How to Become a Tech Freelancer

Mar 6, 2022

7 Min Read

Are you interested in learning how to succeed as a tech freelancer? If you’re a software engineer, UX designer, or data scientist, here’s how to get started!

With more individuals opting for remote work over the usual 9-to-5, freelancing has become a more appealing choice than ever before. While it was initially thought that being self-employed meant compromising financial security, 65 % of freelancers believe that “having a diverse portfolio of income from several clients is safer than having one employer.” According to Statista, there will be 86.5 million freelancers in the United States by 2027, accounting for 50.9 % employment, up from 41 percent in 2020.

50% of companies have significantly boosted their freelancing labor in the previous five years. Freelancers often claim to have better professional progression options than full-time workers. In comparison to 53% of non-freelancers, 72 % of freelancers agree with the statement, “My position affords the chance for upward mobility.”

Freelancers have many options in the IT business, particularly in high-demand areas like software engineering, data science, and UX design, which are already struggling from a skills shortage.

Here’s how to earn a living as a freelancer in each of these fields.

Software Engineering

How to start as a freelance software engineer?

  • Decide on your target market and the services you’ll provide
  • Make a list of all the skills you already have
  • Create a service portfolio

How Can You Become a Freelance Software Engineer?

Software engineers are often hired as freelancers (working for one or more organizations for a short or medium time) or consultants by businesses (long-term work with one company). Because software development is such a large industry, before pitching yourself as a freelancer, establish your specialization and define what services you provide. Make it simple for clients to see how choosing you will benefit them.

Do you prefer to work on front-end, back-end, or full-stack projects? Back-end development is for you if you appreciate dealing with numbers, logic, and solving problems. On the other hand, front-end development is a good fit if you like designing, organizing visual components, and developing information architecture. First, examine your current skills to see whether they correspond to your long-term objectives. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP are the most popular markup and programming languages for entry-level work, according to freelancing site UpWork.com. However, PHP, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and Python are advanced-level professions.

WordPress developers assist customers in expanding the functionality of WordPress, a low-code content management system (CMS), creating unique web designs, securing the site, and backing up their data. You may also specialize in constructing certain websites, such as e-commerce systems or specialized SaaS product integrations. Since WordPress powers 42% of all websites, becoming a WordPress developer is also a profitable niche.

How Do You Promote Your Services?

You’ll need to register a domain and sign up for web hosting for your portfolio site. As a software developer, your website is a physical witness to the quality of your work. People choose developers for their problem-solving abilities, so use a case study structure to describe the solutions you’ve made for previous customers or prior employers: pain points, solution, and result. Finally, be aware of your skills, whether they be analytical abilities or a predisposition for comprehending and conveying business needs. A developer’s GitHub profile must be active at all times.

How Much Would You Earn as a Freelancer?

Your hourly pricing is determined by your qualifications and expertise, as well as your clients and specialization. For example, newbie freelancers charge $20 to $50 per hour, while experienced web developers charge $120 to $450 per hour.

What Are the Top Sites To Seek for Clients?

Freelancing sites, recruitment agencies, job boards, and DaaS (Developer as a Service) platforms are excellent places to start. Micro-consulting sites like Airpair, Codementor, and Pluralsight (previously Hackhands) also provide short-term agile projects.

Data Science

How to start as a freelance data scientist?

  • Choose a particular skill set and a market niche for yourself.
  • Build your brand through writing and speaking
  • Assemble a portfolio of open-source projects

What Opportunities Are There for Freelance Data Scientists?

Even though data science is an extensive discipline, current employment trends have favored people with specific expertise over data science generalists. Companies are looking for data specialists with experience in AI, machine learning, big data, and cloud computing as an investment in these areas continues to rise. To be a freelance data scientist, you’ll need a few years of expertise. You must have a master’s degree in computer science and many years of experience working full-time in data science.

Find Your Area of Expertise (Niche)

Data engineering (developing ETL pipelines, data warehouses, and other infrastructure), machine learning engineers, algorithms developers, and data analysts are all data science specialists. Specialization earns you a higher compensation and gives you the option to work on more significant projects. Choose a niche, such as designing recommendation engines for content websites or applying computer vision in SaaS applications to narrow down your opportunities even further. That doesn’t imply you can’t work on other projects, but it clarifies your skills for potential clients who may not completely comprehend what a data scientist performs.

