How to Become a Freelance Software Engineer

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You could be an author, but high income is far from guaranteed. You could open an online store, but managing a business is more work than you might expect. If you want an at-home job that brings in the big bucks, you better set your sights on freelance software development.

The tech industry is booming, and software is perhaps the most profitable sector of all. Software gives people the opportunity to accomplish almost any task with minimal effort. Programs automate previously laborious tasks, giving people more time and energy to focus on other responsibilities. As a result, businesses will pay top-dollar to engineers capable of creating unique software solutions. Often, instead of bringing developers on as full-time employees, businesses will hire freelancers to complete the projects they need.

Freelance software engineers can charge between $50 and $250 per hour of work, but most charge between $60 and $100 depending on their experience and the scope of the project. This means, if you work full-time as a freelancer, you could bring in between $107,400 and $179,000 per year. For a woman working from home, those sums are nothing to scoff at.

So, how do you get into freelance software development? Here’s a guide to help you find the at-home job (or, more accurately, income) of your dreams.

Learn as Much as You Can

Though there are a few online jobs that allow you to learn as you work, like personal styling or data entry, software engineering is not a career you can easily wing. Instead, you should invest a few months or years up-front to learning the necessary skills, either through a formal software engineering online program or through your own self-guided study. To earn their high salaries and demand, software engineers should be able to:

  • Use multiple coding languages
  • Communicate well with tech and non-tech professionals
  • Understand and build database architecture
  • Identify and solve problems in a timely manner
  • Focus on details to provide precise software experiences

A degree program will provide more structured instruction in the most essential aspects of software engineering; plus, it provides a definite credential that prospective clients will appreciate. However, if you are self-motivated and competent at teaching yourself new abilities, it is possible to pick up programming languages and skills on your own. Still, self-taught software engineers are more often recognized as programmers or software developers and typically demand lower salaries. There are benefits and detriments to both paths, so you should consider which is best for you as you begin your journey into software engineering.

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Determine Your Pricing Strategy

In the initial stages of your career, you will not be able to charge your clients top-dollar. Because you lack experience, you will primarily attract low-paying projects of low-complexity. You might consider searching for such projects through freelance websites like Freelancer or Upwork. However, even with smaller projects, it is important to price your work appropriately. You don’t want to charge too much and scare away the menial jobs you want, and you don’t want to charge too little and devalue your efforts. By considering what your freelance competitors are charging and developing a pricing strategy, you will be better equipped to scale your prices as you gain expertise and become more well-known in the freelance software engineering community.

Build a Software Development Brand

These days, every business needs a brand — even freelancers’ businesses. Brands help customers and clients identify a business’s services and values and help them remember and feel more connection to the business.  With a well-developed brand, you are likely to build your business bigger, sooner, allowing you to earn higher wages in record time.

Building a brand isn’t terribly difficult, even for a freelancer. You should start with how you want your brand to look and feel: e.g. formal vs. casual, professional vs. friendly, cool vs. geeky, etc. Then, you should choose a color scheme and logo that communicates those descriptions. You should create locations online where clients can interact with your brand, from profiles on freelancing websites to social media accounts and a professional blog. The more cohesive your brand is across the web, the easier it will be for old and new clients to find you.

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