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Ask Slashdot: How To Begin Work In IT Freelancing? 140

Posted by Soulskill
from the do-not-work-on-relatives'-computers dept.
king.purpuriu writes "I'm a computer science high school student, and I'm looking for some work in IT freelancing. I have had a interest in computers and programming for a while, and I began learning on my own before high school. I would like to gain some experience (e.g. what the bulk of the jobs in various markets require, various technologies/frameworks and their usage) and possibly make some money on the side (not expecting too much; at this point, any non-negative amount will do). Key areas are web development, app programming and scripting. What solutions do you recommend? Any tips or tricks of which I should be aware? How should I deal with payment (in terms of fees and commissions; I'm from European country), and what type of work should I seek out? I would also be willing to do some small stuff for free in order to gain experience (small, static sites, small scripts, etc.)."
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Ask Slashdot: How To Begin Work In IT Freelancing?

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  • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @05:44AM (#41278743) Journal

    I have created whole e-commerce systems for free, and that was ~9 years ago. Really, the market is so competitive right now that the only way you're going to get paid with your knowledge is thanks to everyone's favourite abuse of capitalism: information asymmetry. Find small organisations who have so little clue about IT that they think that abilities like yours aren't dime-a-dozen.

    Alternatively, accept that your abilities are tools to enhance a career rather than career-worthy in themselves. Either learn to become a software engineer in the full sense, worrying more about learning than earning at this stage, or find something else that you like, safe in the knowledge that your IT skills will make you a more valuable member of any team.

  • by Tim Ward (514198) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @05:45AM (#41278749) Homepage

    What people are hiring in a freelancer is experience and skills and experience and ability to hit the ground running and experience. Oh, and experience.

    Do ten years in a proper job first to learn this stuff.

  • by bhunachchicken (834243) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @05:48AM (#41278761) Homepage

    Personally, I would recommend that you get a full time job first. After a few years, when you've had time to build up commercial experience and a good couple of names on your CV (resume), you can hop into the freelancing circle.

    Freelancers tend to command more money (certainly in the UK a contractor's daily rate will be more than double that of a permanent employee). There are often A LOT of people chasing these jobs, especially these days, and without proven commercial skills and those client names to back up your experience, you could well be ignored.

    Start with a full time job first, get the experience and then start offering yourselves as freelance.

  • by tetrode (32267) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @05:58AM (#41278787) Homepage

    Mod parent up.

    I have hired freelancers for reasons of specific experience and being able to start from 0-100 in no time.

    In order to do this you need to have some years of job experience under your belt.

    After some 15 years of IT experience I made the switch to freelance and with the experience I had it was very easy.

    I am sure that if you set your mind to it and work in a regular job with the aim of going freelance you can do this much quicker.

    Having a fulltime job will enable you to start freelancing slowly.

    Also start doing open source kind of work / projects for free - as this will give you different insights that you will never get from working in a company / freelance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 09, 2012 @06:02AM (#41278801)

    Don't! Your time is better invested in actual studies, where each university credit will lead to a better position in the future job market. Study harder, study more. Writing code is done by thousands of indians and chinese, and you DO NOT want to be in a position to compete with them.

    I would strongly recommend you to get out of the programming/IT sector all together. It is NOT a future business in Europe. It pays poorly, and is subject to massive outsourcing to Asia.

    If you must work in IT, consider something which is close to the customer: Sales, Management, Relationship intensive design tasks. DO NOT ENTER A CAREER IN IT PROGRAMMING. You will be competing with millions of poorly paid Chinese and Indians and companies will always outsource to the lowest bidder.

    I have 20+ years experience in IT, and I've seen 5 companies outsource all European operations to Asia already, and I see it happening all the time over and over again.

    Study hard, study more. Study something which can't be outsourced: M.D., Lawyer, anything in construction.
      Avoid IT like the plague!!

  • Re:Don't. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @06:05AM (#41278809)

    I could go on and on, from every possible side, the market for ACTUAL programming work is shrinking compared to the growth of the overall market.

    Is there any evidence for this? My experience is the opposite to be honest.

  • Re:Don't. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by shobadobs (264600) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @07:40AM (#41278971)

    Being able to "program" is a severely minor part of your job as a software engineer (or similar professions).

    I can't fathom the confusion and incompetence that would lead to such a statement.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @08:09AM (#41279041) Journal

    I think he's just trying to snake some experience under his belt without committing to a full time gig so he will have an advantage when he graduates.

    Perhaps looking into charities who might need a one time thing done, seeing if he could get an internship from the regular people there if they already have staffing for it. Looking for internship or something like this at places family members work might be another job option. Even if its doing mundane drone crap that could probably be done in spare time like parsing logs with scripts or validating backups or something useless he would at least have some first hand experience in how stuff works in the real world.

    I don't know what the laws are where he is from, but intern here usually mean little to no pay (definitely below scale) and no benefits. Its like a lower form of on the job training specifically for padding experience.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @08:13AM (#41279045)

    There's nothing wrong with starting as a freelancer.

    I respectfully disagree.

    As a freelancer, you need to be able to operate with a degree of autonomy. You need to be able to take general direction from a client, work out what it is that they need, and provide it. You need to find your own tools, and develop your own skills.

    Coming straight out of full-time education, I don't believe anyone has the experience to do that yet. You could be the most talented and enthusiastic person in the world, and perhaps a few years down the line you'd be a great freelancer, but at the start of your career you don't even know what you're missing yet. You can be completely sincere in your desire to do a good job, and still be utterly incompetent without even realising.

