The 3 Nasty Downsides Of Freelance Programming They Don’t Tell You About

For all the good points about freelance programming like the freedom to do it whenever and wherever you want, the awesome returns you can get from it and more, there’s still some sucky things about it that can’t be avoided.

I’m not saying don’t freelance, I’m a fan of it, but keep the following in mind and you’ll be alright.

The Time Suck

In the end, freelance programming is and will always be just another job. It’s great for income generation, but it’s not anywhere near passive income – one of the mantras of this blog.

Trading time for money is good if you can get the fantastic rates to warrant only working a few hours a week. That’s subjective of course, some people love working on other people’s projects.

Suggestion: Be aware how much time you’re spending freelancing and charge accordingly.

Bad Projects

Sometimes you get part way through analysing a project for a job and realise it’s not really what you want to be doing.

As a freelancer it’s your prerogative to choose what you want to work on.

Sometimes (ok, most of the time) the overwhelming feeling is to accept a job because it has landed on your lap. It’s a hard feeling to say no to.

Suggestion: For your own mental health if you don’t want to do a job then say NO. Another, more enticing, project will be around the corner.

Mental Wear And Tear

All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. And so it is with freelancing.

Sometimes enough is enough and you need a freakin’ break. But the onslaught of jobs coming at you left right and center like ninjas out of the night is overwhelming you until finally you have a nervous break down at the shopping mall and throw a bunch of oranges at a group of elderly people going about their business all the while screaming, “Whaat?! Whaaaat?!”.


I digress.

Suggestion: Take a break from it after each job. If it’s going to keep being fun to do, you need to do fun.. away from the damn computer.

Take A Breath, And Remember Why You’re Doing It

My final tip is to remember what you’re freelance programming for in the first place.

Whether it’s to save enough money to go on a holiday, or start a business, or put that money on your home loan.

Whatever the reason, keep it in sight. Make every keystroke worthwhile to you.

Josh Kohlbach

Josh is a software entrepreneur from Brisbane, Australia. He spends most of his time helping e-commerce store owners. This is his personal blog where he shares his thoughts and other tidbits on online business and life in general.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Josh kemp

    Hey Josh,
    Great article! I recently started programming I am trying to switch careers, I know HTML and CSS I’m trying to get some work on Elance and am having a hard time getting that first job, any suggestions?…..are there any sites that are easier to get your first job? Thanks

    1. Josh Kohlbach

      Thanks Josh,

      My best piece of advice would be to try looking locally if you’re trying to get your first piece of work. Often it’s hard to compete when there’s so many providers on Elance and co. Otherwise, try not to be the cheapest (as weird as that sounds), most people listing jobs on Elance will cancel out the cheapest and most expensive quotes and go with someone in the middle.

      Best of luck!

  2. vetcoder

    One major thing you never really mention or make articles about is the reality of freelancer hub sites(places where people bid&contract).

    Just approximations from my eight years of experience with the top three(guru(8yr), freelancer/rentacoder(8.5yr), elance(2yr)):

    75% <$150.00 "simple" projects where the employer will likely break scope or scam, or drastically underestimate cost and never hire anyone

    15% $250-$500 where maybe once or twice a year you'll get a good balance of pay:investment(basicall time), but most times it's drastically underestimated jobs, like ready-for-market apps, that have extremely short turn-around and need to be AAA quality

    10% $500+ "whale" contracts as I call them. I've came across single contracts in the 25k-80k range over the years. All massive infrastructure jobs or ready-for-market solutions or game projects. All with turn-around requirements that make them logically/economically impossible for anything less than large compartmentalized teams.

    The options outside of these hub sites are domestic classifieds and word-of-mouth marketing. Not everyone is a salesman with a large social network.

    If anyone has ever heard of the 'I got paid $3,000 for one web design" type stories, those are almost always family, friend, or word-of-mouth via family and friends acquired gigs. Established entities go with studios with an LLC or TM for legal and insurance reasons.

    Apps have amplified these realities in recent years. Apps have major turn-around because there are no real consolidated development pipelines. What few single-language tools there are have no sensor or UI-dialog capabilities, for example. For advanced AI you have to go code native for at least three platforms seperatly..

    My current App-dev competition as a hub-site freelancer is almost all studios, and then some freelancers who have a building full of developers in China and Japan helping on the back-end..

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