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Naftali Murgor
Naftali Murgor

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7 tips for freelance software developers

Introduction

"What happens to us and what we do are as a result of a series of complex interconnected events that happened in our lives in the past." ~ anonymous

Freelancing is fun. You don’t have a boss, you can take breaks if you need. You can go for a hike in the middle of a hot Tuesday evening.

I started as a freelance web developer in late 2018 and here are things I'd consider.

1. Proper pricing model

As a freelance developer, you get to decide how much your service/product costs depending on your set pricing model.
I started out freelancing on Upwork, then the Fiverr platform before finally looking for clients locally.

There’s is a common myth that while starting you could do work for free to get testimonials. I’d say approaching a potential client with an offer to do/sell a service for free raises eyebrows.
Offering something at a cheaper rate is worse in the long run.

My biggest mistake was the poor pricing of services. It hits you when you do more work for less pay and kills so much morale.

Develop a good pricing model. Have you ever thought and wondered: “One common characteristic of poor quality commodities, electronics, computers is that they are very cheap.” Cheap implies poor quality.

3. Treating freelancing as a 9 - 5 job

I’ve worked a 9 - 5 job as Math/Computer teacher before pursuing web development and I’d say treating freelancing like a 9 - 5 job may be great but it leads to a “need-to-be-always-productive” mood.

Breaks are good, short meaningful breaks are rewarding in the long run.
It’s okay to be “unproductive” sometimes.

4. Learning to say “yes”

Most developers striking out freelancers I think often get trapped in situations where they are to choose between saying “no” and end up saying “yes”.

Here’s what happened to me in 2019: I received an offer to work on a website and the offer went like this:

Client: Hey, we are launching our campaign this Saturday. I already bought a template to make the work easy for you. It should be ready in 72 hours or less as we have a tight deadline and the donation website should be live during the launch.

My initial thought was to:

  1. Accept the work and find another freelancer to do it.
  2. Politely decline due to tight deadline

You can guess what I did. (Read below)

Learn to say “yes” and do what you have to do and “No” when you can’t help your client. Doing so reduces the time and money wasted for both you and your client.

I took on the project and 6 hours later after analyzing the project I received another technical description for the project. Part of the description: “We shall be launching….Preferred technology: ASP.NET and MS Server” I haven't done any .NET my entire life, oh God.

5. Taking regular breaks

There’s always an innate desire to be productive 24 x 7. Taking breaks rejuvenates the body and the brain too. Take a week off, hours, or days whichever suits your schedule.

Working long hours does not imply more work gets done.

6. Time management

Managing time should be crucial. Meet deadlines whenever possible. I’d spend a lot of time on trivial things that drained energy so when the time to do the actual work came, I was already exhausted.

7. Enough sleep

Enough sleep is good. staying up until 3.00 am makes one feel productive but have you ever gone back to what you worked on up to 3.00 am 3 years ago or in the past. It’s terrible even though it sort of worked out.

8 . Proper Diet

Skipping breakfast to get to work on a project might seem “efficient” but try resisting the urge and see how productive you can be after taking a “solid” breakfast. The same applies to other meals.

9. Exercise

Take walks, hit the gym do other work that kicks up blood flow in the body. Exercise is crucial and good for our health.

10. Managing finances.

This portion is not about financial advice but here’s my one-liner about managing finances: “Money is a scarce resource we can’t afford to waste.” I’d make money and the rest was spend, spend, spend.

Organize your finances, grocery money, etc. Keep some for medical emergencies and save up for a rainy day.


Freelancing is essentially living within your means, resilience, and modesty.

Discussion (1)

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smeetsmeister profile image
Jelle Smeets

Great tips! Thanks for sharing