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How much experience of programming would you need before freelance programming?

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    I spent a year learning QBasic back in 2006, then gave up. Now I'm getting back into programming but now I'm learning Python. Im open to learning other programming languages as well.

    Question in the title is if I find I can program well enough, how much experience would a beginning programmer need if learning Python, in order to get offers for freelance jobs? Or more specifically, what generally do you need to start getting offers?

    I'm not going to university yet, so if I do this I will rely on a portfolio of programs I've made, and if possible external qualifications to prove my ability.

    If someone has already done this I would very much appreciate their advice!

    Miles
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    You really need references and projects you have worked on as examples and evidence. When I say projects, I mean actual paid work for someone. I doubt you'd get far without a real work history to back up what you tell people.
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    Surely you could get the first job by creating an in depth portfolio of your own work and doing smaller projects for less pay?

    Couldn't you also work on an open source project and use that as an example?
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    You've got to remember that you're going to be up against small/medium sized companies as well as experienced freelancers when bidding for work. Most programmers build up experience at companies and make contacts before going it alone. But if you want to go it alone then sign up to community development sites like xda developers and make a name there. Or may be create a few apps. Apps are still in their infancy and it's still possible for the small developer to make a name for themselves before the big boys take over the market like they did with PC software.
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    Hey pal, contact me if u r interested in some new businessss project. I have brilliant plan that is realistic, called brilliant by my entrepreneur professor, n also will be recognised by uk government, n am thinking abt put it into practice in July ...... And we looking for web developer n programmers, lol, come join me!
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    A demonstrable portfolio helps far more than any degree or anything of the sort. Success as a freelance consultant depends wholly on the way you present yourself and your work.

    From my experience as a freelance consultant, you are more likely to find clients who need their websites upgraded or installed, with very minor programming required with the exception of a few things. If you are looking to do more bespoke website development, you will need to heavily build your portfolio. If you are looking to make apps for phones and the like, there is a market, but it is definitely not as easy to build your portfolio unless you apply one of the suggestions mentioned in a previous post, such as making an open source software project that helps get your name out there.

    It has helped me in my pursuits to find freelance work that I know a wide network of people who refer different clients to me. If you are set on making phone apps and the like, your marketing strategy may have to be similar: inform others that "if you need something built, I can do it." Offer low prices or even offer to do a small project for free, and that will help you boost your portfolio.

    You can also secure work without a large portfolio by having a free consultation with a prospective client. In the consultation, you can use diagrams, flowcharts, and other project management techniques to explain how you will help the client achieve the desired business objective.
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    Thanks generalist, out of interest do you have a degree?

    (Original post by Generalist)
    From my experience as a freelance consultant, you are more likely to find clients who need their websites upgraded or installed, with very minor programming required with the exception of a few things.
    is this what you suggest starting out doing, or do you mean in general?
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    I have two degrees, one in information systems and one in law, but I did not need either in order to secure the work that I have. They have helped in cases of negotiation, but the degrees themselves are not why I received referrals. I received referrals because I was able to prove my skills to prospective clients.

    I learned how to develop web / desktop applications from a rather early age, and these days it is much easier to learn very quickly how to do either kind of development. The first degree taught me more about project management and adhering to large corporate procedures, but they are not necessary if you are taking on smaller business style projects.

    I do suggest you start that route I mentioned, as it is a quick way to both find and retain clients, as the work at that stage is minimal. If you have more to offer, that is great, but gaining your clients' trust and confidence is most important. They will then be willing to pay higher premiums on further work you do for them, if you decide to do that. How reliable you are perceived to be will greatly affect the kinds of offers you will receive. You could otherwise simply do these basic tasks as a consultant and become an expert at those basic tasks, ensuring you a very steady stream of income, but that is up to you.

    As a business model, if a large proportion of your contracts are for basic tasks, you will earn enough to maintain yourself and invest in any tools (computers, software, server hosting) you might need in order to carry out a few contracts with some complex tasks, which will provide you the higher premiums. I would not focus strictly on complex contracts as it could be risky.

    Where you end up taking your portfolio will really depend on the what kind of work you find available, so to get the more challenging opportunities, starting off with the basic tasks certainly helps.

    EDIT: Search engines will be your best friend as a freelancer, as you will be able to take the time to read the necessary documents and tutorials prior to learning how to do the various things a freelancer will execute on the job.

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Updated: April 25, 2012
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