Software development is a growing sector, with research by Evans Data Corporation indicating that the number of programmers worldwide is expected to grow from 23.9 million in 2018 to 45 million by 2030.

At the same time, the number of people transitioning to freelance work is rapidly increasing with an estimated 22% of the world’s working population a part of the gig economy. This number is expected to rise to around 35% by 2030, with those able to work remotely, as most programmers are, best able to become freelance.

With those numbers in mind, in this article, we’ll be looking at how to be a successful freelance programmer.

Find Your Niche

As a rule, most programmers fall into one of two categories, those who specialize and those who don’t.

While it might initially seem more sensible to be generalist, as this would open up a wider range of work, companies are actually far more likely to bring in freelancers to handle tasks that their in-house team of generalists are not capable of doing.

Specializing in a certain sector makes you more valuable and therefore able to charge a higher rate for your time, as well as potentially attracting more work from businesses who don’t have time to train their own expert or don’t want another full-time worker.

One of the main growth areas into which you can angle your specialization is that of programming for a mobile platform.

With the increased speed and computing power of smartphones, the number of apps that can be run on the various mobile platforms has massively increased. These days you can find everything from ports of triple-A console games by huge game studios, like the Call of Duty franchise, to offerings from the premier providers of online poker games, like the popular PokerStars app, and even full VR cinemas all conveniently located on your mobile device.

Making yourself part of this growth market means you can pitch yourself as the solution to every company that wants a mobile app but doesn’t have the in-house capabilities.

Pitch Yourself

One of the hardest parts of going freelance is finding your first customers. It can be nerve-wracking when your entire income is dependent on how successful you are at selling yourself, but unfortunately, it’s just part of the freelance life.

When you’re first starting out, be prepared for long hours cold calling potential clients, trawling through job boards looking for work, and advertising yourself in any way you possibly can.

You have to be doggedly persistent and have great organizational skills, but if you stick with it, the work will eventually begin to flow in and you can turn that work into more work by building your brand.

Build Your Brand

Once you’re past the initial phase of cold calling and marketing yourself to companies to get your first assignments, it’s time to turn your good work into a brand.

Most freelancers, no matter what the field, find new work and new clients through word of mouth. Job boards and cold calling are all well and good, but people are more likely to trust another person’s recommendations over even the slickest of resumes.

So, once you’ve hooked yourself some clients and have done work that they are supremely satisfied with, ask them to recommend you on sites like Linkedin. Linkedin is a great way to allow prospective clients to see the glowing reviews that previous clients have left you.

You’ll also need a portfolio of your work so that people looking to hire you can see what you’ve done on previous projects and you can showcase you best work. You don’t need to include all of your work in your portfolio, you don’t want it becoming cluttered. Try to restrict it to your best and most visually eye-catching work.

Keep Building

Finding a niche, building a client base, and then creating your own brand are the three pillars of becoming a successful freelance programmer. However, you’ll need to keep working hard to maintain your online profile and to keep you customers happy.

On the plus side, you’ll get to work in your PJs and never have to commute again.