Freelance Programming as a Career (With Salary and Tips)

Updated February 3, 2023

Coworkers sitting in front of computer monitors hold a discussion.

For people who enjoy working with computers and software, becoming a freelance programmer is one way to engage with the growing field of programming. Freelancers with the technical skills to code projects and the professional abilities to manage clients can build fulfilling programming careers.

In this article, we define freelance programming, share what freelance programmers do and how much they earn, outline the necessary skills for this profession and provide tips to help you succeed in this role.

What is freelance programming?

Freelance programming is the process of contracting your coding and application development skills to clients. Freelance programmers are their own bosses, meaning they pay their taxes, choose their clients, set their hours and manage their workspace.

As a freelance programmer, you can write code for websites, software, mobile apps and any other type of computing application. You communicate with clients to determine their needs, then complete the project from start to finish.

Some programming professionals work on freelance projects part time while still working at a full-time programming job. Others are independent contractors who use their coding skills to earn an income. Freelance programmers have complete control over the projects they accept, so they decide how many hours per week they can dedicate to freelancing.

Related: What Is Computer Programming? (With Common Programming Languages)

Freelance programmer roles and responsibilities

Freelance programmers typically interact with clients daily. They advertise their skills, oversee client accounts and complete all coding-related tasks. Their main roles and responsibilities can include:

  • Marketing: Freelance programmers work for themselves, making it necessary to advertise their services to clients. They post listings advertising their services, reach out to potential clients and network to find new projects.

  • Contracting: They write contracts detailing client expectations, pay rates, deadlines and other details of their business relationships. For this reason, they may require legal document drafting skills besides their programming skills.

  • Coding: Writing code is among their primary roles. They write scripts to make apps, websites and software run properly, execute functions and display the interface to users.

  • Testing: To ensure their code works correctly, freelance programmers complete multiple rounds of testing. They find bugs, make corrections and retest the code for functionality.

  • Maintaining: They provide ongoing support for clients by maintaining their websites, writing scripts for updates and resolving any coding issues that occur in the future. This is part of the follow-up services they offer their clients.

Related: Learn About Being a Computer Programmer

Freelance programmer salary

You may be able to generate significant earnings working as a freelance programmer if you have the skills and dedication. Some programmers make more money freelancing than they do at a traditional job. The average salary for programmers is $69,193 per year.

As a freelance programmer, you can set your rates. You can charge more to work on complex projects or as you gain more experience. You may also negotiate with clients to determine a fair price for your skills and how many hours per week you can work at that rate to achieve your financial goals.

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

Related: How Much Do Computer Programmers Make?

Freelance programmer skills

Here are the skills necessary to work as a freelance programmer:


Working as a freelance programmer involves marketing yourself to attract clients, building relationships with them and listening to them to understand their needs. Listening skills can allow you to understand the client's interests as you begin the project and provide satisfactory services.

Verbal communication skills can help you sell your ideas and convince potential clients to purchase your services. You can also use these skills to negotiate the business agreements such as the price. This can help build your brand by attracting repeat customers and referrals.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What's the Difference?


Proficient knowledge of various programming languages is essential when working as a freelance programmer. These languages include JavaScript, Python, Structured Query Language (SQL) and C++.

You can have knowledge of only one programming language, but it's beneficial to learn multiple languages. It can build your versatility and experience, offering you access to a broader range of opportunities.

Related: What Is a Scripting Language? (With Types and Advantages)

Time management

Freelance programmers often handle several clients simultaneously. Developing practical time management skills can help you manage your clients without delays. Consider scheduling your working hours, allowing you to allocate time to handle several projects. You can organize your tasks by giving priority to the urgent ones.

Related: Time Management: Tips To Effectively Manage Your Time


Developing a solid organizational system can help you succeed in this career. Creating efficient systems to store all the client's details and project codes can make it easy to retrieve project information and provide updates or make changes to a client's websites, applications and software. It can also showcase your professionalism and help you build your brand reputation.


