|Professions - Professional Businesses|
What will I be doing?
This isn't a business for everyone. But if you have experience programming computers, you can become a freelance computer programmer working at home and making good money. A computer programmer writes instructions for computers in a language that the computer understands. Of course, computers really don't understand the way that humans do. Computers have "understanding" built into their hardware. A computer programmer simply applies the rules of computer understanding.
Most freelance computer programmers don't write system programs, the deepest level of instructions. Instead, they apply programs to specific applications. That is, they instruct accounting software how to keep records for a specific business or industry. So the programmer must know something about programming software as well as the field for which it is written.
What will I need to start?
As a computer programmer, you will be paid for applying what you know about software programs primarily for businesses. So the first step to your home-based business is to learn. Take classes on computers and programming through your local college or trade school. Learn about languages, operating systems, hardware architecture and how they all work.
Most successful computer programmers specialize in one or more related fields. Remember: An expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less. So look to your own experience, training, background and interests for ideas. Consider specializing in programming interactive games, accounting software, sales software, integrated systems, Windows NT systems, communications tools or some other type of software that you find of particular interest.
Who will my customers be?
Many companies, government offices, institutions and individuals need the services of a computer programmer. Most programmers find that businesses are their greatest customer. Some programmers specialize in one or two highly technical areas, such as programming industrial controllers. Others specialize in writing programming with a specific language, such as C++ or Visual Basic.
How much should I charge?
A freelance computer programmer will charge $40 to $150 per hour depending on skill level and competition. However, most programmers bid by the project and aim for efficiency. A few charge by what's called â€œlines of codeâ€ or the amount of programming code written.
How much will I make?
A freelance computer programmer can easily earn $35,000 to $80,000 a year or more if he or she is efficient and the demand for services is high. Many computer programmers aim for at least 25 billable hours a week, with some averaging 50 hours or more. Of course, no one can maintain such a schedule for long and those who work long hours usually take some time off between jobs.
How can I get started?
To start your home-based computer programming business you'll first need to learn your trade by taking relevant classes and studying books. You'll also need to practice by developing one or more programs that you can then sell, or at least point to as an example of your work. Also, getting a degree or certification will help customers trust you. Once established, word-of-mouth advertising will help your business grow as others learn what you can do and trust you to do it. Meet the people in your business, make friends and you can help each other. Your computer programming business will grow as you do.
How can I use computers to increase profits?
You know how to design programs and write and debug code. But do you know how to market your skills? There are many valuable tools for helping you do so. Programs like Act (available at most computer and office supply stores) help you track prospects and customers. QuickBooks and Microsoft Money help you manage the money you make.