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How To Land Your First Gig As A Self Taught Developer

Coding Is Hard As Is

Add on top that you are teaching yourself and you have a level of difficulty few humans understand. However the satisfaction it brings cannot be compared to anything else either. That being said it can be tremendously difficult landing your first gig ( I’m speaking from the position of freelancers, however the same advice applies to those who are looking for full time W-2 employment). Here are 3 things you can do as a self taught developer to increase your chances of landing your first gig as a self taught developer.

Do 2-3 Solid Personal Projects

The first question any potential client is going to ask you is “What past projects have you worked on?” Obviously if you are looking for your first paid gig, then you won’t have any past client work to show off. To compensate for this I highly advise that you focus on creating 2-3 complete thorough projects of your OWN design to show to potential clients.

Doing this will not only highlight your skills as a developer and show you deserve a shot, but it also highlights your entrepreneurial prowess and remember if you are a freelancer, you are an entrepreneur. You are working for yourself.

Go To Networking Events & Put Yourself Out There

You can be the greatest freelancer developer in the world, but if no one knows who you are then it really doesn’t matter. If you want to work for yourself you have to put yourself out there. This can come in the form of finding a meetup, going to a tech conference, speaking to managers at career fairs (a lot of companies are contractor friendly), etc. Humans are social creatures and building rapport is always the first step in business dealings. Remember social capital is more important than financial capital, you need the first to attain the latter.

Go to these events with the understanding that you have to follow up on the connections you make at these events. Business negotiations often take weeks to months, don’t expect to go to a conference and walk out with a contract (although I have seen it happen).

Stay Persistent, Resist Imposter Syndrome

Expect a ton of nos before you receive your first yes, this is to be expected especially when searching for your first contract. That being said it’s very important that you stay persistent! I have a mantra that I always tell myself when I face rejection.

I do not fail, I either win or I learn

Perspective is everything, don’t look at the rejections as failures. Ask for feedback and learn from the experience so when you do the next contract bid you have more wisdom to go by. Imposter syndrome is something I see a lot of new developers, especially self taught, deal with on a regular basis. Don’t fall into it! You became and validated yourself as a developer the moment you took it upon yourself to write your first line of code. You don’t need a company or university to deify your position. Keep grinding YOU GOT THIS.