Freelancers meet 20th Sept: Finding freelance development work

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On the 20th September 2023 we had our freelancers networking meet in the Battle of Trafalgar pub, on an evening of very bad weather. 12 people came along.

Topics of conversation:

  • Is Chat-GPT helping inexperienced programmers get better or just advanced ones code faster?
  • Going freelance
  • Is there Go work around as a contractor / freelancer?
  • Is it possible to do only back-end work as a freelancer?
  • Being a “Full stack” developer doesn’t mean being full stack on every client project
  • Finding work
  • The SEO worries when you use a headless CMS
  • Running multiple World of Warcraft accounts on one PC (multi-boxing) with ISBoxer
  • In-game economies
  • Working for startups – cool tech but high pressure and all consuming
  • Trying to get hired
  • 3D printers
  • Thingiverse
  • Custom work vs off the shelf (small site work has been commodified)
  • Docker hassles
  • Hardware hacking
  • Building PCs
  • Parallel computing
  • Go and green threads


Finding work as a developer

Frankly, developers have it relatively easy in finding work as freelancers. There’s demand for many different programming skills and even if you haven’t updated your skills in a while, if you dig there is often still work out there for you.

A few things that came up during the evening: “Can you find work as a back end developer”

Yes, you can. I do. Knowing people who do the other parts of website development makes it a lot easier to find work, and helps keep clients when you can bring in experts in the other parts when you need them.

Do you need to be a “full stack” developer?

No. If you are, that’s great and it’ll give you more opportunities. As Panos said, he’s often not full stack in a particular client project, but he is full stack in general. It gives him the flexibility to pick up all sorts of work.

“Is there Go work?”

Most likely there will be, but you’ll need to dig around more than you would with a language in more widespread use. The advantage to doing a more niche language is you’re more likely to pick up the work that there is in it, but the disadvantage is there’s less projects around using it.

It’s always worth remembering that many clients don’t care what the programming language you use for their project is, so you can use your favoured language. That said, when you leave a project it needs to be in a state that someone else can pick up again relatively easily. So if you’re using a more obscure language, bear in mind that might not be useful to all clients even though you think it’s a great way to solve their problems.

Finding work as a freelance developer:

  • Get to know lots of other freelance developers, e.g. by coming to the Farm regularly, attending meet ups, joining online groups, you will get referrals
  • If you’re in Sussex, join Wired Sussex and fill out your profile well, and go to their events
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is clear about what you do and mark yourself as looking for work
  • If you want to use a platform for finding work, try YunoJuno, it’s much higher end than Upwork
  • If you’re happy contracting, register your CV with the big job boards like Indeed and tick the option that says they can share it out to recruitment agencies. Look out for recruitment agencies that fit your skills, e.g. for games programming, register with Skillsearch
  • Watch out for the regular “for hire” threads on Hacker News and post about your skills in that
  • Approach local web agencies to find out if they would be interested in your skills
  • Approach local freelancers who do what you do or have complimentary skills and suggest getting together for a drink / lunch / gaming / whatever. Your goal is to get to know them, not source work immediately
  • Set up a blog on your own website (set up your own website) and write about problems you’ve solved. Give it a week then re-post them on LinkedIn, with relevant hashtags for your language. Consider also posting on Medium. You leave it a little time so Google sees the article first on your website, not the bigger ones
  • Join forums based on the language you like or area you want to work in. Answer questions helpfully. Put a footer on your messages saying you’re a freelance <x> developer and are available for work
  • If you like social media, make sure your profile says you’re a freelance <x> developer and are available for work, and post about problems you’ve solved with your preferred language(s), and interesting things you’ve found out about programming, follow other programmers interested in the same language(s), follow freelancers too

You don’t need to do all of these. Find the ones you can do regularly and do them. For me, it was networking as I joined and now run a great group, The Farm. I’ve also found work doing many of the above, but for me, having interesting conversations with other freelancers regularly was the most sustainable thing I could do and it’s got me lots of work. For you, it could be one of the other ways.

Do some of the above consistently and see what works for you.