4 Reasons To Become a Freelance Programmer

Paul Mendes
Paul Mendes
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Thinking of becoming a freelancer programmer? Maybe for more money, flexible hours, or to be your own boss?

Well, as a full-time freelancer who left my job in 2016 to become one of the top 3% of earners on Upwork, the world’s largest freelancer platform, I can respect your hustle.

So I’ll cut through the fluff and tell you exactly why and how to increase your cash flow through freelance jobs online for beginners.

Read on for:

  • The perks of freelancing
  • Whether freelancing is right for you
  • How to start your new side hustle or career quickly
  • How to get into the most profitable freelancing niches out there right now

Want to watch and listen to a video version of this post? I've got you covered:

1. Freelancing is the future of work (in 2022 and beyond)

Time is money — and you should be able to control how much you have of both

Remote freelancing work means:

  • less time and money traveling to and from work
  • more time to spend with loved ones (and on your personal interests)
  • much easier to schedule appointments
  • less stress and pressure to present yourself in a certain way (read: you don’t have to dress up, have awkward conversations, etc.)

A huge chunk of the workforce has realized that being tethered to a 9-5 job (or any job with set hours, really) is not an ideal way to spend your time.

Plus, no matter how hard you work at an hourly job, your pay rate doesn’t really change. All your hard work is just helping someone else get richer, while your paycheck stays the same.

Or maybe you love your job — but you’re quickly learning that it’s just not sustainable. Instead of trying to budget your way into keeping your current job, cutting out everything else you love, why not just freelance to supplement your income?

You can and should be able to control how much time and money goes into your work life.

There’s an extremely low barrier to entry (read: no degree necessary).

You don’t need to enroll in some time-consuming degree or job training program to branch out of your field.

You have a world of knowledge and an entire world of new jobs literally at your fingertips.

Industries are shifting to accommodate freelancers

Many companies are now equipped to hire for remote freelance jobs. You’re no longer restricted to jobs in your area. You can now do freelance work efficiently right from your home.

And a lot of companies like outsourcing work rather than looking for a full-time employee. Those companies are on freelancing sites, ready to build long-term relationships with people just like you.

We can attest to this here at ZTM. We have a number of freelancers and full-time team members and love having both.

2. The perks of becoming a freelancer in any tech role

Should you join the side hustle nation? Or even make the leap to becoming a full-time freelancer?

The perks of freelancing can be summed up as "more freedom", but freedom means different things to different folks. So to be more specific, freelancing can allow you to:

  • make more money on your own terms
  • learn a highly profitable skill in an industry that’s not dying out any time soon
  • travel (or just stay at home)
  • sleep in late (or get finished with work super early!)
  • future proof your career
  • work smarter, not harder

If you're saying "hell yeah" to some of these, then freelancing coule be for you.

Note: If you want to freelance full-time like me, I don't recommend just up and quitting your job before you have the skills necessary to make a lifestyle-sustaining amount of money from freelancing. Instead, use whatever reason you want to quit your job as motivation to accelerate your new freelance career.

3. No credentials required

It's about skillset, not your credentials.

First and foremost: do not apply for some long-term, super formal credentialled program. The more time you spend trying to learn a profitable skill, the longer it takes you to start making money.

Freelancing is not about credentials. It’s about your skillset. To start freelancing quickly, you only need to do two things:

  1. Gain proficiency in a skill that companies are looking for right now (which you may well already have but don't even realize it)
  2. Create a freelance portfolio that shows high-paying clients that you are capable of producing the high-quality work they deserve

It sounds really easy, right?

Well, nothing worth doing is easy, but it is very doable — with the right mindset and guidance.

4. You can learn everything needed to land freelance jobs in one place

You can master a skill, acquire all the knowledge in the world about an industry, and still not land a single freelance job.

That’s because you need more than a skill to showcase yourself to high-paying clients.

