I've been working in IT for 5 years, C/C++ middleware on Linux being my main specialization. I know some Java, Python, C#, have completed a desktop 3d viewer on C++/Qt and also know some web - a bit of PHP, JavaScript, basic HTML/CSS, some Android programming.

While still retaining my position as a full-employed C/C++ programmer, I'd like to take some small side jobs in my free time.

Honestly, I'm a bit lost what to do and how to approach the issue. I'd like to dive a bit into web-development, but haven't completed any serious project - either front or back-end.

What would you advise me to do in order to get started? Where should I look for tasks, how do I establish myself as a freelancer?

  • Possible duplicate of How can I start freelancing and get online projects to work on?
    – Peter MV
    Jul 3, 2017 at 12:04
  • Just read top questions.
    – Peter MV
    Jul 3, 2017 at 12:05
  • @PeterMV Yes and no, because the OP of the question you cited wants to do freelance jobs in the field they already specialize in whereas I want to change specialization a bit and thus face a double challenge.
    – olegst
    Jul 3, 2017 at 12:22
  • 1
    No matter of your previous history, if you are starting in a new field, you are a beginner. It means you will have to go through all those steps that any beginner undertakes. Choose wisely and choose the field you like most. In your case, I would stick to web development as it is easier than mobile one.
    – Peter MV
    Jul 4, 2017 at 8:07

3 Answers 3


Getting started as a freelancer is quite easy; failing as a freelancer is even easier.

The best successes I've seen follow three patterns: 1) Establish your portfolio 2) Start with a whale client 3) Diversify quickly

1) Establish your portfolio.

As a freelancer, your biggest advantages are your quantity of work and your flexiblity of price. Using these together, begin your portfolio by doing work at nearly any price. This feels counterintuitive as an employee, but the discount is basically your cost of marketing.

A portfolio of relevant projects and client testimonials will be the most important thing you have in the next ten years.

2) Start with a whale client.

You're still an employee and you know how to live in that world. A whale client is someone who provides the initial work and capital to get started. It isn't uncommon to resign from a job and then continue freelancing for the same position: I did this for three months when I started freelancing, and made the same income on 50% less responsibility.

3) Diversify.

The biggest trap a new freelancer will make, when they have a whale client, is to actually not diversify income.

As a freelancer you trade unlimited upside for unlimited downside. This means you need to begin by minimizing the real risk to your business, which is lack of cash flow.

As a rule you should have less than 50% of your income tied to one client, and you should have at least five clients.

Once you have your whale, go back to step 1, and expand your portfolio.

  • +1 Love your opening line! Apr 21, 2020 at 14:59

First and foremost, do not quit your day job, even if you get one or two clients to begin with. The freelancing world is unforgiving. I am a freelancer looking to get back into full-time work with a seasonal business on the side.

I saw a need in my region, where these small mediocre businesses have websites from the 90s. I thought, great, a market. There is a reason these businesses have websites from the 90s. They don't care...and mobile responsive, please they are unmoved by the fact that 89% of people look things up on their phone. I mean they don't even bother claiming their Yelp accounts and haven't noticed that people have left horrible reviews about them and again...don't care.

I worked full-time for a popular VPS provider and even their customers were all internationally based. Businesses around here, have never even heard of them and they started here.

I share that to say, as a freelancer, you will have to find clients on a global scale and just by doing that, you are embarking on a journey of global competition. You are competing with US programmers, European programmers and so on.

But please do not be dissuaded by my response. I realize I live in an area that is still holding on to their legacy Perl applications with both hands and both feet. So perhaps in your area you may have better luck. I do believe local is the key. If you can be the local web dev guy and build a name for yourself with SMEs in your community, you will be golden, but if its anything like the part of the US where I live, despite the fact that these SMEs need, I mean desperately need your services, there is a reason why they haven't already bother with someone like you...they don't care. They don't care if their site still says copyright 2012. Which makes you wonder who is paying the hosting provider? They must be on autopay from 2009 and just forgot about it.

So yeah, hold on to your day job until you start bringing in an income that is at least 50% of what you currently make, but you need an actual plan on how you will scale.

Right now with my seasonal business, I already have a plan on how to scale it and grow it, a real plan. I did follow successful developers who successfully became freelancers and it did not turn out as well for me as for them. Either that or they misrepresented themselves. Like getting tons of work on Upwork. You have to submit over 60 proposals a week and you might get one bite. These are actual numbers, I submitted 60 proposals in one week and got one client. I of course had pay for the upgraded account to be able to continue to submit proposals.

Good luck.


First think about the type of customers you want to provide a service to. Someone that wants a website? Ok so think about the things they might be asking for. Responsiveness? Checkout/shopping baskets are popular, zoom in/zoom out abilities on images?

Then think about if you are able to do those. Responsive frameworks are good to use and fairly easy if you're good with css. But if they dont want the default layout a framework comes with, you'll need to know how change that.

Are you able to help the customer with buying a domain, and setting up their server? Are you able to help with getting the website live on their server. Do you have the patience, and more importantly, do you have the time?

I too work full time and offer my services part time. I also tell my clients that I work full time and will work on their website, and so usually say 6 weeks, even if its a small website. Most of the time the client doesnt have any urgency for their website so this is usually ok.

Do you have a portfolio? If you do, create a website and put that up. This isnt always necessary as none of my clients have ever asked to see previous work, but it's not a bad idea.

If you're happy with your knowledge, then start looking for clients. I use GumTree which surprisingly brought me a few. Try there first, or something similar like craiglist or whatever.

And before you start, write up a contract. It takes ages to do and will save you time for when you do have a client.

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