Oct 20, 2013

Why become a Java freelancer?

Q. Why a contractor or freelancer is paid more than permanent developers?
  • cost to a company for a permanent employee with benefits can be 1.5 to 2.5 times the amount they see in their pay check 
  • As a compensation for short term or temporary nature of the assignment.  Freelancers or contractors can be easily hired and fired.
  • To attract specialized and wide range of skills. Companies can hire contractors for 3 reasons.  Aim for reason number 3 described in the next answer.
Q. Why do organizations hire freelancers or contractors?
A. For 3 main reasons outlined below.

1. to get someone to do some dirty or non-interesting work that  their permanent staff is not too keen to perform.  

2. to get some additional work force on a temporary basis to get the project over the line as it is not always possible to predict workload.

3. to get expertise, which lacks in the current team. For example, get a Java developer with drools experience, etc. So, as a contractor or freelancer, if you have Java experience with some niche skills like a commercial BPM framework like IBM Websphere Lombardi, Business Intelligence (BI) software like IBM Cognos or in-memory data grid like Oracle Coherence. In the third scenario, you can call yourself more a "consultant" than a contractor.
    When you get multiple job offers to choose from, favor offers that provide Java/JEE + a sought-after commercial product experience like  a BPM (e.g. Pegasystems), SOA (Oracle Service Bus), Business Intelligence (IBM Cognos BI),  BigData (e.g. Hadoop), etc as these skills and experience cannot be self-taught like Spring or Hibernate. Specialized skills are more sought-after.

    Q. How many years of experience do you need before becoming a freelancer or a contractor?
    A. Generally 2 to 5 years.

    Q. Why work as a freelancer?
    • Better pay.  Usually, 1.5 to 2 times the permanent staff. So, you can take some time off to travel or work on your passive income generating ideas.
    • Gives you more freedom, and opportunity to acquire wider range of skills. You will have better control of your career direction by carefully choosing your contracts. Ask the right questions at your job interviews.
    • Don't have to get involved with the company politics. Do your job well, and build your network to find your future contracts directly without having to go through the job agencies.
    • Gets you out of your comfort zone to explore other opportunities and acquire new skills. 
    • Overall gives you the professional (and  possibly financial) freedom.

    Q. What are the disadvantages or risks of working as a freelancer or contractor?
    • Job security risk as your income can be unstable, especially in a difficult job market. This is more true for freelancers than contractors. This is where working on your passive income generating ideas become handy. I tend to start looking for new contracts around 6 weeks prior to my current contract expires.
    • You may have to do additional paperwork as part of insurance (e.g. professional indemnity insurance) and tax requirements. You will also be under different type of scrutiny when you apply for loans as you will have to provide evidence that you have a steady income. I go through an umbrella company as their employee for a nominal fee of 3% of my rate. This not only frees me from any administrative tasks to concentrate more on what I enjoy doing, but also makes it easier to apply for loans.
    • Freelancers also run the risk of not getting paid. This is not much of a problem for the contractors unless they work for a start up or a company that is in a brink of receivership.  Do your research on the company. 
    • You also don't have the benefits like health benefits, sick pay, holiday pay, etc. But, this can be compensated in your regular rate.
    • You need to regularly prepare for your job interviews.

    Q. Is there a difference between a Java contractor and a Java freelancer?
    A. Even though these terms are used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference.

    A contractor:  generally works for one client on an exclusive basis for a longer term say 3 to 12 months. Contractual agreements may prohibit you to work for other clients. You will get paid on an hourly or daily rate, and rates are generally 1.5 to 2 times the equivalent permanent role.You normally work at the client's location. You can find contract jobs through recruitment agencies, job advertisements or your network. This tends to have more security and steady income than a freelancer.

    A freelancer: generally works for multiple clients on a project by project basis for shorter period. You normally work at your location and visit the client office as needed. You will have to find your work on your own. You could even have overseas clients. There are popular websites like the ones listed below to bid for work. Handy to gain some extra income while gaining much needed hands-on experience.
    You can’t just jump on a freelance website and expect to pull jobs that will give you a good steady income. These are low-dollar markets as you will be competing with people around the world. Especially with people who are prepared to do the job for very low wages to gain much needed hands-on experience or to supplement their more permanent incomes. If your main focus is to gain more practical experience, then this is not a bad avenue.

    A volunteer: sole purpose is to gain much needed hands-on experience with a nominal pay or no pay. Good for beginners, and smaller businesses, charities, and community groups are more likely  to offer volunteer jobs.

    Freelancing means professional freedom, but it also means instability and the risk of failure. But if you risk your stability for something more in tune with your professional goals than a traditional job, you have the opportunity to build your name and reputation and reap more rewards.  You are the best person to decide what is best for you.

    "If you do not take risks, you will never accomplish anything."

    I have been working as a Java freelancer since 2003 and always found jobs one after another. I have shared my experience as to how you can become a freelancer (or a contractor) and what you can do to mitigate the risk. I use the term freelancer to be more of a contractor to work between 3 to 12 months for the same client.

    Disclaimer: This is a general discussion only. It is imperative that you consult your accountant for relevant business structure and tax laws in your jurisdiction.

    How to earn more as a Java developer?
    Always look beyond salary or rate when considering your options. Don't base your happiness on money alone. Job satisfaction and opportunity to grow further are equally important. Firstly, find something that you really enjoy doing., then see what happens ............

    Important: This was written as a general discussion only. The terminologies may  differ in other countries. Check the tax laws and contractual agreements carefully in your jurisdiction.

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    Blogger Jitendra Kumar said...

    This thread have many answers except the main question "How to become .... " very funny.

    5:48 PM, October 20, 2013  
    Blogger Arulkumaran Kumaraswamipillai said...

    Good point. Let me work on it :)

    6:03 PM, October 20, 2013  
    Blogger Arulkumaran Kumaraswamipillai said...

    Fixed Jitendra. I will share my experience as to how to become a Java freelancer in another post.

    6:21 PM, October 20, 2013  
    Blogger Arun P said...

    Thank you so much Mr.Arulkumaran for this valuable post.

    4:42 AM, October 22, 2013  
    Blogger Arulkumaran Kumaraswamipillai said...

    Thanks Arun.

    3:29 PM, November 06, 2013  

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