You need to know:

  • which niches are oversaturated and which ones are underserved
  • where to find lucrative opportunities (nope, it’s not on LinkedIn or Indeed)
  • how to show clients that you have the skills required to do a job even though you don’t have super formal certifications
  • what it takes to land a new client (and keep them coming back)

Where to find the most freelance jobs when you’re starting with zero experience:

As with everything these days, the highest paying freelance jobs are online. You can find them on Upwork, the world’s largest freelance hiring platform. That’s where most high-earning freelancers — including myself — got their foot in the door.

Getting started is no doubt the hardest part. Many people have asked me how I got started, how I landed my first freelance jobs, how I turned those first jobs into a freelance career, and what mistakes I made along the way. After answering these questions so many times, I decided to go one step further and create a comprehensive online course to walk anyone through the Upwork platform, how to maximize your results without wasting time, what the most lucrative skillsets to have in 2021 and beyond are, and how to pitch yourself to potential clients.

You can even get started with building a rockstar freelance profile right now for free. Any lecture with a "PREVIEW" button can be watched for free. No signups or credit cards required.

Screenshot of Complete Guide to Freelancing course

I get that I'm completely biased here but I took so many of the courses out there when I was in your shoes. But ultimately I had to figure a lot of things out for myself.

I've made my fair share of mistakes and have spent many, many hours learning a lot of key lessons on the way to become one of the top 3% of earners on Upwork. I made these mistakes and spent all of this time so that you that you hopefully don't have to.

So it's important to me that unlike a lot of instructors I was trying to learn from, I actually practice what I preach as a full-time freelancer. This also allows me to continue to update my course with the latest and best practices and to also share my learnings and experiences with my students in the ZTM community.

Screenshot of Paul Mendes Upwork profile

If you're still not sure if freelancing is right for you, you can also check out some of the free videos that I put on Youtube.

I also definitely recommend that you also check out ZTM's Become a Freelancer Career Path.

Bonus: Learn the the most profitable skills out there (why and how to learn freelance tech skills)

Once you learn the ins and outs of freelancing, carefully consider what niche to go into. There’s a full section in my course all about choosing a profitable niche (click to watch the first part for free).

But I can tell you right now that freelance jobs in the tech sector are some of the highest-paying freelance jobs out there. Coding, data science, machine learning, SEO, etc.

A lot of people think there’s a huge learning curve when it comes to freelance tech & coding — which is why it’s one of the most profitable niches out there.

There’s less competition and companies are willing to pay more to hire someone who can start immediately.

Don't take my word for it. According to Upwork, these are some of the highest paying and in-demand freelance skills for 2022:

  • Machine learning skills to help companies learn from data and improve accuracy over time. You can charge clients ~$80-$125 per hour. If you want to learn machine learning, I recommend this course from Daniel Bourke
  • Mobile app development skills to help companies build apps pay ~$40-$100 per hour. If you want to learn how to build apps, I'd recommend checking out this mobile developer career path
  • Automation specialists that develop and implement programs designed to streamline businesses pay ~$40-$110 per hour. Python is a great coding language for this. Andrei Neagoie has a great Python bootcamp course
  • SEO (search engine optimization) skills that help companies drive traffic to their website by improving their ranking on Google and other search engines. Because more website traffic generally equals more money for companies, they're willing to pay ~$20-$75 per hour for someone to help them with SEO

Now I know you're thinking it, so I've got to say it: tech doesn’t have to be hard.

You don’t have to go to school for it (remember, it's about skills not credentials!), and you don’t have to spend years trying to wrap your head around a coding language through random online tutorials in order to become proficient enough to freelance.

The courses and career paths I listed above give you everything you need. By spending $100-$300, you'll be able to earn that back after 1-2 freelancing jobs. And from there, your potential opportunities will only get better and better as you gain more and more experience.

Screenshot of ZTM Academy courses

Are these the only skills?! No. Definitely not. Go check out some of the jobs available on Upwork that are relevant to the skills you already have. You may be surprised that you could get your first job with your existing skills by the end of the day.

My parting request is this: dedicate yourself to freelancing for just for one month. Because that’s all it takes for a beginner to start landing freelance jobs and dip their toes into a lucrative, future-proof career (or side hustle) as a freelancer.

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