Am I able to pull it off as a freelance web developer?

Am I able to pull it off as a freelance web developer?
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Hello everyone,
I don’t know if sharing my story here is suitable or not but I really need to talk to someone.

I’m a self-taught programmer from Vietnam. As you all know, being a self-taught programmer isn’t that easy, especially from where I’m living.
I’m starting out as a banker, after 5 years working fulltime there, I’ve left my job 5 months ago to pursue my dream to become a freelance web developer.

To tell the truth, I don’t think very much at first and just want to code and work with my computer. At that time I followed The Odin Project curriculum and freeCodeCamp, alongside with courses on Udemy and some programming books. Now, I’ve finished the Odin Project and got 4 certifications at FreeCodeCamp. Now, I am able to code my personal site to share my portfolio, write some tools for my own need with Ruby and JavaScript with Node.js.

But recently, I usually have a feeling like I don’t have the motivation, and I’m feeling lost. I feel lonely because I don’t have any friend working in tech, also don’t have a network of local developers, also because I’m an introvert. I doubt my ability and afraid whether or not I can pull it off, can I have a life I want as a developer. I don’t know what I should do next?

It would be great if you could share with me some tips, your own experiences/stories, cohorts, groups, or anything would help.

Thanks so much!

3 Likes

Hi,

My advice would be to keep building things and learning.

You’re lonely? Are you in a city? Surely there must be some other coders around.

Look for local jobs. Look for online jobs. A lot of people make a decent living working remotely or doing remote freelance. Your English is very good - that helps. Your cost of living there is probably very low so you could be very competitive. And if you get good enough and experienced enough, you might even get a sponsorship visa.

I’m an introvert.

I know the feeling. I had to force myself to “pretend” not to be. How bad do you want it? Are you willing to deal with a little discomfort? Practice being extroverted, even in non-coding situations. Even just for 1 minute. You can do anything for one minute. After a few weeks, make it 2 minutes. Just do it.

I doubt my ability and afraid whether or not I can pull it off…

Oh yeah, most of us know that feeling. I had to bluff my way into my first React Native freelance job. I was only half confident that I could pull it off. But I got the bid and I worked my ass off. I was nervous as hell. And I was uncomfortable as hell - I don’t like being disingenuous and I don’t like promoting myself. But I worked my ass off and I learned a lot and I had a very happy client and a little money. I also learned that even though I couldn’t do anything, I could figure out almost anything. It was a big confidence boost. That experience and confidence helped a month later during an interview for a React Native position - that I got.

It is going to seem like forever. It is going to seem like it will never end. It will seem like you’re going nowhere. And then one day it will happen. You just need to last long enough to make it there.

Just keep learning and building. Build, build, build. And work on soft skills like networking, and talking about yourself, and interviewing. Those are skills. I know because they are skills that I don’t do very well but got better at over the 18 months I was looking for a job.

Just keep at it.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to type down all of that.

Look for local jobs. Look for online jobs.

I’ve tried bidding on freelancer.com and upwork.com, but It’s really hard to get works there. Those places are so crowdy and full of experienced developers.

Just keep learning and building. Build, build, build. And work on soft skills like networking, and talking about yourself, and interviewing.

I will keep doing that! :handshake:

That’s exactly how I feel right now… I thought that when I finally learn React I’d be ready to apply for jobs again, now I just realized that React is not enough and I need to get more skills.

Sure I could just go ahead and apply for jobs randomly, but I find that a very exhausting experience which relies a lot on luck and I don’t want to rely on luck.

It does feel like it’s taking forever for me, I’ve decided to be patience, learn other skills that I’m missing and build projects to keep improving as a developer.

Hey Uybinh,
I can understand where you are coming from. I wanted to ask have you thought of trying pair programming online just for the sake of motivation.

It would be great if I have an opportunity to do that :smiley:

@uybinh I’ve tried bidding on freelancer.com and upwork.com , but It’s really hard to get works there. Those places are so crowdy and full of experienced developers.
I’ve tried bidding on freelancer.com and upwork.com, but It’s really hard to get works there. Those places are so crowdy and full of experienced developers.

Yes, they are crowded and full of crappy developer bidding on crappy jobs. But if you keep at it, you can find something. Just keep at it.

@Gilbert1391 I thought that when I finally learn React I’d be ready to apply for jobs again, now I just realized that React is not enough and I need to get more skills.

That depends on what you mean by “enough”. If you know React, there are places that will hire you. I got an interview for a React position with no real professional React experience. When they found out I had a tiny bit of React Native experience, they funneled me to that job because they needed it more and I eventually got the job.

Is that typical? No. But it does happen.

Look at it this way - when you started you chance of getting a job in the next three months was pretty much zero. If you were an amazing dev with lots of experience and a great portfolio with great references and monster interviewing skills, then your odds would be pretty high. Most of us lie somewhere in the middle. The more skills you learn and portfolio pieces you build and the better you get at interviewing, the more your odds will increase.

Your goal is to just keep building and learning and eventually what you are offering and the job market and luck will intersect.

It is true that there are a lot of blogs and bootcamps saying, “Just learn these 5 things and you will get an amazing job!” That’s BS. You need to keep learning. Even after you get hired, you need to keep learning. This is a job where you will always need to keep learning.