    Even today, after working in a few jobs as an employee and now being freelance for a while, the thing I miss the most is still the shared experience/peer review side of things. That kind of interaction can be very educational even if that wasn't your original goal, and if you're going to fly solo you need to find a different way to maintain your awareness of the industry and develop your skills. That's difficult even for someone who knows roughly what they're missing, and I suspect it's impossible for someone who doesn't.

  • Re:Don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cryacin (657549) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @08:44AM (#41279187)
    I have to say that the AC GP post is pure weapons grade baloneyum, and I suspect we both may have just fed a troll.

    The typist argument is a bit of a strawman, as most people can easily type, and the quality/recognition of the quality of the product is pretty self apparent. A more apt comparison would be to compare building a website, to building a shed. Sure, you can do it yourself, and if you're a handyman, it might look kinda good. But generally it won't come in at the level of quality, or at the real cost (if you yourself are worth anthing, your time is not free) of a seasoned professional who does it day in and day out.

    Building software as a programmer in this analogy starts at building a house. How successful do you think the average person would be at that? And for the really big enterprise projects, you're talking a skyscraper. We even have similar roles such as Architect, Developer, Quality Assurance, Project Manager etc. for an undertaking of that size.

    I think the people who believe that software engineering will disappear are the same ivy league management graduates who think that shipping work off overseas to be done by teams of monkeys on typewriters in a sweatshop to reduce costs on what they see as a non-revenue generating, but somehow magically essential to the company service as equivalent in quality, and yet cheaper in overall price. Most companies who are doing this, learn the hard truth on the bottom line, or miss it completely and just mysteriously feel it in their wallets.

    To the person asking the question about the industry, it's simple. Do interesting projects. Money will come with talent. Unless if you are in a team, with some really good and/or experienced people who can clean up your rubbish, and hopefully that you will learn from as well, your first few projects will fail. We've all been there. Don't be afraid to do so. Like a friend of mine always says, Silicon Valley was built upon the bones of failure, just don't let them be your bones.
  • Re:Don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @08:54AM (#41279257) Homepage

    I kinda feel like it won't be long until programming is in the same position. Scientists all have a decent enough grasp of programming that they cobble together their own software/algorithms without the need for a software engineer.

    Decent enough grasp of programming? Do you even know what that even means. I work, and I have worked, with scientists and EE majors who write copious amount of code (which sadly I have to deal with), code that looks like this (yes, this is the type of code I've had to deal with from such scientists and EE majors, and to be honest some CS majors, I'm not making this shit up):

    if (!condition1){ break; }
    // do some logic
    if(! condition1_a}{ break; }
    // do some logic, and
    // NOW, HERE IS THE KICKER, SPRINKLED HERE AND THERE if( error ){ // do a recursive call hoping the error goes away }

    if( ! condition2 ){ break; }
    // some other stupid logic intended to mimic a goto
    // statement because gotos are evil, but this shit is ok

    // .... cue several dozen more tests like these..

    if ( ! condition_I_lost_count_how_many ){ break; }
    // do some more logic that you cannot longer follow,
    // and which makes you can to commit seppuku, and
    // hang yourself with your own guts

    People who, intelligent as they might be, still don't fucking get why it is important to layer your functions, as opposed to opting for direct access to the same set of pointers spread all over the place. People who tell me they can write a compiler just with a look-up table based search/replace approach. People who tell me programming is nothing but if statements and for loops and that encapsulation and modularity are just academic shit that no one really uses.

    Better yet, I've had project managers of a scientist/EE background telling me, and I quote, "we do not need a design, by the time we are in the middle of it, code is different from the design and things changes, so a design is superfluous" (this for critical systems with SLOC counts in the millions.)

    It is a meme so consistent across companies it cannot easily be dismissed as a generalization.

    You, sir, don't know what the fuck you are talking about, and this mentality is the root of all the evil code monkey shit that we see in the software industry.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @09:55AM (#41279589)

    Most small businesses happily hire freelancers, whether in the EU or elsewhere. Any freelancer, really. It's a matter of picking up your phone or meeting the customer in person to present yourself.

    Not a single chance - except maybe in the moves. The same movies where you can always park right outside the building you're visiting. Where the person you need to see just walks in through the door as you're about to leave. Where .... well you get the picture.

    The cold hard reality is that for a lot of "europe" the under-25's unemployment rate is well over 25% and that includes stacking shelves, washing cars and cleaning toilets. There is no chance whatsoever of some kid just out of secondary school walking in to a programming job - unless they happen to be related to the boss.

    In fact no small business on the planet will give any "phone time" to cold callers of the "gizza job" variety. If they did, they'd never have time to do any work, themselves. Those SMEs that do have any need for casual IT work generally give it to a relative of the employees: Fred's son/daughter who does a bit of work during the holidays - never to some unknown who says "I wanna be an IT freelancer".

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but nobody has ever, in the history of computing, just "picked up the phone to discuss your potential needs for IT help?". It just never happens - except in the movies.

  • Re:Oh good grief! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cryacin (657549) on Monday September 10, 2012 @06:59AM (#41286183)

    Whatever man. I'm more than happy with your "rejects".

    Yes, 1+1=2. 2+2=4. 4+4=8. Except when it comes to resources. 1 resources that is 10 times as good, is worth more than 100 resources at 1/10th of their ability. At least with the 1 resource, you don't need the QA to weed out the crap that doesn't work, and over time you don't accumulate anywhere near the amount of code debt.

    But then again, I guess I'm responding to an Ivy league graduate. ;)

Yes, we will be going to OSI, Mars, and Pluto, but not necessarily in that order. -- Jeffrey Honig