Talented developers and top notch designers have it pretty good right now: there is a surplus of freelance and consulting opportunities out there. If you've ever wanted to ditch your 9-5 job and strike out on your own, now is the time.
Of course, everyone's first question is "...but how? Where do I start? Where is Client #1?"
This is especially true if you've been sitting behind a desk for a few years.
You may not have a solid network of references and folks in the industry to help bootstrap your freelancing career. It can be tough to stay inspired. Giving up the steady paycheck might not seem like a great idea when your immediate business forecast looks...well, dreary.
But...the flexibility. The $100/hr gigs working on bleeding-edge stacks, platforms, and frameworks. You'll have time to re-re-restart your blog, work from a hip co-working space, pad your skillset, and have the freedom to go mountain biking in the middle of the day.
If you've ever thought about testing the freelance development or design waters, you've probably been scared off by posts like this:
"Hi, I'm looking for someone to create a Facebook clone. All I need is a site that has a lot of the same features as Facebook but with a few changes. I'm an entrepreneur and trust me, this is going to be huge. Only professional programmers apply! My budget is about $500 but I could pay more for the right coder!"
There's a lot of sites that cater to this type of work: clueless clients, large projects, and small paydays (looking at you, Craigslist).
Luckily, there's also a newer breed of freelancing job sites that cater to the higher-end developer/designer. These outposts weren't just created for developers, they were created by developers.
Next time you're on the lookout for a real gig that pays real money, check out one of the following.
gun.io was founded by Teja Yenamandra. I asked Teja what made his job site different than others. In his words, it's all about the community...
"I really think we're super lucky with the programmers and clients that choose to look for each other on gun.io. They are all really good, and seem to satisfy each others' demands quite well! In short, our community makes us special!"
A quick survey of gun.io and you'll see that Teja wasn't kidding around. There's still a few smaller gigs here and there, but for the most part, there's plenty of quality work. Python hacker looking for 5-figure side job? There's an ad for that!
It's also comforting to know that bad developers are weeded out by the gun.io staff. So relax, you're in good company.
When I reached out to Michael Karpeles (or Mek, as he tends to go by) of Hackerlist, I was pretty excited to hear what he had to say. His site has branded itself as the Elite Hacker Boutique.
The gist of Hackerlist is this: Mek and his team manage a collection of uber-talented developers. The Hackerlist network is made up of top-notch developers and mentors. To become a member of this network, developers have to go through a challenging application and selection process.
Their goal is ambitious. They're creating a network of developers that solve problems that "regular" outsourcing can't solve. All of this is being done with a hacker-centric approach. Mek says it best:
"We target software problems which require expertise and aren't suited for outsourcing... our efforts are geared towards creating the best possible experience for our hackers."
Oh, by the way, all Hackerlist jobs start at $100/hour. Not too shabby.
Let me know if this sounds familiar: You've thought about picking up some freelance development work on the side but the sales, business development, and marketing stuff sounds like a pain the ass. If you're nodding your head, you've got to check out matchist.
Matchist was created by Stella Fayman and Tim Jahn. Stella sums it up pretty well:
Developers are great at doing what they love most: great work. Sales, business development and marketing can be a hassle, but are core to growing a freelancing business. matchist seeks to eliminate that hassle for freelance developers by sending them projects that fit exactly what they are looking for.
This new company of his is hoping to solve those problems by pairing great clients with great developers. Sounds like a winning formula to me.
Another complaint that we hear from a lot of freelancers is that they can't deal with the inconsistency.
One month they may have more project that they can handle (and no team to delegate to), while another month is spent watching tumbleweeds blow. Luckily, ooomf is here to save the day.
Founder, Mikael Cho, states the value proposition eloquently:
The big thing with what we're looking to accomplish with ooomf is to create a steady stream of high quality projects for talented independent developers, designers, and writers anywhere in the world. We want to take away all the headaches of the current freelance process (estimating projects, legal, handling payment, etc.) so developers and designers can focus on what they do best - building products.
So, if you fancy yourself to be a talented guy/gal that loves hacking on full-blown products, you should definitely check out ooomf.
If not of these sites work for you, here's a few more sites that are catering to the higher-end developer:
AppTank - Are you an Android or iOS developer looking for some work? Check out AppTank. Proposed projects are screened so you know that you'll be taking on at least a halfway decent project.
Techteams - If you're not in to the whole telecommuting thing, you may want to check these guys out. Techteams is a marketplace for developers and designers with a focus on local jobs. For right now, the focus is definitely on European talent but that may change in the future.
3Desk - Similar to techteams, 3Desk also has a focus on local talent in the Euro marketplace. All jobs are reviewed for quality so you (hopefully) won't be starting a project from hell.
Despite the very sad state of a lot of the freelancing jobs you may stumble upon, there's clearly better options out there if you have the talent and professionalism.
It's never been so possible to transition from a 9-5 to replacing your full-time income with freelancing work. Of course, this does come with its own challenges, but for many, the gained freedom can be well worth it.
Do you have any experience with these sites? Have any others that are your favorite? We want to keep this page updated with only the best sites for freelancers and contractors, so drop us a line and let us know what you think! Feedback will be critical to keeping this list alive and updated.
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