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I am a software developer in the USA with a lot of focus on .Net I've been doing it for fun since I was a kid and am about 10 years into a career now, but I've only worked as a corporate programmer. This means I'm not only underpaid and treated like a technician instead of a content creator, but I've also discovered that it means there are big gaps in my experience due to intense specialization in the needs of the companies I've worked for.

This would be fine, except layoffs have hit me twice in the past and my spider sense is tingling about my current job of 3 years. Its a private company that was 6 months late giving us annual reviews and most of those reviews listed only bad things and ignored accomplishments. There have been suits walking around our privately owned company for three weeks, management is in constant meetings, and our DBA of 18 years put in her notice yesterday. Over half of the IT group got bad reviews and were given unrealistic goals (like 2 days for projects slated for three months). All of the reviews have the same followup week, precisely at the end of a business quarter.

I may be paranoid but that looks like firing to prevent layoffs to me. I'm in a red state so dirty pool to avoid unemployment payouts is common. Unfortunately, local jobs in my industry have dried up as well. I decided maybe this was a sign it was time to freelance, but sites giving tips on the topic all suggest saving money I won't be able to save before starting. I have a wife and two kids and a mortgage so I'm somewhat anchored to where I am. Her income is meager and just covers groceries. I also have social anxiety and have a dead Facebook that mostly exists to make me seem more mainstream to potential employers who check those.

I'm obviously not in the ideal situation to start freelancing, but with a doom clock ticking and few other options I might need to anyway. All the advice I find online seems to lean on assuming there's a nest egg to fall back on. What would be the best approach for someone who doesn't get to have that nest egg?

  • Find a new job, make the nest egg, start freelancing. – user3244085 May 16 '17 at 15:26
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Can this help you: How do I get my first job at a freelancing site? ?

Aside of this, majority of us started freelancing having full-time job. No one waited to get fired, but we gathered crumbles and built career from that.

If I were you, I would first start educating myself. I was do it yesterday. I guess you need 1 month to fill up all the gaps.

Aside of this, start checking freelacing sites like Upwork on what clients need in your expertize. If you see something is repeatedly asked, educate yourself on that thing.

Try Craiglist and see if anyone from your country needs remote worker.

the bottom line is that you are a beginner in freelancing world and you have to start form the bottom. You will do stupid tasks for small money.

Just be patient and build your reputation, experience and clients' relations. If all goes well, we will be hearing another story from you in 1 year of time.

Goodluck!

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This may come across as a bit harsh. It's honestly not meant to be. It is however a realistic answer.

The best approach if you don't have a financial cushion to fall back on, is to get another job.

Even if that means as a Gas Station attendant, McDonalds, or whatever, until you have enough freelance work to support you. You can be working on building freelance footing while also searching for employment.

Everyone wishes they could just decide to start freelancing and make enough money to live on, but that's simply not how the world works. And there are some individuals who are simply not cut out to be freelancers because they can't come to terms with the feast or famine aspect of the financial side. Many need that steady paycheck. You may be able to profit greatly freelancing, but you will probably never have any sort of "steady paycheck". Even in contract work, there may be steady income for a few months, but that also has a limited lifespan. If you can't save money with a full time job... you can't start freelancing. Primarily because if funds are that tight, you can't afford to depend solely upon freelancing income. Freelance part time while working a full time job. This is how most get started, and start saving money to build that financial cushion which is pretty much mandatory.

The the reality is, you'll need employment if you aren't financially prepared to go 2-3 months (minimum) without any income whatsoever.

Even if you are the best freelance worker ever, and the best person on Earth at your work, it'll take time to build up client relationships and find steady work as a freelancer. This is why a financial cushion is not only the best route to take, but pretty much the only route for anyone with financial responsibilities. You are most likely not going to be able to cover a mortgage payment June 1st if you start freelancing May 1st. Any project which would actually pay you within that 30 days isn't going to be a "big dollar" project. And a "big dollar" project will generally not pay until Net 30 in addition to the time you need to complete the work. You may be able to find plethora of smaller paying projects and then frantically scramble to get them done so you can merely request payment.. and you'll still have to wait to get paid. But when factoring time needed to actually work, you're still looking at 2-3 weeks best case scenario before payment will be received.

The reality is, if you started right now, today, by trying to utilize any of the online freelance sites (which I personally hate), it'll take a minimum of 20-30 days before you see any financial return, no matter how great or small that return may be. And the odds of you getting enough work to cover even modest living expenses a month from now are unlikely. Realize that on these "brokerage" sites, new users are unproven and unknown to the clientele. So, even if you're fantastic at your services, you need clients to take a leap by hiring you. This greatly narrows the client-base which you'll appeal to.

I'd also add that just because you feel you are "specialized" in a particular area, that does not mean you can't be a successful freelancer. It just means you need to find those clients who are seeking your area of specialization. But again, that will take time.

Being successful at a freelance career is not like lighting a match. It doesn't just ignite. It's more like a slow boil. You have to start working and wait for things to pick up (helped by marketing) until eventually you get to a point where you find a few great clients that allow you to keep that "boil" steady and rolling.

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    I knew this wasn't the answer you wanted to hear :) – Scott May 8 '17 at 18:52
  • It's good advice, but it doesn't actually answer the question. It more explains why there are few suggestions out there that do answer the question. – CDove May 10 '17 at 20:21
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    Fair enough :) I think it answers "what to do when I haven't prepared" pretty well :) You can chase after everything other answer across several questions suggest, it'll work eventually, bit it will take time... and I highly suspect the actual solution will be to find another job until you have enough freelance clients. – Scott May 10 '17 at 21:32
  • Great answer IMHO. Without preparation it will just all go wrong. You cannot allow external pressures to make the decision to go freelancing for you. You should positively decide to do it, start in your free time and pick a date to go full time, with enough financial savings to see you through not only a possible failed attempt (3-6 months) but also the time it takes to get a job again afterwards. I would say you need 6 months covered at least. If you have to get another job in the meantime, do it. It can only help with your experience and knowledge. – PaulD May 14 '17 at 20:51
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In the short term - contract gigs. Let the recruiters do the work of finding work for you.

In the long term - networking so you can cut out the middleman.

  • Ditto on the networking. – SDsolar May 19 '17 at 5:14
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"I have a wife and two kids and a mortgage"

Same here when I started. It was very tough. It is actually more rewarding but far harder than just doing a job.

"What would be the best approach for someone who doesn't get to have that nest egg?"

Ten years ago I would have said "go for it - what the hell". Now, with a divorce under my belt, I would say without a nest egg you just cannot do it apart from your spare time (weekends and evenings). If you are serious about being a freelancer, spend a year saving some money. It is like asking how can I be a hairdresser without any scissors. You can't. You can try, but you are in for a long uphill struggle that will probably end in tears.

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