in software publishing, finance, manufacturing, and computer system industries. 

If this sounds like an appealing career choice to you, one thing you will need to decide is whether you want to seek traditional employment with software engineering recruiters or if you would rather work as a freelancer. 

What are the benefits of working as a freelance software developer?

There are a lot of compelling reasons why you should consider freelancing as a software developer:

  • You have the ability to choose who you work with
  • You don’t have to commute to and from work each day
  • You can be your own boss
  • You are not restricted in terms of the amount of money you can earn
  • You will enjoy much greater flexibility 

Checklist for going freelance as a software developer

So, you have decided that you want to go freelance! This can be an exciting moment in anyone’s career, but there is a lot that needs to be considered.

Don’t worry, though, as we have put together a great checklist to help you get started. 

Don’t start any software development job without a contract

There is only one place to begin, and this is by making sure that you have a contract in place. You can use this software development contract template and then simply edit it to suit your requirements.

Working for yourself can put you in a vulnerable position, both emotionally and financially.

It is invaluable to have a contract in place so that you are protected from the likes of being expected to make huge amends without charging for time, being paid less than what was agreed, and late payments. 

For example, let’s say that you have agreed to two rounds of adjustment without further cost, this will need to be honored if you have put a contract in place. You get a great level of protection that you simply would not get without a contract. 

Plus, a contract can protect the client too. Having clauses in your contract that protect your client show that you are trustworthy and credible. It could make them more willing to sign the rest of your specifications without any negotiation. 

Identify your target market

As mentioned earlier, there are many different areas that software freelance developers can move into. You may prefer to work on the underlying operating systems or you may enjoy developing bespoke solutions for clients.

The choice is yours, but it is vital to establish your target market. 

Some of the questions that you need to answer are as follows:

  • Who will your clients be?
  • What makes your business better than others the client may consider?
  • Where does your ideal client look for freelancers?
  • What are the needs of your target market?
  • Who do they use at present to meet those needs? 
  • How are you going to meet those needs?
  • What is your target client’s budget?
  • What type of people or businesses are they?

These are some of the questions that you should ask yourself so that you can determine your target market. 

After all, there is a wide range of businesses and individuals you could end up working for, including those in public utilities, financial services, manufacturing, specialist IT sectors, and more. 

Understanding your target customer is critical because it is going to drive everything you do, from your marketing techniques to the price point you set your service at.

Make sure you carefully consider the financial side of freelancing

Freelancing can be beneficial from a financial perspective because you are not going to be limited in terms of the money you can earn.

However, you do need to be organized and carefully consider all of your expenses to ensure you can manage cash flow effectively using payment tools

So, what do you need to consider? 

  • Think about how much money you are going to need to set up as a freelancer
  • Do you have the equipment you need already?
  • How are you going to support yourself while you are setting up your freelance business?
  • Can you charge enough for the software development service you are offering?
  • Will you need to outsource any professionals to help you do the work?
  • Will you invest in marketing materials?

These are some of the questions that you will need to ask yourself when setting up as a freelancer. 

It is important to make sure that you accurately estimate all of the costs entailed so that you can know exactly how much you are going to need to set up as a freelancer.

We also recommend that you spend some time establishing your payment terms. Cash flow is one of the biggest problems for freelancers, as it can sometimes be hard work getting people to pay on time.

This is why you need to make sure that your payment terms are clear and included within your invoice and contract from the off. Moreover, get into the habit of sending off your invoices as soon as the work is complete. 

Put together a plan for sourcing freelance work

Next, you need to think about how you are going to source freelance work. There are a number of different ways that you can find clients today. You could tap into your existing network.

Send messages to your contacts to let them know that you are branching out on your own. You never know where this could lead.

There are also a lot of great online job boards for freelancers today. Companies and individuals post their requirements, and you can make applications for the work.

Some of the best freelance job boards for software developers include the following:

  • Stack Overflow
  • Dice
  • GitHub Jobs
  • Hired
  • Guru
  • PeoplePerHour
  • Gun.io
  • Flexiple

Market yourself effectively

You also need to think about how you are going to market yourself as a freelance software developer. Are you going to use your own name or are you going to give your business a fresh name?

You also need to consider your domain name and the design of your website. Your website needs to be professional, easy to use, and branded effectively. You also need to make sure that it is optimized for the search engine result pages.

Social media is becoming even more important for software developers today.

The platforms you use will depend on your target audience, which you should have defined earlier. LinkedIn tends to be one of the most popular social media mediums for software developers. 

Put together a work schedule

We also highly recommend that you put together a work schedule. Getting used to working from home and motivating yourself can be challenging at first.

This is often one of the things that people tend to struggle with as a freelance software developer.

It can be easy to find yourself glued to the computer all day. You may find that some days you don’t have a lot of work to do, whereas other days you are snowed under.

This is why it is critical to make sure you schedule your days so that you don’t end up missing deadlines or prioritizing the wrong tasks.

Make sure you do not keep all of your eggs in one basket

Last but not least, this is one of the biggest mistakes we see freelance software developers make. It can be exciting when you have a client who gives you a lot of work. You find yourself committing to them and rarely focusing on any other client. 

However, if this client runs into trouble, for example, hits some sort of financial difficulty or decides they do not want to outsource software development any more, you could find yourself with no money coming in for months until you source some fresh opportunities. 

Because of this, you need to make sure that you constantly assess your current client list and that you keep things fresh. Never stop looking for new clients and new opportunities.

It is important to make sure that you have a good client spread so that you do not end up in a risky position should one client not place any orders within that month.

Final words on working as a freelance software developer

So there you have it: all of the things you need to tick off your checklist when working as a freelance software developer.

We hope that this has helped you to understand the steps that you need to take in order to build a great career as a freelance software developer. 

We know that it can be quite overwhelming when going freelance for the first time. However, it is important to simply take the time to breathe and plan out your career accordingly.

Don’t stretch yourself too thin or place too much pressure on yourself.