Do you dream of leaving your regular job as a software developer, but aren’t sure when to go full-time freelance?
The fact is, freelance software development can be a stressful and time-consuming lifestyle if you’re not prepared going into it. And it can be hard to know when the best time is for you to leave your job, start freelancing as a full-time gig, and become your own boss.
For many people, this decision comes down to what they need most: more free time and the ability to set their own hours, or a stable paycheck each month with benefits, like healthcare and retirement plans.
Some other considerations might factor into the equation, like if you have any dependents (children or elderly parents), how long you’ve been at your current company, how much vacation time you get per year, and just how satisfied you are in general with your career path.
So, before jumping into freelance software development full time, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about freelancing. That way, you can decide whether or not you’re genuinely ready for full-time freelance work before leaving the security of your 9-to-5 job.
What does it mean to be self-employed?
Even though working for yourself comes with a ton of freedom, it also has some unique challenges that come hand-in-hand with saying goodbye to traditional agency or in-house work.
Before ditching your steady paycheck, you need to be crystal clear on your goals and motivation if you want to navigate these difficulties and succeed as a freelancer.
So, what does it mean to you to be a self-employed software developer? To get to the heart of it, ask yourself these questions:
Are you ready to break from the 40-hour week (but also accept that you might have to work 70)?
A lot of people assume that working freelance means you won’t have to suffer through 40-hour workweeks anymore. They couldn’t be more wrong!
When you work freelance, you are in complete control of your time—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be fewer distractions. If you have a family and work from home, you’ll need to set your work hours around your familial obligations. If you live alone, you’ll have to make time to do chores—like buying groceries and prepping meals—as well as other errands, too.
All of this means that working freelance may give you freedom from a fixed shift, but you also have to accept that there will be months when you’ll work up to 70+ hours a week, especially when you’re just starting out and building up your client base.
If you’re okay with putting in the hours to reap the rewards (like steady clients and maybe some staff of your own) later on, then the next thing you’ll have to think about is how you’ll manage the money you earn as a freelancer.
Are you ready to face your finances?
How should I track how much money I make? What should I charge for my services? What’s a “good” profit margin?
These are the common questions a lot of new freelance developers ask themselves.
The idea of working for yourself is exciting. Maybe it’s always been your dream to be your own boss, become a digital nomad, or just work when and how much you want to.
But when it comes to starting a successful freelance business, you need to make sure the financials make sense for you first. Otherwise, you could end up pouring a lot of time and energy into setting up a promising freelance career, just to run out of runway before you can fully achieve success.
So, before you go full-time into freelance software development, figure out:
- How much debt you currently have
- If you have enough savings to last you 1-2 years without an income or guaranteed monthly paychecks
- How you’ll support yourself if things don’t work out as planned (AKA “Plan B”)
The truth is freelancing does not come with a steady income. You’ll never know how much you’re going to make next month, and your ability to find clients is critical for ensuring revenue growth.
It also means that you need to manage your finances yourself, which many people aren’t keen on doing. Some freelancers hire accountants to crunch the numbers for them, but you’ll still have to keep records of all financial transactions using spreadsheets or accounting software, like Xero, QuickBooks, or Zoho Books.
Are you ready to deal with your clients?
Freelance work relies heavily on networking. If you already have a great network of potential clients who need software development work, then great! You’re probably in a good position to become a freelance developer.
If you don’t, there are many freelancer websites where clients and other companies look for software developers who can work for them on a particular project, or on a contractual basis. Freelancer sites like UpWork, and Freelancer.com are just a few places you can sign up and scout for potential clients, or you can use an industry-specific site, like Devlynk, which only includes software development projects.
After closing a contract, you will also have to deal with different clients, and some of them may be more difficult than others. You need to know when to accommodate their requests, when to draw the line, and always maintain a positive working relationship. That’s because, not only will it help you earn repeat business, but just one bad review from them can seriously hurt your freelancing career.
Some freelancers would recommend that you have above-average people skills and the patience of a god if you want to thrive in this industry. So, if you think you can smoothly manage your sales calls and client relationships, then you’re ready for the next big question…
Are you ready to be in charge of yourself?
You might think that the epitome of success is to start your own company and work for yourself. Freelancing can be a great path to building your own software development agency, but before you think about hiring your own employees, you need to learn how to manage yourself and your business.
To be a successful freelancer, you need to have:
- Great time management skills: Are you a self starter, or will you find it hard to stick to a schedule when there’s no one holding you accountable?
- The ability to take risks: If something goes wrong, can you handle it without giving up or running back home for help?
- Knowledge of business processes: Can you handle marketing, sales, client engagement, and project management?
One of the biggest differences between freelance vs. regular software development jobs is that you’ll have to plan your own sprints, set your own targets, and make sure you stick to them (because no one else will). But if you’re good at keeping to a schedule and hitting your personal goals, then you’ll most likely thrive as a freelancer.
Is it time to go freelance full-time?
If you answered yes to these questions, then what are you waiting for? Go out there and become a full-time freelance software developer.
We won’t lie, freelancing can be tough. It takes a lot of work, dedication, and time to succeed as a freelance software developer. But it’s also one of the most rewarding jobs you’ll ever have. Ready to find your first freelance client? Sign up for Devlynk today to get access to hundreds of software development jobs (and nothing else!).
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