How Much can a Freelance Programmer Make?

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No matter how much you love your work, you want to make sure you get paid enough for the value you bring to a business. You deserve to be rewarded for long hours, hard work, expertise, and success in your projects.

You might be wondering exactly how much you should be earning. Maybe you’re new to programming or have a few years under your belt and are thinking about starting as a freelancer. The biggest question you have is: “How much can a freelance programmer make?”

Because of the variables involved, it’s impossible to give a single, precise answer to that question. For example, it depends on where you are in the world, what work you’re doing and your skill level. 

Generally, the hourly rates for freelance software developers in the USA and Western Europe range around $50-$150/hour. Assuming a forty-hour work week, that translates to a monthly revenue in the region of $12,000 to $26,000.

Can you really earn up to $26,000 per month as a freelance dev?

Well, yes and no. In some cases, you can earn even more than the rates we’ve outlined. 

However, there are some things to consider. 

We haven’t deducted anything for time off (holidays, sickness, etc.) We haven’t subtracted the costs of running your business (Remember: as a freelancer, you are a business!) We haven’t accounted for income tax, social security, national insurance, health insurance or other overheads. So there are many things you want to consider before going freelance

But while there are some bills to pay, in most cases you can make a lot as a freelance programmer, and often more than employees.

How much a freelance programmer makes on average [per expertise]

So what then would be a normal salary for a freelance programmer? Well, that depends on your expertise (apart from factors like taxes.) Let’s discuss a few of the most common specialisations of freelance developers.

What you could earn as: A freelance front end dev

As a freelance front end programmer in the US or Western Europe, you can expect to see hourly rates from as low as $40 to over $150
Depending on how many hours you work per year, that translates to around $85,000 for a junior front end dev, $145,000 if you’re an intermediate level front end coder, and in senior roles, over $300,000 per year in revenue.
These are just some basic numbers, but in our freelance front end developer salary guide you can find much more detailed information about what front end devs can earn as freelancers. 

What you could earn as: A full-stack developer

Depending on your stack (from MEAN to LAMP), as a full-stack freelancer you’ll probably be making between $70 and $130 an hour. That means annual revenue ranging from $145,000 to over $250,000.
These are just some averages though, and we know of full-stack devs that make well over $200 per hour in certain cases. 

What you could earn as: A Python expert or data scientist

The rates for Python development freelancers can vary widely depending on location and experience. 
Globally (regardless of where you are based), you can expect to make around $50 per hour, but this can go up a lot depending on your location and skills. 
For example, freelance Python developers with strong communications, NoSQL or machine learning skills are earning hundreds of thousands a year. 
These are just some examples, but there are many more specialisations. Check out our article on freelance Python developer salary for all the ins and outs.

Should you actually go freelance?

Even though these rates sound great, let’s face it; freelance work isn’t for everyone. Some people flourish as employees in tight management structures and the safety net of long-term employment. 

On the other hand, many other software developers prefer the challenges of new projects, opportunities to build up their professional resumes, and the ability to move to more attractive options.

So do you actually want to start as a freelancer? Well, there are many reasons you might want to become a freelance coder. And money isn’t the only one. So let’s have a look at some of those reasons.

Freelancing reason #1: Money

Dollars, euros, pounds or bitcoin — however you get paid, you want to see your bank balance going up, your assets building and your earning power growing. One of the most attractive aspects of working freelance is the chance to make more money. 

As a freelancer, you make it easier for businesses to ramp resources up and down, bring in specialised skills, and respond quickly to changing needs. And in return for that flexibility, you can expect to make more!

So while money isn’t everything, it is a big reason why many people start freelancing.

Freelancing reason #2: Flexibility

As a freelancer, it’s easier to find jobs that interest you, work in places you love, and enjoy life overall.

Earn enough on a few contracts, and you can relax with a nice holiday, not worrying about work piling up on your desk. You might even find a remote-working freelance gig that lets you combine exotic travel with coding. 

And if you’re not happy with the money you’re making, it’s much easier to find something more rewarding. A successful freelancing career requires particular skills and personal application. But done right, it can be very rewarding, and not just in terms of money.

Freelancing reason #3: For those who like a challenge

The world of computer programming is always evolving. You might have been a coding superstar ten years ago, but from Rust to Kubernetes, technology has changed so much that the new kids on the block have taken over.

When you work freelance, you’re constantly exposed to fresh challenges and new platforms. You work with a wider range of colleagues, technologies and end-users while tackling new and interesting (hopefully) programming tasks.

In other words, it’s easier to keep tabs on the skills the marketplace demands. By evolving with the industry, freelancers polish their chops, expand their coding toolsets, and make themselves more valuable. This translates into higher pay and can even result in more attractive contract terms.

Freelancing reason #4: Networking

Many people get new contracts or clients not because of what they know, but who they know. In many cases, jobs and contracts have already been awarded; the company just needs to advertise the role to meet corporate or industry requirements. 

As a freelance programmer, you’ll work with more people from more companies. That means you cultivate a wider network of people who know you and your abilities. 

And for some people, that’s great! If you like to build a broad network, know people in different industries and sectors, and be the ‘person to go to’ when someone needs help, then freelancing might be for you.

It’s not just a question of how much you could earn

As you can see, the answer to the question of how much you can make working freelance as a programmer is both simple and complex. 

The bottom line is that you should see a significant boost in income by moving to freelance work. Whether you start working as a front-end dev, a full-stack engineer, or a Python expert, with some luck you can live life comfortably

On top of that, you’ll enjoy a range of benefits that, for some software developers, are even more attractive than the higher pay. If you love new challenges, want to get to know a whole lot of people, and relish the flexibility of not being bound to a single employer, then freelancing might just be for you.

So yes, that may mean you’ll have to give up some of the security and certainty of working for a single company. You’ll need to make sure your skill set stays relevant, maintain your professional network and cultivate the resources needed to run the business called ‘you’. But in the end, most freelancers find the rewards make this challenge truly worthwhile.

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