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I’m a developer; should I go freelance or stay full time?
The life of a developer isn’t known for being easy — but if you’ve picked this career path, you likely love a challenge. So isn’t it a relief to know that, in spite of how confusing coding can be, you know that software development is one of the most in-demand industries globally?
Every company that wants to get noticed requires a digital presence, putting developers in an enviable position in the job market. As a result, the question that many in the industry face is whether to continue in a full-time role, with all its security, or leverage this increased interest and go freelance. Here, we’ll weigh up the pros and cons of both career paths.
The appeal of becoming a freelance developer is definitely the freedom. While working full-time is secure and you’ll have a regular routine, many freelancers willingly pass these up for the autonomy of working for yourself.
One of the best perks of freelancing is being able to choose which jobs you want to accept. If a prospective client is offering unattractive rates, for example, you have the freedom to reject them outright.
Music to your ears you may think, especially if the work your company gives you is unsatisfying. Although choosing your work may sound exciting, going it alone can be very daunting, too. There may be times where freelance work is thinner on the ground, or a client may not make payments at the agreed time.
While there are advantages to the freelance life, it’s a decision that needs to be carefully considered — so in the next section, we’ll put both freelance versus full-time developer roles under the microscope.
Freelance vs full-time: the pros and cons
The financial side
Firstly, freelancers hold the potential to earn more money compared to their 9 to 5 job. This is because of the freedom to pick their clients and choose the work they do. You’re capable of setting your rates, whether it’s on an hourly basis or as a total sum.
Saying this, it’s rare that someone triples their income the moment they go freelance, because there’s a lot of work to do in networking and building your reputation before you can command the large payslips. New freelancers dedicate a lot of time to attracting clients and offering competitive rates to beat your competitors — meaning many begin their new career earning less than they did before.
Another pro is that your work-life balance is potentially much more flexible as a freelancer. This career path requires no commutes, and no set working hours per day. You can manage your time and begin work at any hour you want.
This could free up more time to spend with your family, or you can work in the evenings rather than the day if you’re more of a night owl. However, some freelance workers struggle to focus when working from home, so setting up a distraction-free environment for your office should be a top priority.
Another pro is the higher level of individual freedom. Being your own boss will mean having complete control over your own work and vision, without meddling from other colleagues. If you like to be in control of a project from start to finish, or enjoy working independently, this could be a decisive reason to work for yourself.
Though there are many perks to being a freelancer, it’s important to consider that if so, your education will be in your hands. Many companies are willing to support the training of developers, but it’s usually on the same software and techniques and may not include all the newest industry developments.
Will your industry aptitude increase with the freedom and added pressure of going it alone? Or do you find it difficult to motivate yourself without company pressure? Your answer to this may depend on your learning style, and will need serious, honest thought before you decide whether to go freelance.
Becoming freelance: the formal bits
If the life of a freelance developer is for you, and you’re ready to take the next step, there are some key things to consider before you do.
Build a brand
First, focus on building a brand. You’re looking to make your brand attractive to prospective clients, utilise a network of contacts that you’ve gained through your time in the industry.
Establish a niche
It’s also worth establishing a niche. While developers are in high demand, competition is still fierce. If your skills are more fine-tuned as a backend developer, then leverage it. If you’re an excellent mobile developer, don’t forget to market this part of your skill set. You may feel pigeonholed into a specific set of skills, but it singles you out to clients who know what they want in a developer.
Set up properly
You’ll also need to set up your own business officially. By doing this you can create the name of your new company, which you’ll hold the rights to, and set up business accounts. Setting up a business doesn’t just sound impressive for a freelancer, it also protects your personal assets if the company were to fail. As a freelancer, setting up your own company is always the best option because your company’s debts are separate to your personal accounts. This means you aren’t liable to pay anything from your personal funds if the company were to become insolvent.
The bottom line
Flying solo can seem daunting — but we’re here to help. We offer a range of packages to support freelancers who want to start a business for themselves.
With the right package, we can take the stress off the time-consuming process of registering your company for VAT to HMRC is straightforward, and help with anything from accounting to registering an office. If you’re interested in finding out more, visit the register a company page for more information.