You may interact with several clients with project needs that require different applications of your programming knowledge. Adaptability skills can help you adapt to changing circumstances, allowing you to handle any situation or requests from clients.

For instance, clients may require you to complete projects sooner than the set deadline. These skills can help you adjust your work plan and schedules to accommodate new changes.

Tips for becoming a freelance programmer

Here are several tips you can use to succeed as a freelance programmer and advance in your career:

Build a coding portfolio

While your resume is essential when applying to traditional coding jobs, focus on your coding portfolio when seeking freelance clients. Your portfolio helps clients envision the results you can produce, proving that you're worth hiring. A range of coding projects, from apps to websites, can show potential customers that you have the skills and experience to complete their projects.

You can start developing a portfolio by working on projects for fun, building websites for friends, completing projects in a coding boot camp or writing code at a discount. Investing your time in producing a quality portfolio might help you secure more paying clients in the future.

Related: 10 Portfolio Website Builders (And Why They're Important)

Leverage your website

As a freelance programmer, it's important to have a website that potential clients can use to contact you and view your portfolio. By building your website yourself, you can use it as an interactive example of your work. Write advanced code for your website to produce a high-quality interface with multiple interactive features, showing clients your full range of coding skills.

Related: How To Plan a Website: Steps for Building a Functional Site

Communicate consistently

Maintaining open communication with clients is a core aspect of being a successful freelancer. By providing regular updates, responding to messages on time and asking questions, you can show clients you respect their time and care about their input.

Be honest about deadlines, set reasonable expectations and ask for feedback on your work. Communicating shows reliability and consistency, which can be as crucial as coding skills.

Related: What Is Freelancing? (Plus Job Ideas and Tips for Success)

Research the market

As a freelancer, you compete with other programmers for attention from clients. Researching rates for different programmers and projects can give you an idea of what to charge and how to advertise your services. Your market research can also inform you of the most in-demand skills and certifications, allowing you to pursue additional training or update your portfolio to highlight those features.

Related: How To Analyze Market Research in 6 Steps

Value your skills

Set an hourly freelance rate that reflects your time and skills. Calculate how much you intend to earn, considering taxes and other business expenses. Many clients pay a premium to work with coders who have experience and receive quality service. Regularly assess your rates and make adjustments, raising or lowering your prices to meet your needs.

Related: How To Define Your Product's Value (With Tips)

Document your work

Maintain thorough documentation of the code you write for all your clients. This allows you to have continuity in your code and easily make updates for maintenance or repairs.

If a client wants to hire you again for another project, your documentation of their project can be a useful tool to guide your work. Develop an organization system to label the files on your computer and regularly back up your data.

Related: Report Writing Skills: Definition and Examples

Follow up with clients

After completing your first freelancing projects, follow up with your clients to ensure their satisfaction with your work and ask if they have any other projects that need custom code. This shows clients you're committed to the quality of your work and enjoy collaborating with them.

Establishing relationships with clients and getting repeat work is essential for becoming a full-time freelancer. If you can convince an existing client to hire you again, this may reduce the time you spend finding new clients.

Related: What Is Lead Follow Up? How To Follow Up on a Lead

Look for referrals

Once you have connections with your clients, consider asking them to refer you to their professional contacts. Satisfied clients may recommend your work to people in their network or provide testimonials about the quality of your programming services.

You can ask if they know anyone looking for a programmer or give them business cards to distribute to colleagues. Some programmers include business credits in their code as part of their contract, which means anyone who likes the website or application can find and hire them.

Related: What Is a Client Referral? (Plus Importance and How To Get One)

Expand your coding abilities

Try to increase your ability to complete freelance projects by learning different programming languages. The more types of code you know how to write, the more clients you can typically serve. While some freelancers specialize in a particular coding language, starting with a diverse range of coding services may make you more appealing to clients.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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