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Freelancing can be a great way to get experience as a junior developer, especially if there are no great full-time jobs or internship opportunities where you live.

However, you need to apply to the right types of projects or you might end up wasting your time on projects that are either too complex, too simple, or totally unrelated to the things that you really want to master.

First, you need to define what your goals are:

  1. What technologies are you trying to master?
  2. What’s the right project complexity for your current level of experience?

We have used Freelancer.com and Upwork.com to find real examples of projects that you should apply to. However, similar projects can be found on almost any other freelancing platform, and the “reasoning” is the same regardless of the platform.

This list of examples assumes you are an entry-level web developer who is familiar with CSS, HTML and JavaScript, you have built some basic websites, and you are looking for some more challenging opportunities to improve your frontend skills. This is the situation where most of the students are when they begin our program for remote software developers.

Finally, we are assuming you have selected the right skills for your profile, so you can use the “Projects with My Skills” option in Freelancer.com.

We recommend that you look for both “Fixed Price Projects” and “Hourly Projects.” Even though each model has its pros and cons, both of them will work for you as long as you know how to reasonably estimate the scope of a project so you can determine if the “Fixed Price” is fair or not.

Project 1

Why you should apply

The problem to be solved seems to be really specific and the scope is small. Even though they don’t tell you where this code lives (big web application or simple website?), it seems like something small that you can probably debug and fix in a couple of hours. Even if it took you longer than that, you will probably get better at debugging and at working with existing applications (something you will have to do if you join a large company at some point). Additionally, the minimum budget is not bad at all: $192. If you manage to fix this in a couple of hours, you would be making almost $100/hour.

Project 2

Website Development

Why you should apply

This is a tough one. The scope is well defined and it’s actually quite interesting: you will need to build some responsive pages, integrate an API and, as the client puts it, work on the “Surprise and Delight” factor, which seems to suggest the client cares about the user experience. However, there is also a requirement to allow users to sign up and sign in so you can store historical search data. This last point would most likely require backend development. If you are comfortable working with some backend language/framework, then that shouldn’t be a problem. If you are not, you can still use some serverless service (e.g. Firebase).

However, and this is the only negative point of this project, the budget is ridiculously low: $10 — $30, really? You should apply to this one, but you should definitely bid with a price that is out of the suggested budget. I took a look at the list of bidders and many were bidding something in the $200-$300. Don’t be afraid to bid even higher. If you bid, let’s say $200 so your bid is competitive, and the client ends up accepting your proposal, make sure you talk with him/her about the scope of the backend development. Suggest creating a separate milestone for that and focus on building and getting paid for the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that doesn’t require a backend.

Project 3

Improve Design Project

Why you should apply

Sure, the payment is terrible (around $4/hour), but if you are just looking for a few simple projects to start getting some positive reviews and projects in your portfolio, this seems like an easy one. The employer has 106 reviews with an average rating of 4.8. They are probably reasonable and easy to work with, and that’s a very important thing to consider if you are not going to get paid a lot. Remember, you’re maximizing your learning and investing in getting a strong portfolio, so you can increase your earnings later on.

Project 4

Why you should apply

The budget is low, but if you are looking for experience building responsive websites and working with HTML and CSS, this is the type of project you should start with. The way to find these types of projects in Freelancer.com is really simple: just filter by projects tagged with the “PSD to HTML” category.

Project 5

Why you should apply

If you are already fluent with a backend language or framework, you should start applying to more complex web projects that require frontend and backend development. This specific project is not very well specified in the Upwork.com offer. However, it says it’s “Fully specified” and they are open to using Laravel (PHP) or Ruby on Rails.

Our students at Microverse learn Ruby on Rails somewhere in the middle of the program, so this is the type of project we would recommend that they take.

It’s also interesting to see that the client has specified that he/she needs to hire 2 freelance developers. This seems to suggest that they can appreciate the complexity of the project and are open to invest in its development.

Do you need help finding, choosing and managing freelance projects? I run an online school for remote software developers where you work on projects while doing remote pair programming with other students from around the world.

This article was originally published on Hackernoon on March 10, 2018.

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