Working from home as a freelance programmer has many benefits. You can set your own work hours, be selective about the kinds of programming work you accept, eliminate your time-consuming commute, and in many cases you can work from any location you choose. Additionally, with the troubled economy, many businesses are downsizing. While this means lost jobs for some, it also means many companies now outsource programming jobs. If you lost your job, the timing is perfect to start your career as a work-at-home programmer.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Home work space
- Complete portfolio
Make a list of all of the programming skills you have developed, and list the programming languages you know.
List companies that previously employed your services, and detail the projects you completed for those companies.
Create a list of projects that you can show to prospective clients. Devise projects that clients can access via the Internet. For instance, if you design websites, provide prospects with links to sites you previously helped create. Evaluating your work allows them to make more-informed decisions about hiring you.
Set up a website to showcase your portfolio. This makes you look professional, and makes the decision to hire you easier for prospective clients. Use your own URL, such as www.yourname.com or www.yourbusiness.com, rather than a free site host. Again, this makes you look professional. Setting up a website is affordable, usually costing around £6 a month, and is easy to create using WordPress. Remember, this is your first impression, or your virtual office, so make it look professional.
Join freelance job sites. People who need work-from-home programmers frequently post their requests on freelance job sites, so these are ideal places to start your new career. Sites such as RentACoder, ELance, and FreelanceSwitch are popular.
Network with other freelancers. This has several benefits: You can get tips from others with more experience; You can collaborate on projects that might need a combination of skill sets; Your network of contacts can point you to good jobs, or send work your way if they feel you would be a good fit.
Market yourself to local businesses that might need your services. Maintain contact with these businesses, so they think of you first when they need programming services.
Be available during business hours so that your marketing and networking efforts work for you. When one of your contacts needs you, it sends a professional message if you are available during work hours. You can still work during the evening, if you prefer, but if you lounge by the pool during the day, at least keep the phone nearby.
Set up a nice home office. It should be a quiet place to work without interruption. A comfortable work area helps you maintain your focus and productivity. This is the place you go when you are "at work."
Learn what areas of programming are in demand, and learn or brush up on those skills. The more skills you have, the more assignments will be available to you.
Pay your dues. You will have to take less glamorous and low-paying assignments until you build your portfolio and reputation.
Take time off. Sometimes when you work from home, the separation between working hours and time off becomes blurred. Not separating them can lead to burnout. When doing everything yourself, the hours can add up quickly. Remember to take some time for yourself.
Tips and warnings
- Starting a business takes time. Be patient and be consistent. Show up every day and do something to reach your goal. People who succeed never give up.
- Starting a work-from-home programming business is probably not for those who shudder at the thought of marketing themselves, or for those who prefer the security of a regular paycheck. If these aspects bother you, perhaps a regular job is a better choice.
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