Should a developer become a full-time freelancer or continue doing the job along with some here and there part-time freelancing?
I am sure many of my blog readers will have this question as they should continue doing the job or opt to become a full-time freelancer. Here is one of the blog reader asked me
Shabbir, found your answer on quora and I am just hooked to your blog. Your articles are really encouraging for me to get into freelancing.
Want to know if I should focus more on freelancing or continue doing my job. I work for an MNC in Bangalore and my take home salary is 75k which is quite good amount.
I also do little freelancing work and I really enjoy it.
So the question is should I concentrate more on freelancing and quit the job or continue with my job. Awaiting your answer.
The name is kept anonymous because he did not want his employer to find out that he is also doing freelancing.
This question in the minds of every developer with 3 to 4 years experience and is doing an averagely ok job.
Should he quit the job and become a freelancer or continue with the job?
Being a freelancer, you would always expect a very straightforward answer that you should be doing freelancer, and that is not the case. There are many aspects to look at before I can answer this question.
Will there be growth in the job?
What kind of growth do you see in your career with ten years of experience?
Generally in an IT company in India, you will have the following Job Titles (Though you will be doing pretty much same thing in most of them)
- Trainee Developer
- Senior Developer
- Team Leader
- Project Head
Now once you are the project head, you will possibly become stagnant in your career growth. With time you will perhaps be able to make more money as your project performs, and that will not be something you will be controlling more often.
It is when you will start to get frustrated, and I have seen many such incidents of many of my colleagues.
Freelancing is a lot different and is a lot more interesting. Not only will you be your boss, but on any given day when you think you had enough of what you are doing and want to try something new. You won’t do things just get a check coming your way at the end of each month.
Now or later
You can always feel that you will become a freelancer once you reach a position of no growth in your career, and that can still be done theoretically. Practically it becomes tough. Ten years of salary increments mean you will have a lot of liabilities build as well—home loan, car loan, personal loan, to name the few.
Let say your minimum expense per month is 15000 per month now. So you need 90k in your bank account to try things for the next six months. Once your monthly expenditure is 50k per month, you will need 300k in your bank account to try freelancing.
If you want to be a freelancer, it should be as early as possible in your career. If you have a loan, freelancing and entrepreneurship become a lot more challenging, or I would say quite close to impossible.
Apart from that, you may have a lot more at stake (child education, family expectations of earnings) at a later stage of your career than now.
Employer as your first client
If you are not comfortable leaving your job, negotiate to be converted into a part-time employee and work for your employer as a client. If they don’t have an option for being part-timer, ask if you can work from home. Many companies are coming up with policies of working from home for sure.
If you can work from home, automatically you will save time commuting and use that free time as you want.
Before You Decide to Be a Freelancer
So here are five important things developers need to change and adapt to when moving away from a job to become a freelancer
1. Work Alone
Many people have issues working alone, and if you are one of them, you can have a tough time as a freelancer.
You should not only be technically sound to solve problems on your own but also enjoy working alone and don’t need coworkers around to get you driving.
2. Work from Home
Working from home comes with many distractions. Everyone won’t be comfortable writing codes and doing programming when kids are jumping around or when your friends and family people are in the living room.
You will need a high level of concentration to be able to work with distractions around.
Look for an area where you can work with concentration.
3. Motivated without a manager
Are you that kind of a guy who procrastinates and needs someone to take the best out of you? If yes, it will be tough for you to be a self-employed freelancer.
Freelancers need to be self-motivated to whatever they are working on and don’t need a manager or to instruct you to be doing things.
4. Easily take decisions
It is crucial to be a freelancer.
If you don’t have a firm decision making power, it can be tough for you to be a freelancer.
Taking a decision may seem so easy, but believe me, this is one of the toughest things to do. If you think you are powerful in making your decision, just answer these questions.
- How much time did it take for you to decide the clothes that you are wearing now?
- How much time did it take for you to decide which smartphone to buy? Did you choose to buy the smartphone you are using now, or your friend helped you?
5. Take the Responsibility
You are responsible for all your actions.
Though this is true when doing a job, it is exaggerated as a freelancer.
If you are a person who shies away from being responsible for any mishaps that can happen, freelancing is not for you.
The Real Reason to Avoid Freelancing
You may want to quit your job but are doing for a reason like:
- Need money for XYZ (XYZ can be anything like Marriage, Child Education, House Rent, Car …)
- Big opportunity may come my way in the next appraisal.
- I want to switch to XYZ before being a freelancer.
- Freelancing may not be able to cover higher joint family expenses.
And the list can continue but the real reasons more often are:
1. Fear of not able to find clients
One of the primary reasons people don’t quit jobs. They doubt that they will not be able to find clients who can simulate their income from their job.
You can always calculate your minimum survival income and try freelancing with a cushion of a year. No one is taking away your ability to do a job. You can always find a job if things don’t work out in a year’s time.
There are many horror stories that you may have seen of many freelancers who had issues, but there are more rosy stories as well. There are two sides to every coin, but we tend to believe in the horror stories and assume rosy stories are all made up.
Try to understand why things were so horrible on one end and why they are not so bad on the other hand. It will help you learn from people who already made those mistakes.
Smart people learn from their mistakes, but intelligent people learn from other people’s mistakes.
- How New Freelancers Can Get Their First Client
- If I Had to Start From Scratch How Will I Fetch my First Client?
- How To Get Your First Client From Freelancing Sites?
- How to Get Your First (or Next) Client on Upwork?
2. Lack of technical skills
The second most common reason that I see for not doing freelancing is a lack of technical expertise.
I am not a web developer.
If a project manager asks to move from XYZ technology to PHP and provides with just a couple of weeks to 1 month of training in the new technology, the same individual will possibly be the best developer in that team. When it comes to being a freelancer, it can always act as an excuse.
Just do a self-evaluation and be true to yourself.
In whatever technology you are working now, did you learn that technology in your curriculum?
If your answer is no, which I am sure 99.99% of the time it will be, how much time did your employer give you to learn this new technology?
The answer will never be more than a month.
Apart from not knowing a technology, there are other assumed excuses like they have to provide a complete end to end solution to be a freelancer. If you are a PHP developer and lack web design skills, you cannot be a freelancer. As an employee working in a big team, you will always tend to think along that line but is ultimately an assumption.
3. Lack of communication skills
I have interacted with many developers who are doing a job because they lack fluency in English to interact with clients.
Is learning the English language that difficult?
I don’t think so.
Has anything been done to improve your English?
I don’t think so.
If your real reason is a lack of communication skills and if you are not doing anything about it, do you expect something will happen someday for you?
Finally, the Way to Quit your Job
Pay off all your debts. Then calculate your minimum income level for survival. Calculate your income from freelancing on weekends.
You can easily double (or even triple) your weekend income once you become a full-time freelancer and see if it is more than your minimum income level for survival.
If you are not able to reach a minimum income level for survival, you need to look at increasing the freelancing income or reducing your minimum income level for durability. Still, if your answer is yes, you can pull the trigger and be a freelancer.
To reduce the risk further, you can also opt for additional cash balance in your bank account that you can use in an emergency. When I resigned, I had a surplus of 6 to 8 months of my minimum survival income in my bank account. On top of it, I did withdraw my provident fund to give me a cushion for a few more months.
Over to you
Are you in the dilemma of being a freelancer or continue doing the job? What is stopping you from being your boss? Share your thoughts in comments.