The Computer Science Professional’s Guide to Freelancing

 

Hands on Keyboard

 

With technological advancements being revealed at an unprecedented rate, what used to feel like world-changing innovation is now a part of (what seems like) our day-to-day. The unyielding growth in technology has led to a variety of changes in communication, science, electronics, and environment – all of which impact our daily lives, and careers. 

In fact, advances in technology have provided individuals with so many new opportunities, obstacles and choices, that one of the biggest decisions a professional must make is where and when they work. 

 

Freelancing in the Digital Age

 

In the digital age, many specialists have opted out of the typical 9-5 workday, and prefer freelancing gigs, instead.

As you’d imagine, there are large numbers of professionals looking to freelance in their respective industries. So many, that according to a study by the Freelancers Union, freelancers account for approximately 36% of the United States workforce; which is up 8.1% since 2014.

The growth of technology and the gig economy may have you asking yourself if it would be a good fit for you. Fortunately, if you’re a computer science professional considering joining the 57 million and counting freelancers in the U.S. alone, you’ve come to the right place.

 

We will be diving into the pros and cons of freelance work, the opportunities available for computer science professionals, how to find clients and network, and what your day-to-day might look like. We hope that with this information, you will be able to make an informed decision regarding the next step in your career – whether that’s in a coworking space, an office, or at-home.

 

The Pros & Cons of Freelancing

 

If you’re working a 9-5 job right now, making the move to freelancing could be quite an overwhelming and daunting transition. Nevertheless, it seems that with every stress that arises, there is a perk that comes with it.

 

PROS CONS
  • YOU have full control over your workload
  • Your workload can be infrequent and sporadic
  • Say goodbye to office politics and annual reviews
  • Say hello to possibly feeling isolated and alone 
  • You’re your own boss!
  • 100% of the responsibility falls on you
  • Decide where, how, and when you work 
  • Lack of benefits, culture, and the feeling of comradery
  • You are finally able to find passion in every project you take
  • Juggling many clients without the support of a team can be difficult

 

There’s something to be said about having complete control over your day-to-day; the freedom to take days off if you have family in town, the ability to drop your kids off at school and pick them up 5 hours later, the option to work after dinner if you’ve had a busy day. 

But freedom and flexibility are not the only things that come with freelance work; there are new responsibilities and obligations that require an incredibly high level of focus, adaptability, and discipline.

Your career, and the need for professionals with your skills, will heavily impact your decision.

 

Leading Freelance Computer Science Careers

 

One of the biggest perks that working in tech provides is the ability to engage from a device (or multiple devices) in a variety of locations. Unlike “traditional” workplaces, computer science positions often provide flexibility in location; which is a vital aspect of freelancing in our tech-driven world.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information technology occupations are projected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028 which will add about 546,200 new jobs. 

Those available positions may be better filled by a freelance professional instead of a full-time one. Take a look at the top 5 computer and information technology occupations, provided by the BLS, determine if one is a good fit for you, and think about whether you’d rather execute the role remotely or in-office.

 

Computer and Information Research Scientists
  • Computer and information research scientists invent and design new approaches to computing technology and find innovative uses for existing technology.
Computer Network Architects
  • Computer network architects design and build data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Intranets.
Computer Programmers
  • Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly.
Computer Support Specialists
  • Computer support specialists provide help and advice to computer users and organizations.
Computer Systems Analysts
  • Computer systems analysts study an organization’s current computer systems and find a solution that is more efficient and effective.

 

These are just a few of the many freelance and in-office roles available in the ever-growing tech field. If you decide that freelancing is the best decision for you, knowing where the leading roles stand will be able to help you determine where there is the best opportunity and the most need.


Take a look at the IEEE Computer Society
jobs board to review top listings for computer science professionals.

Remember, starting your freelance career is not for the faint of heart. It requires dedication, self-discipline, and most importantly, a network of professionals that want to work with you.

 

Finding Clients & Networking

 

If you’ve made it this far, you probably have some sort of interest in giving freelance a shot. If that’s the case, your next question probably has to do with how you actually make it happen. Simply put, it’s about who you know. 

 

Your network is arguably the most important aspect of a successful freelance career. Without a network of like minded professionals, you might not have the connections you need to take your freelance work from your passion to your profession. 

 

Oftentimes, your network evolves into your clients. Not only do you need your network for advancing your knowledge within your field, but you need them as advocates and resources – the same way they need you. 

At IEEE Computer Society, we believe that networking is the best way to advance your career in computing. Our communities, professional chapters, student activities, and conferences are intended to promote learning, connecting, and engaging with like minded tech specialists. 

If you’re looking to connect with an international network of peers and other computing professionals at the industry’s highest levels, getting involved in the society through volunteer opportunities is a great place to start. The importance of networking cannot be overstated, but for freelance professionals, your network truly determines your success.

At this point we’ve revealed freelance pros and cons, opportunities and occupations, and the necessity of identifying clients by growing your network. In addition to those, it’s important to consider what your day-to-day might look like.

 

A Day of Freelancing

 

One of the most appealing aspects of freelance work is the ability to determine your own schedule. For professionals who don’t work well in a traditional 9-5 setting, being in control of where and when you complete your projects may seem like it can’t be beat.

Typically, and somewhat ironically, freelance professionals end up maintaining a daily routine, similar to a 9-5 role. Determining and managing a regular schedule helps us optimize our efforts. 

Freelance work requires self-discipline, and project management; and truthfully, your bandwidth will be pushed, and your dedication will be tested. 

Although working remotely may seem like you have all of the flexibility in the world, you may want to opt in to a daily cycle to help find your groove and make the most out of your workday. The good news is, if you ever have a swamped personal day, you DO have the flexibility to make up for lost time when you can. 

Here is an example of a simple daily routine that is often used amongst freelancers:

 

7:00AM
  • Alarm rings, time to wake up
7:00AM – 8:00AM 
  • Get ready for work, brush teeth and get dressed
8:00AM – 11:00AM
  • Check emails, begin projects while alert and motivated
11:00AM – 12:30PM
  • Eat and take a brain break
12:30PM – 3:00PM
  • Back to work
3:00PM – 4:00PM 
  • Errands and stretching
4:00PM – EOD 
  • Finish up projects and map out following day

 

Sticking to a routine like the one above gives you the flexibility that you’re looking for in a freelance role, while allowing you to maximize your time and energy to get your best work done. Based on your personal obligations, you can tailor the above, or any other recommended remote schedule, so it works for you.

 

Decision Time

 

We are so fortunate that our tech-driven world has provided us with (and continues to provide us with) new and exciting opportunities at a truly unprecedented rate; including the decision of where and when to work.

Some of the most important decisions you make in your life revolve around your career, and whether you decide to pursue a full-time, 9-5 role, or an at-home freelance position is completely up to you. 

We hope that this guide has provided you with valuable information about freelance careers in computer science. The next step is to make an informed decision regarding your potential career move. 

IEEE Computer Society is here for you from volunteer opportunities, to our jobs board, to professional chapters and beyond. Happy hunting, and good luck! 

 

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