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Sun, sea, sand and software: What's stopping you from freelancing?

Sick of the same old humdrum life? Not enjoying your working environment? Or lost that spark of genius you once had when coding in the early hours? Some developers just can’t cope with the rigours of the modern development career and are looking for a way out, buut crucially without losing their skills.

The solution might sound outlandish and a pipe dream at first, but going freelance so you can sip mojitos on an exotic beach might just be closer than you think. That’s what Ashray did, writing about his travels around the world, in his post ‘Programmers! It’s Time To Pack Your Bags’ whilst being a programmer for hire along the way.

Although Ashray doesn’t say that doing small contract work is the ideal solution for all, he does make a compelling argument for it, and also advises us on the pitfalls of going freelance.

With the IT world everchanging, outsourcing work to small remote teams has become a normality, with a lot of enterprises seeing it as a cheaper way to get what they want. Although there are clearly risks with this approach for both company and developer, it’s not necessarily a bad choice going solo if you can show how good your experience is.

Obviously, money is the main factor when going freelance and Ashray argues that unlike other professions, you can work on compelling and financially rewarding projects if you plan well. He does advise taking some freelance work beforehand to build up a handsome resume on LinkedIn. It’s quite simple really - the better that is, the more employable you are.

Another oft cited reason for putting off freelance work is that it simply isn’t challenging as a normal 35+hour developer job might be. Whilst this might hold some water in some circumstances, with the thrill and stress of firefighting at 5am being like no other, there’s a way around that with open source contribution.

He argues: “I used to think that open source projects were only for very experienced and highly qualified developers. No! The beauty of open source is that you can take the initiative to start something and more often than not, other people with ideas/experience/mad-skillz will be more than happy to help you out and contribute to your initiatives.”

Without being holier than thou and forcing open source project down your throat, the benefits to contributing to a project clearly outweigh the negatives. Any good developer should be actively seeking to flex their coding muscles, and learning new technologies so it seems a wise decision.

If you’re a developer, certainly on the conference circuit either through speaking or attending, coding on the go isn’t a new phenomenon at all. In fact it probably constitutes a large percentage of your time.

Other factors such as poor internet access, availability and gear don’t stand up much either in today’s standards - globalisation and all that.

For Ashray, the decision appeared to be a no-brainer. He offers the following conclusion for why he made the leap of faith:

But shouldn’t I be traveling ? Well, you are traveling! If you could work 40 hours a week while spending 2 hours a day commuting or work 20 hours a week while surfing in the morning and dancing salsa at night – what would you choose ?


Indeed. We think that if you plan effectively by creating a savings buffer, do enough research on the cost of living in your country/countries of choice and most importantly have enough about you that says you’re employable, then why not? At least in the short term. Perhaps it's more suitable for developers not from Java too.

Clearly, a tropical coding life isn’t for all (although that tropical coding hackathon would suggest otherwise), but for more and more, backpacking and coding seem to go hand in hand. Would you take the plunge or not? Tell us why or why not below:

Image courtesy of victoriawhite2010 on Flickr

Chris Mayer

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