What is the difference between a Java freelance developer and a Java contractor?

Even though these terms are used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference.

A contractor: generally works for one client on an exclusive basis for a longer term say 6 to 48 months. Contractual agreements may prohibit you to work for other clients. You will get paid an hourly or daily rate, and rates are generally 1.5 to 2 times the equivalent permanent role. You normally work at the client’s location.

Q. How do I find contract work?
A. You can find contract jobs through recruitment agencies, job advertisements and your network. You tend to have more security and steady income as a contractor as your contracts can get extended.

A freelancer: generally works for multiple clients on a project by project basis for a shorter period. You normally work at your location and visit the client office as and if needed. You will have to find your work on your own. You could even have overseas clients. There are popular websites like the ones listed below to bid for work. Handy to gain some extra income while gaining much needed hands-on experience.

Sites like “Toptal” hire top-notch freelancers. Big companies and startups are willing to pay top dollars for the right combination of skills. Companies turn to freelance software developers to get a stalled project moving or to gain a competitive edge. The freelance jobs you get are generally for a shorter duration like 4 weeks to 3 months, compared to the contract jobs.

Q. Where can I find freelance work?

Freelance Java Developer Sites

Some sites work in the lower cost markets than the others. Do your own research. The top dollar sites stipulate stringent hiring requirements to work as a freelance Java developer.

Which one to prefer? You can’t just jump on elenace.com or guru.com and expect to pull jobs that will give you a good & steady income. These are low-dollar markets as you will be competing with people around the world. Especially with people who are prepared to do the job for very low wages to gain much needed hands-on experience or to supplement their more permanent incomes. If your main focus is to gain more practical experience, then freelancing is not a bad avenue. But for a more steady and decent revenue, contracting is the way to go.

Aren’t contract rates under pressure due to oversupply?

The answer is yes, and no. It is a yes if your core skills are only in “Java + Spring + Hibernate”, and it is a no if you have “core skills + sought-after specialized skills“. At the time of writing the specialized skills are

1) Experience in developing low latency and high-throughput systems.

2) Hadoop, Spark, and Big Data skills.

3) Javascript/JS frameworks like Angular JS and system integration experience using Web Services and messaging.

Researching the job market for salary, demand & trends

Contracting or freelancing… If you ask me to list one thing that can make a huge difference to one’s career, I would say preparation & being in the know how. You must prepare to succeed.

Every time new Java/JEE jobs are advertised, Junior, senior or whatever, there are tens of or hundreds of applicants.

You have no control over some of the external factors. When the doors open…..and present opportunities……. you must be prepared to grab them. Here are 3 key skills to have as a contractor.

Why is it important to prepare & be in the know how?

Preparation breeds confidence. An interviewer has only an hour to assess your capabilities. Quality and depth of the answers you give will make a huge difference, especially the answers you give to open-ended questions. It is a skill on its own to carefully weave the “16 technical key areas” in your answers. Look at the ice breaker interview questions and answers | 5 Industrial Strength SAR examples weaving the technical key areas.

Keeping your skills & experience current on sought-after technologies & frameworks gives you the much needed job security. It is a confidence booster to find a job even in a tough job market.

Why is it vital to network?

Knowing the right people within and outside the organization can do wonders to your career. Build a good rapport and keep in touch with your present and past managers, work colleagues, and recruitment agents.

Not all job openings are advertised. Networking is a top source for finding a new position. In fact some of the best jobs aren’t listed anywhere except in the mental catalogs of development and project managers. Networking is a numbers game. It also provides you the much needed job security, especially when working as a contractor or a freelancer. When you are ready for your next contract or freelance assignment, you will have a few people to contact first. You can also cut many of the so called middle men like recruitment agencies to secure better rates.

Selling yourself

Being in the know how and having a good network are of no use if you can’t sell your services, experience, skills, and products. Impressive resume writing, & effective marketing skills will go a long way. Your resume must standout from your competition to get more interviews. It is a skill to write impressive resumes. How to turn readers of your Java CV go from “Blah blah” to “Wow”?

You need to have good communication and interviewing skills to impress your prospective employers & clients. Top 5 reasons to fail your Java (or any job) interviews.

Why does contracting give you the professional freedom?

1) Freedom to work 8 – 10 months a year and to take 1 to 3 months off to pursue your own endeavors.

2) Freedom to gain wider range of skills & experience without feeling stagnated.

3) Freedom to go places and open more doors. What can you do as a Java (or any) programmer to create your own brand, and earn a solid active & passive income?

Freelancing or contracting means professional freedom

Freelancing or contracting means professional freedom

More links on career building

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