Develop Your Brand

Speaking at conferences or publishing a blog are the most acceptable ways to establish your brand. However, it’s crucial to be able to write critically about a technical topic. Data scientists, particularly freelancers who deal with several customers on short- or medium-term projects, spend a lot of effort explaining complicated problems to non-technical audiences. You can also volunteer to coach other data scientists or give lessons on data science subjects via a boot camp or MOOC. Interview Query and Springboard, for example, are continuously on the lookout for skilled data science mentors.

Develop Skills in Areas That Are in Great Demand

Acquire a thorough understanding of cloud computing and Python and at least one analytical tool like R programming. R is used to tackle statistical issues by 43% of data scientists. Python, along with Java, Perl, and C/C++, is one of the most often used programming languages for data science jobs. Python is so versatile that allowing you to utilize it at almost any point in the data science process, from dataset creation through ETL pipeline development. It requires an understanding of adversarial learning, neural networks, supervised machine learning, decision trees, and logistic regression. Many data scientists lack machine learning and AI skills; you’ll stand out with this knowledge as a freelancer.

You’ll need a portfolio of open-source projects to which you’ve contributed or built from the ground up. Consider volunteering with DataKind if you need some more tasks for your portfolio. The organization hires pro bono data scientists to collaborate with other Nonprofits on initiatives that solve humanitarian needs, including homelessness and sanitation.

Payment for a Typical Freelancer

According to ZipRecruiter, a freelance data scientist in the United States earns on average $100,943 a year. That is $48.24 per hour.

What Are the Top Sites To Seek for Clients?

Your recommendation might come from anyone. Startups wishing to engage data scientists on a contract basis may be found on AngelList. Also, join freelance directories such as Toptal, Upwork, Freelancer, People Per Hour, and Workana. It also helps to engage in data science contests and presence on data science sites like Data Science Central, Data Science Stack Exchange, and Kaggle.

UX Design

How to start as a freelance UX Designer

  • Promote your outside experience as a valuable asset.
  • In your portfolio, combine graphics and detailed writing.
  • Make case studies of previous initiatives.

What Is The Best Way To Begin as a Freelance UX Designer?

UX designers are the most likely to freelance compared to other IT professions, with 34% of freelance IT workers working in design. UX designers use empathy, creativity, and problem-solving abilities to create intuitive digital interfaces.

Assume you worked in hospital administration before becoming a user experience designer. You have a unique understanding of the employee experience for healthcare personnel (e.g., red tape, obsolete legacy software) and the patient experience (e.g., lack of pricing transparency, limited facetime with physicians), so you understand how to leverage technology to alleviate pain points. Consider how you might sell your experience in a different field as a plus.

How Do You Advertise Your Services?

Clients are interested in learning about your thinking process and design selections. Also, even if UX writing isn’t your forte, never underestimate the value of solid writing skills. Communication skills are commonly stated in UX design job descriptions since UX copy is crucial.

Create case studies of previous projects to demonstrate your abilities. Describe the customer, including their problems and the solutions you came up with. Include “before” and “after” graphics to explain how your design influenced UX KPIs like user engagement and goal fulfillment. 

From user research through prototyping, usability testing, and iterations, detail your methods throughout the design process.

At the very least, a good portfolio should include:

  • An “about me” page that details your background and experience.
  • Visual representations of your most excellent UX design work
  • Information about the projects on which you have worked
  • Contact information that is up to date, or a contact form
  • You’ll also need to have Sketch, Figma, Balsamic, Adobe XD, and InVision subscriptions.

How to Price Yourself as a Freelancer

UX designers that work for themselves are usually compensated monthly, hourly, or by the project. Estimate the number of hours the project will take to finish and multiply that by the hourly rate you are ready to accept for project-based compensation. The rates of an intermediate-level, U.S.-based UX designer are listed on the popular contractor portal Upwork as follows:

  • General UX design: $25-$75 per hour
  • Personas/Storyboards: $30-$70 per hour
  • User research: $25-$65 per hour
  • Wireframing: $30-60 per hour

What Are the Top Sites To Seek for Clients?

Apart from the usual freelancer directories such as UpWork, PeoplePerHour, Fiverr, Toptal, and FlexJobs, design-specific portals such as Dribbble and Behance (owned by Adobe) provide portfolio hosting and design job boards. Finally, join the UX Rescue Slack channel, which connects UX experts with organizations in need worldwide.

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