Saturday, January 19, 2008

5 Tips for Freelance Programmers

Already started freelancing? How is it going? Great I hope. Hopefully you have outcome the main issues of the starter - fear, uncertainty, too little customers or too little time.

Now what, you still want something... You want to do it better? You want to be more successful freelancer. You want to work less and earn more.

There is nothing wrong with that. Here are 5 simple tips which will help you work smarter but not harder.

Reuse Your Code
I am sure I am not discovering the hot water with this. You already know to reuse your code, don't you? But do you really do it? Do you just copy-paste pieces of code or have you created an orderly framework with functions and classes? Think about it. You need libraries from functions, classes and pieces of code that you use often. Spend some time to create it and it will pay off great in the future.

There is also another way to reuse your code and experience. Once you complete a freelance project, immediately try to get involved in a similar one. You can easy offer lower price and short term for completion if you reuse your code from the previous project. Of course you have to make sure that you are not breaking the contract with your previous customer. Some freelance employers require exclusive rights to your work.

Outsource Time Consuming Tasks
Let me tell you a secret. The buyers in the freelance business are people like you. Usually they are single entrepreneurs or small teams - and not huge companies. Have you asked yourself why they are buyers and not freelancers (in fact some of them are both)? Because one can't do everything best. There are tasks that you are not good at or you just don't like. Why not hire another freelancer to complete that task?

Some freelance programmers hire designers for the design tasks for example. Others hire copyrighters to help them writing offers. But the possibilities are not limited to that. You can even hire another programmer in exactly the same field like you. If he or she is less experienced, but can write some boring codes for cheap, why not pay them and save your valuable time for the most important tasks? This will help you finish a project faster and get paid more for less work.

Use Ready Scripts
If you browse sites like Hotscripts you'll find that the most trivial tasks have been already solved by someone. Many of these scripts are given out for free, most of the others are fairly cheap. In any case it can save you a lot of time if you download or buy a ready script and then do the neccessery modifications.

Sometimes however the scripts are very badly written and it can take you more time to understand and modify them than to create yourself from scratch. It's all about how much you like to tweak someone else's code and how good the program that you buy is.

Use ready frameworks
It is easy to find ready frameworks for most programming languages. Some of them are really very good and can help you increase your programming speed two, three or more times. They provide you with sets of functions and classes which save you a lot trivial (and not so trivial) coding tasks. Many of these frameworks are free, some are commercial.

How to find them? Just open your favorite search engine and type [your favorite programming language] development framework. For example some cool frameworks are CakePHP, PHP on Rails and Ruby on Rails. There are literally hundreds.

Use the most effective advertising method
Being a freelancer you may happen to spend some money on advertising yourself. Either or creating and hosting a website or paying for subscription on some freelance site, promoting via PPC etc. But the most effective advertising method has always been word of mouth.

It's not hard to use its power. Just tell your happy customers that you would appreciate if they share with their friends and mates about you. Many won't do it if you don't ask, but will follow your request with pleasure. And you lose nothing if you ask, don't you?

The freelance business is an art which combines professional and communication skills with little self promotion and smartness. These five tips are not everything you should know about freelancing, but if you follow them you'll just do it better in freelance programming for PHP, Java, C++, C, HTML, DHTML,,, SAP, Oracle, etc. or whatever the language may be! Good Luck!

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