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First off, sorry for the caps in the title, but I did that for a good reason.

Most sites and blog articles out there go something like, "How a beginner can start freelancing with no experience". With such riveting sections as, "how to create a wordpress site" and "how to learn python" and "what is a computer, anyway?"

I am not a beginning coder! I have 20 years experience working for "the man" in embedded systems. Now, however, I have come to the point in my life where no longer care about the rat race and office politics. I'd rather hang out in my cabin in the mountains and raise my kids. Don't want to commute 2 hours each way into the big city anymore.

So how does somebody like me get started, with tons of experience but 0% web rep and very little portfolio? Do I really have to start over at the bottom slapping out HTML for $10/hr with all the other script kiddies? (no offense if this is you) Or is there some way to leverage my years in cubicle hell to my advantage?

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Welcome to the wonderful world of Freelancing!

First, you need to get a portfolio of your successful projects and problem-solving skills available. This is why most tutorials start with Wordpress - it's easy for non-programmers to setup and get running. I recommend a web presence, but if you're comfortable with another web tech, use that instead. For example, my new Resume one-page site uses Hugo. Still looks good.

Second, you need to calculate how much you need to live comfortably as a freelancer. Check out other questions on this site relating to to help with some of the calculations you'll need. There are still expenses as a freelancer you need to cover, even when you don't have customers during a day or week or month.

Third, do you have a good exit plan? You should come up with one before you take the leap. The last thing you want is to burn through all your savings, and then go back to working for "the man".

Finally, get your name and services out there! Pay for a bit of advertising, links on Google Search Results or similar, banner ads on programming sites, etc. Track your expenses, and make sure they all include a link to your portfolio, and a way to contact you.

Freelancing does not usually happen miraculously in one day; as a conservative spender and over thinker, I planned for almost a year to get the pieces in place before taking the leap. I don't believe in half-assing what I do, and this is my livelihood that would be in question if I failed.

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With 20 years experience you have lot to show on your linkedin, github and any other social media platform to potential employees. Also if possible then start your youtube channel and make videos to teach. This will show people how much you know and your strengths. Make a profile on platforms like freelancer, upwork, guru or people per hour etc.

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I don't have 20 years os experience, but I have 5 and started freelancing in 2019. I tried the websites @Ayaz cited on his answer (freelancer, upwork, guru, people per hour) but it is hard to compete in price with people just starting out when you don't have much that you can show.

What worked for me was going to presenting at some events and meeting new people. You can do talks on the technologies you know and starting to be know on the comunity. My first freelancing opportunity came trough a friend that knew I was open to this kind of work, he referred me for a company and was called.

They liked my CV but what counted the most was being referred by someone they trusted. Having a lot of time on the industry makes this kind of thing happen more often.

Good luck on the journey!

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This is an older post (I'd love to see a comment about whether you found success or not!), and I do agree with Scott's comment that it's somewhat redundant with the question he links, but I'll chime in with some points that are specific to your circumstances:

You say your experience is in embedded systems. That's a fairly specific programming niche, and I think the good news is that it's definitely one that's growing, and one where I often see projects available. The bad news is that I rarely think it makes a lot of sense for a company making a product that needs some embedded programming to outsource that programming. If you want to leverage your experience, you'll probably need to look for smaller projects and/or companies that can't afford a full-time programmer, or projects that are already behind schedule and just need a little extra help to finish. So of course all the standard advice still applies: make yourself visible by doing some talks and/or starting some social network accounts, and definitely network with folks in person, ideally in an industry you are targeting, etc., etc..

But one thing I haven't seen mentioned on here much is that it's possible to talk about two distinct types of freelancing/contracting when it comes to software development. I can imagine both applying to embedded software (and I know people who have done both):

  1. staff augmentation - This is where a client basically just needs an employee, but either can't or doesn't want to hire a full-time person. Often, in these cases, they really want you 40 hours per week. They might even require on-site. These positions pay less per hour, but usually have some added stability (frequently the start and end dates are known up front). They are seldom results-based, which can be both a plus and a minus. Also, this is the most common type of project you can get through a recruiter. (Because recruiters work directly with their own clients, most often large companies, with positions they want to fill.)

  2. the expert path - This is the kind of project where the client needs someone to perform some specific task that they don't know how to do. Despite what I've called this (I'm not sure there's a good name for it), this has little to do with experience level, as even someone who knows relatively little about a type of project might still know a lot more than the client who is willing to pay them for it. (It's quite common, for example, for a small business that doesn't employ any programmers to hire a freelancer to help them stand up their first website.) These gigs definitely pay better, and they are far more flexible than the other kind. Often, they require more kinds of skills though, and wearing more kinds of hats. Some project management is almost always required. It's likely you'll need to work with the client at the outset to help them understand what is even required, and then work with them to gather the specific requirements for the kind of project they're looking to complete. It's not uncommon for them to expect you to also have UX or graphics skills, so some subcontracting is also possible, depending on the project. You may also need to work with the client to help them understand whether their budget is adequate. (It seldom is!) These kinds of contracts may specify a deliverable or milestones. In the expert path, you are competing with agencies that do the same kind of work, but the good news is that there are a lot of companies that would rather work with a freelancer than an agency for many reasons. (You can charge a fair amount and still be a lot cheaper than an agency.)

As someone with a lot of experience in a specific field, you'll have a leg up on being the expert. I highly recommend the expert path, but it's not for everyone. It helps if you've got some experience working for an agency, but you can pretty easily learn all the other skills required if you want to.

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