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6 UNCOMMON Steps to Becoming a Freelance Developer

Developers come in several varieties — web and software being the most common. Developers design software, apps, and websites — among other things. They also maintain websites, work in cyber security, and develop new technologies. Basically, if you are looking at data on a screen — chances are a developer is behind it. Developers work with code to produce most of what you see (and use) when you engage with technology.

If you have been entertaining the thought of becoming a freelance developer, but don’t know where to start, you have come to the right place. Freelance developing is an incredibly profitable side hustle opportunity, and though it does take a bit of work to get started, the potential benefits are well worth the effort. Here are six steps you must take to get your developer side hustle on!

1) Know Your Stuff (Technical Proficiency is KING)

It’s no secret that developers need to have a LOT of technical knowledge. The first step that any prospective freelance developer will need to take is to make sure they really know the ins and outs of the profession.

Don’t have a formal degree in the subject? That’s okay! You will need some form of education under your belt, but it doesn’t need to be from a university. If you don’t have a degree in web development, and don’t have the money, time, or desire to go back to school, there are still plenty of ways you can increase your skill set. Online courses, such as Lynda, Udemy, and Treehouse are wonderful, inexpensive places to learn the basics, or expand the knowledge you already have.

What do you need to know? As many coding languages as possible. A good, working knowledge of basic design principles can be helpful as well. Start with learning common languages like Python, and Java,  as well as HTML and CSS if you want to work in web development, and then branch out from there.

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2) Never Stop Learning (Flex Your Muscle)

Once you’ve started learning about development, keep at it! It is incredibly important that freelance developers stay current in their field. Since new technology is always being created, continuing your education is a must. Learn new languages as they come out, subscribe to publications that will keep you on top of your field, and work on certifications in different technologies as time permits. Since technology is a moving target, it is easy to become outdated fast as a developer.

3) Build Your Portfolio Website (What’s YOUR Brand?)

Having a great portfolio is essential for any freelancer. As a freelance developer, you can use your website itself as a piece in your showcase. If you’ve built your portfolio site from scratch, make sure potential clients know it.

On your site you will want to include at least five projects that you are proud of. If you don’t have work experience yet, create mock-up projects for your portfolio. You can always replace these with examples of actual, paid work, as you get jobs. In the beginning, it is more important that you just have something to show.

Other things to include on your website are a contact section, your resume, and an about page. Your about page should detail for potential clients, who you are, why you are passionate about developing, and what you can do for them.

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4) Find Your Niche (Hone YOUR Fastball)

You may have heard us say if before, but we are going to say it again. Find your niche. Did everyone hear that in the back? Good. Moving on.

Seriously though, we can’t stress just how important niching down is to differentiate yourself from the competition. Think about it from the client’s point of view. What would you rather hire for your business — a developer who claims to be good at everything, or a developer who markets themselves as an expert in exactly what you need?

Picking a niche can be difficult, but it doesn’t need to be. Just ask yourself: What am I good at? What kind of developing do I enjoy most? What am I passionate about? What drew me to developing in the first place? What need can I fulfill for a client? Doing a personal inventory like this should help lead you to your answer.

5) Market Yourself (HUSTLE.  EAT. SLEEP.  REPEAT)

Once you have built your portfolio, and chosen a niche, it is time to head out into the great-wide world in search of your first gig. But how, you ask, do you get that gig? By marketing yourself, of course!

Marketing is the bane of existence for freelancers everywhere, but it is, unfortunately, a necessary evil. No one will know about you and your superb, world-changing skills if you don’t put yourself out there, after all.

Fortunately, marketing doesn’t need to be complicated. You have already chosen a niche — you have done that, haven’t you? — which means you have a target audience. Find those people, and simply approach them. Send out a pitch letter (or stop by in person if the place is local), detailing why they need what you have. It may take a lot of persistence, but eventually you will start getting bites. You can also find work on online job boards, and freelancer marketplaces like Upwork or Fiverr.

6) Things You Will Need (Tools of The Trade)

Obviously, it is essentially for any freelancer developer to own (or have access to) a reliable computer and internet access. A computer with a webcam is also helpful if you plan on using video chat to speak with clients.  You will also need to configure an IDE on your computer, as well as whatever programming languages you plan to use. A time tracker app, like Toggl, can also be extremely helpful.


With all of the technical knowledge necessary to start up, becoming a freelance developer is clearly no walk in the park. If you already have the knowledge — or the time/desire to obtain it — starting up a side hustle as a freelance developer can be incredibly fulfilling and profitable.


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