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How to Hone Your Development Skills
to Get More Clients
Freelance developers have an opportunity to build a booming business because their skills are in need. This means you, as a freelance development and programming professional, can find work and charge a high fee for it:
“Programming jobs, especially software and mobile app development, pays the highest for freelancers. Only because it’s a skill that’s quite difficult to master and there aren’t many good coders out there. So, the demand for good coders is pretty high,” suggests Roshan Perera, founder of Freelancing Hacks.
Just because you’re in need, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about your development skills and how you can hone them, though. Quite the contrary, with technology evolving at such a fast pace, it’s critical that you focus on learning to stay relevant and in-demand—and continue getting well-paying gigs.
Here are a few tips for doing exactly that.
When you focus your learning, you’re able to target the best opportunities so you can avoid wasting time with events or courses that aren’t beneficial. To get specific, ask yourself: what skills would benefit your business most?
There are a few ways to determine the answer to this question:
- What skills would help you do more for your current clients?
- What skills will help you attract new clients?
- What new technology have you yet to learn or master?
For example, Upwork’s Q1 2018 skills report found that the fastest-growing freelance skill in need right now is blockchain, followed by Tensorflow and Amazon DynamoDB. These may be good learning areas to focus on because they’re in demand. As you learn, you can better attract clients who need work in these areas.
Put in the Learning Time
Bottom line, you have to put in the personal learning time to hone your development skills.
A recent developer learning survey found that respondents spent an average of 7 hours per week on improving their own skills, with another 2 hours of formal training at their workplace. Without a workplace to rely on, however, professional development lands completely on your plate.
Luckily, there are many resources that make learning accessible, no matter your schedule or location. The same learning survey found that the most common websites developers use for learning include:
- Stack Exchange Forums
You likely already use some of these tools to look at open source projects or store your code, but are you using them to learn? Choose the sites that are most valuable to you, and then put learning time on your calendar, like you would any other client work, so you’re more likely to make time for it.
Work With Challenging Projects
It can be easy to say no to a project you don’t think you’re ready for. While it’s important to stay away from projects that you truly can’t do properly, don’t stray from those that simply seem more challenging than others.
These are the projects that will push you to learn and get the experience that allows you to take on bigger, harder projects—ones that likely pay more.
As you scan potential opportunities or field client inquiries, stay away from certain projects. Hackernoon’s article, 5 Real Examples of Freelance Projects Junior Developers Should Definitely Avoid, is a great guide on what to avoid. On the other side, Hackernoon has another great list to check out: 5 real-life examples of projects you should take. The article explains why you should take a project that can help you find similar gigs.
Participate in Events
There are many events, both in-person and online, that allow you to learn new skills and hone the ones you already have.
When you step out from behind your computer, and connect with others, you give yourself the chance to learn so much more. Networking events and local developer communities give you the opportunity to glean insights from others while demonstrating your own abilities, allowing you to take learning to the next level.
Give these ideas a try as you look to hone your skills:
Developer Mastermind Group: This is perfect for setting skills-focused goals with a group that will hold you accountable. Some are free while others cost money. Head to a site like MeetUp to find ones in your area.
Hackathon: If you’ve never participated in one, you’re in for quite the experience. You’ll be forced to put your skills to the test as you work as fast as you can to beat the challenge before other participants. Some offer prize money or awards for the winners, which is always a bonus. Start by asking other friends in the industry for their recommendations and check out these websites to find a hackathon in your area.
One online event worth considering as well is Google CTF. Google’s Capture the Flag event happens once each year and is perfect for developers in the security industry. Scoring is kept online, visible to everyone, and in 2017 there were more than 5,000 players and 2,000 teams. Winnings reached more than $30K, so you may get a lot more than an amazing learning experience.
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Hone Your Development Skills
Now is always the right time to invest in yourself and your skills. Use these tips to find learning opportunities and identify what skills need the most improvement. You may even gain some new clients and grow your network in the process—a win-win and well worth the extra effort.
About the Author
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time writer and business owner. She’s written about professional development and growing a freelance business for sites like UpWork, BlueSteps and Virgin. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect LinkedIn.