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Freelance dev earning potential? More than $60K per year?


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I've really caught the freelance bug, but I have a question about earning potential for developers.

I did some research on yearly pay for developers. I saw a few articles saying that the US average for freelance developers is about $5k per month. That comes out to $60k per year.

That might be great for some junior developers, but I make close to 6 figures working for companies and for contracting. Although the benefits of freelancing are very enticing, I would have a hard time taking such a pay cut. (I'm not bragging - Most seasoned fulltime and contract developers make this much and more.)

I definitely don't plan on quitting my day job until my freelance business is mature. However, I just want to know whether or not it's realistic to expect to eventually make 6 figures as a freelance developer. 

Please don't mention hourly rates, because, as I understand it, those depend on how long it takes you to finish your fixed-rate projects. When all is said and done, what's the upper end that one can realistically expect to make by the end of the year?

I'm just wondering if this path is worth taking.


Thanks in advance!

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Hi, Rashomon

$60k per year is average. Definitely, around 25%-30% freelancers are making more the 100K  per year. 

Rashomon It all depends on the skills. If you have experience ( around 3-5 years) and skills, just go for freelancing after building some contacts. 

Keep one thing in mind in freelancing you will earn more than a regular job. It's just a matter of getting clients.

Please let me know about your skill level and experience surely I will help you with other questions.

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Thanks, David.

You asked for my background. Here it is and where I am now:

I started my career doing mainframe development – COBOL, JCL – that sort of thing. It was good pay for an easy job, but I saw there wasn’t much of a future in it, so I taught myself Flash, Actionscript, iOS, and Android development.

I worked as an interactive multimedia developer for two years. I was the only developer on a team of three people. During that time, I built two iOS apps, one Android app (both native), a multi-user trivia game that was hosted on Facebook, and a slew of Flash features. I didn’t do much actual web development, but I did do some learning projects with PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

I then worked for another company for two years doing backend Java/Swing and mobile consulting. I worked on one project where I was asked to build a prototype/demo web portal, and, to be honest with you, I struggled with the web side, because I was so new at it.

After that, I worked for another company where I really cut my teeth on web – HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, and some server stuff.

Finally, I went to work for a city government supporting their website, which is on SharePoint. I and another developer built another site from scratch using Node, MongoDB, and Mustache. Working on the main site, I’ve gotten very good at HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery.

Throughout my journey, I’ve often used other technologies like MySQL, XML, and JSON.

I worked for this city for almost two years before being released due to the budget. My team was happy with my work, though, because they brought me back as a contractor – twice.

My current contract was extended for one month – through the end of December. My manager said they’re trying to get another one-month extension, after which they will either make a longer extension or create a fulltime employee position. However, if the extension doesn’t come through within the next two days, it won’t happen. After that, I’ll have to go through the formal application process again. It’s frustrating.

I’m tired of having my fate rest in the hands of others. I know that, in a way, freelancers’ fates rest in the hands of others, but I think they have more control over their fate than employees do.

I’m tired of hiring managers rejecting me, because I’m missing work experience with a few of their long litany of skills that someone threw into a job posting (along with the kitchen sink).

I’m tired of having to jump around from technology to technology. I want to pick my tech stack and become an expert with it. Theoretically, this would reduce the amount of time that I have to put into training and let me focus on building my business, as well as spend more time with my family.

So, I believe I have very solid developer skills. What I lack are the design skills. I might be able to do some basic designs, but I worry that they won’t be polished and professional enough for clients. That’s why I started another thread on here asking about partnering with designers. (I didn’t mean a formal business partnership – just teaming up with designers to work on projects together.)

I was also worried about freelancer pay, especially with a wife and two kids. I broke six figures on one of my previous jobs, and my other jobs have been in the $80s and $90s over the past several years. I didn’t want to peak at $60k. However, I think that’s the *average* for freelancers. I checked the *average* for web developers in the US, and it’s around $63k, with 25% making over $90k, so that’s pretty comparable to freelance. I plan to be in that top 25%. :)

Edited by Rashomon
Changed first sentence to tie in better with earlier post.
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