Are You Ready To Be A Freelance IT Professional?

If you're an IT professional who dreams of picking your own business hours, working in your pajamas and being your own boss, you may have considered going down the freelancing path. There are a number of pros and cons to becoming a fully fledged freelancer. Read on to find out whether freelancing is right for you.

Developer workign at home image from Shutterstock

Upwork, an online marketplace for freelancing professionals, released data on the top 20 skills that are in-demand in Australia based on jobs posted on its website since the beginning of 2015. Web developers were highly sought after as PHP, Javascript, HTML and CSS development all made the top 20 list along with several IT-related skills.

Here's the full list:

#1 Graphic designer #11 Website development
#2 WordPress #12 Search engine optimisation
#3 Internet research #13 HTML5 development
#4 PHP development $#14 Adobe Illustrator
#5 Data entry #15 Logo design
#6 Content writing #16 CSS
#7 Adobe Photoshop #17 Virtual assistant
#8 Web design #18 Copywriting
#9 Javascript development #19 Administrative support
#10 Social media marketing #20 Lead generation

Upwork also released its second annual Freelancing in Australia study which surveyed 1000 Australian working adults. 324 respondents were freelancers and 676 were not. According to the study, 79 per cent of non-freelancers surveyed were open to the idea of working on a freelance basis provided they were able to do it alongside their full-time work. For professionals who were already employed but working freelance on the side, 40 per cent of them said they have thought about quitting their full-time jobs and become contractors.

We already know that software developers and engineers are in high demand all around the world and IT skills are prized in businesses that may not have their own IT departments. This opens many doors for IT professionals, especially coders, to give freelancing a shot. But it is difficult to take the plunge. Self-taught coder Joyce Akiko advises programmers to gauge whether they're ready to go freelance with this checklist:

  1. Build a couple projects and be able to show them off
  2. Talk about decisions and reasons for making certain design or development choices
  3. Look at someone else’s work and find areas that you’d be able to improve
  4. Go on Stack Exchange or similar and answer more questions than you need to ask

Provided it doesn't conflict with your current work arrangements, you can always keep your full-time job while you try out freelancing. But if you're looking at quitting your day job, then you need to do your prep work. While freelancing gives you a lot of freedom and flexibility, it's also financially unpredictable. I know a fair few freelance developers who talk of times when they are inundated with contract work and flushed with cash but often there will be a period when work dries up.

These lulls could last weeks or months so putting money aside for a "hibernation" fund to get you through the tough times could save you from subsisting on instant noodles during the quiet periods.

But before fully committing to a life of freelancing, you have to be honest with yourself and ask whether you're suitable to be a freelancer. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before you make up your mind, according to Harvard Business Review:

  • Is your skill currently in demand? Some IT skills are more valued than others in the freelance market, as shown in the Upwork list above, so do your research first.
  • Do you have the right temperament? It can be lonely working solo. You also need to consider whether you're up for dealing with clients who may be difficult or demanding.
  • Are you disciplined about work? It's important to be able to work autonomously, meet deadlines and manage your own finances when you want to live the freelance life.
  • Do you have a robust network? Part of being a freelancer means you need to build up your own client-base and if you already have an extensive professional network, that's going to give you a leg up.

If you're worried about not being able to net your first client as a freelancer, you could try approaching your current employer. Harvard Business Review says that about 20 to 25 per cent of independent consultants’ first customers were their former employer. So before you throw in the towel at your current workplace, ask your boss if there’s a possibility the company will work with you if you go solo.

Are you an IT professional that has thought about freelancing or have done some freelance work? Let us know in the comments.


    Be prepared for the lack of holidays, more free time during the day, less free time at nights/weekends. More stress about everything, more control as well. It is a double edge sword....

    I ran my own freelance consulting business for a while, enjoyed the freedom of being able to do what I wanted when I wanted as long as my clients work was being done and so was mine but did not enjoy the lack on support, the buck stops with you, if you can't do it it doesn't get done and you can only lump it on yourself. Clients don't care if you haven't had a holiday in 3 years or you're sick, they want their job done.
    Biggest consideration is your family. Are they going to be happy with a change in your worklife? Reduced time off, more risk etc?
    I do miss the lifestyle though, but I also enjoy walking out of my office at 5 and not having to think about what happens there until 8:30 the next day....

    Also make a good business plan and make some legal binding contract templates that are loophole proof. It's okay to do the one-off job for returning clients who you know will pay you to do a good job, but unfortunately with most new clients you will almost certainly immediately run into that one client who promises to pay you handsomely for your hard work if you do it well before deadlines, but then they end up not paying you a single cent for your hard labour.
    That's the whole reason I stopped freelancing as a graphic designer. Sure it worked for a while and many of my clients became good friends and contacts. You just have to watch out. If a deal sounds to good to be true then it probably is. I am currently owed more than $6000 by one guy who still has not payed me for the job I did for him in 2013. Trying to get it out of those people is a damn pain because it is cheaper for them just to ignore you.

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