I can’t stress interviewing skills enough. From my cubicle, I can hear them interviewing people in skype interviews. And I hear them talking about people after the interview. You would be surprised how much emphasis they put on confidence and likability. I recently heard them decide to pass on a fairly qualified dev because he wasn’t confident in his skills (even though the interviewers rated him pretty well) and because he just sounded “boring” on the phone. They are going to have to spend 40 hours a week with this person. They will spend more time with this person than their wife or husband. Yes, they want someone that is competent, but they also want someone that will be easy to work with and has a good attitude and sounds like an interesting person around the office. I’m becoming more and more convinced that interviewing is a key skill holding a lot of people back. YMMV. I had one guy who called me back and said, “Sorry, you didn’t get the job but I just wanted to call to encourage you, that you’re on the right path. And it was so nice to talk to you.” He went on to complain that many of the people he interviews, it’s like trying to talk to a log.

Practice interviewing. Look up common interviewing questions and answer them. Not just a vague idea in your head, but actually answer them out loud. Use good vocal inflection and sound excited. Practice with friends. You don’t want to sound arrogant, but you want to be confident in what you can do and eager to learn what you don’t know, and maybe confident that if you work hard you can learn it. In some places there are meetups just to practice interviewing. There are online groups for that too.

And when they ask you how much you expect to get paid, don’t undersell yourself. For a long time I was wishy-washy in my answer to this. Then I researched the market. I then answered, “When I look around I see that most of these types of jobs are getting $xxk per year. But the opportunity to learn and be a part of a good team is more important to me than the money.”

And at the end of the interview, a great question to ask is, “What could I do better in the interview? How could I better prepared for a job like this?” Not only does that show that you are interested in improvement, but I got some great feedback from that. Some guys were more than happy to talk to me for 20 minutes with career advice.

Sure I could just go ahead and apply for jobs randomly, but I find that a very exhausting experience which relies a lot on luck and I don’t want to rely on luck.

I didn’t apply randomly, per se. I targeted Node, React, and React Native because those were areas where I felt I was specialized (if not as experienced as I could be.) I tried not to target things that were clearly out of my range. I searched locally. Then I realize I should expand out and try some other geographical areas. It wasn’t easy, but I eventually got a gig.

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Yeah there are places that would hire me if I can show them I know how to work with React, but those places are not very common. It’s funny because when I was first starting to learn JS like 4 months ago I used to see a lot of opportunities for React developers, but now they ask for more. The industry is getting more competitive.

I lack experience, which is something lots of companies value over anything else. Because of that, I know I need to work really hard on my personal projects to get more attention. This is especially true for my resume, I need to add projects that I can leverage to impress recruiters and HR agents so they don’t toss my application within 2 seconds.

For now I’m just going to keep adding some skills and projects to my portfolio that I know I need to have a better chance.

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The portfolio looks good, simple, it feels fun and easy to navigate, I like it. I would say just add more real life projects to your portofolio like an e-commerce app, things like that.

Now, I’m coding along to build a Burger Odering app from a React course :grinning: :

I’m working on this :+1:

Yeah there are places that would hire me if I can show them I know how to work with React, but those places are not very common.

True. The odds are no longer zero. And each thing you learn increases those odds. It’s a long process, but eventually the odds will catch up.

And a word about tutorials, etc. Don’t get me wrong - they can be a great learning tool. But the apps most of my interviewers wanted to see were the ones I built from scratch. I had an idea, I figured out what libraries and APIs I needed, and I implemented it.

Tutorials are like copying the paintings of the masters; it’s educational, but it’s not the same thing as conceiving and executing a painting in your own “voice”.

Along those lines, working with other coders on projects looks good too, whether a meetup, a group project, or open source. It shows that you can work as a team, and understand git workflows.

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Yeah, I’m willing to take the long path, I want my first job just as much as the next guy, but I know it takes time to build up your skills. Besides applying for jobs is stressful and very time consuming, I’d rather invest that time and energy in working on my personal projects. After I build my first fullstack app, I think I will be ready to spend all my energy in job hunting.

I follow tutorials but I learn by building things on my own. After I finish a tutorial I go and build something from scratch to see if I really learned anything. There’s usually a lot of struggle along the way, but it’s a very rewarding experience and by the end of it things are more clear to me. Plus when I build something by myself it’s easier for me to explain the logic of the code in case someone asks about it.

read the book : Don’t make me think.
That depends entirely on you but let me tell you if I wanted to go to an all eat sushi buffet I would travel 40 miles to go to it and be willing to pay $20 per meal.

That should teach you 50% of the web page is design oriented.

Next.

Gather all sources that could result in landing a client. Do your best to keep delivering content. Market yourself as someone that is worth their time.

tldr; be in demand. Be someone clients want to hire. Use all the tools you can to market yourself.

hint: get a viable portfolio.

That includes having a form for people to reach you. As well associal media pages where you can communicate with a client.

The worst that could happen is them not paying you.

If they don’t pay you then if you’re cold hearted enough consider sending them to court.

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I’ll second that - Don’t Make Me think is an excellent book that makes you really think about how things should be designed.

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Hey!

Now that we’re about a year removed from this post… any updates?

I too am living in Vietnam and share a lot of the same sentiments that you’ve expressed.