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I have been working freelance now for about 4.5 years. I was still in university when I started (3 years to go for my degree). I've been at it for a while, and am continuing with 3 different companies. I've only ever worked freelance.

I was just contacted again by a recruiter with whom I've spoken for several years as she continuously comes to me with job opportunities in the technologies I use and areas I desire. Every time I have to turn her down because I still have continuing development on these projects (one of which is particularly financially incentivizing). In her email she asked if I had any recommendations for Android/iOS developers, and I realized that I don't have any!

This led me to think about a few more points:

  1. I have no experience working in a "team" environment - the most experience I have is my senior Computer Science project at university, but one could hardly call that real-life experience

  2. I have no experience working in a more typical workplace environment (office-ish) - I exclusively work remotely

  3. I've made essentially 0 connections (aside from one of my best friends who is a developer); that means I have no networking capacity, and basically nobody to vouch for my skills, except that I "get results" - my ability to solve problems, write good code, etc. all comes to fruition via the end product (apps, web sites, etc.)

  4. While I have a portfolio of products that I've created over the years, only one code base is open-source, and that's because it's a website I developed for my university. So almost all the code I've written can't be shown, and I don't have time for personal projects anymore...

All of these points (and probably more!) make me look extremely un-hirable in my opinion. I can't shake this feeling that my freelance work is going to eventually make it very difficult to find a more permanent position. I have a good track record with my clients and they would happily vouch for me as an employee/developer, but they can't say anything about my technical skills because they are non-technical people (managers).

So the question: is my freelancing 'career' detrimental to my ability to find permanent employment as a software developer?

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    It sounds like you're doing well as a freelance if this is your 4th year and regularly getting jobs. Why are you looking for a job in a team? – Dan Sep 28 '18 at 13:51
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    Not in the question but you've probably thought about it. What's stopping you from getting a part-time job? You're busy with freelance work, but say a 2-day a week "job", next to stuff that actually makes you money, would prove your worth as a team-player and social guy. – rkeet Sep 30 '18 at 8:19
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    @Dan I’m not currently, since I have stable employment with 3 clients, but I’m trying to phase myself into a “maintenance only” sort of contract with 2 of them in the next year or two so that I can focus on the one. That one has a really promising project, which if it works out will be something that my client and I need to hire people to help build (I’m currently the only developer). So I’d like to get experience “in the business” so that if the time comes to build a company, it doesn’t fall on its face. Basically, to get experience! – Chris Cirefice Sep 30 '18 at 9:11
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is my freelancing 'career' detrimental to my ability to find permanent employment as a software developer?

It might be.

I know a lot of freelancers who could easily get hired in a permanent role. But they all developed great professional networks and didn't work solely as a remote worker. I also know plenty of folks that went from freelancing to perm and back again several times.

There's no way to know your unique situation. But if I had to guess, I'd say it's your lack of professional connections and proven history of working on a team that might limit your opportunities.

That said, it only takes one company to hire you. If/when you want to become a permanent employee, you will likely find a chance to do so. It may take longer for you, but these days there are plenty of jobs available.

You could expand your professional network now by attending seminars, going to meetups, taking freelance gigs that aren't solely remote, etc. That could put you in a better position to be ready to jump to perm, if that is of interest down the road.

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is my freelancing 'career' detrimental to my ability to find permanent employment as a software developer?

Yes it is in general, and definitely in your situation.

For the reasons you have already outlined and because many companies avoid freelancers if they can because like any other entrepreneurs they're used to being in charge and it's pot luck how they will fit into a team under authority. Also there is always the chance they will be moonlighting or a project comes along and they jump ship.

Your best chances are to work full time for a client that already knows and values you.

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Are you a fantastic programmer? If so, I'll hire you tomorrow.

(Also, I'd be so desperate to hire you, you could rip us off on money, probably not put in much effort, and leave when you feel like it or get a better offer - and I'd still consider myself lucky.)

If you have a fantastic grasp of offline-first engineering, total low-level mastery of a few languages, true expertise up and down the stack, can write shaders all day, can quote every page of this book, address every problem as a tools-first problem, can show me a few apps or products you've worked on that have made millions, and have a few spectacular answers on stackoverflow, you're in.

The issues and concerns you mention in your question (something about .. "no contacts" or something .. I just glossed over it and couldn't follow what you were saying, since it didn't seem to relate to Quaternions, OpenGL, nodes, etc) seem irrelevant.

In short, looks like you're good to go!

It's quite fun to work (ie, salaried role) at a larger company for a year - why not give it a go?

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    Indeed, any "professional network" seems overrated when there are employers (like yourself) who are more concerned in getting awesome work done than providing the traditional career building to their employees. – CPHPython Sep 30 '18 at 8:59
  • In short, that's the hurly-burly world of software we seem to live in - at the moment, while the market is hot. – Fattie Sep 30 '18 at 13:01
  • "It's quite fun to work (ie, salaried role) at a larger company for a year - why not give it a go?" ... money? – Mawg says reinstate Monica Oct 1 '18 at 7:35
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It depends. Generally, software developers are in high demand in most areas, so you shouldn't have a lot of problems to get past the first stage and get interviews.

If you're very good, many companies will be happy to accommodate you even if you have some quirks. Would I prefer if my top developer did some overtime when there's a ton of work? Certainly. Will I make trouble because of him not wanting to while he does essentially the work of three people while being happy to share his knowledge and elevating other team members? Absolutely not.

Your two first points are irrelevant if you can adapt to both. If you avoid working directly with other people for some reason, that might be more of a problem, but if it's just because the opportunity didn't present itself: don't worry. The same goes for an office environment.

You could train both if you want to make sure you're able to: find a co-working space and try working there where you'll have to deal with other people (they make noises, they walk around, they block the toilet; great simulation for office environment, extra expierence added if you wear a single in ear head phone and randomly play phones ringing). And even if you don't have time for real "personal projects", maybe contribute to an open source project. You can very much limit the time you spend on it and will have to work with other people. It'd also solve your problem regarding not being able to show code you've produced.

At my company, we don't do a lot of portfolio checking. Even if you had a long github history, nobody has the time to look through it, so we'll usually provide prospective employees with a small task that is firmly within the role they're applying for (about 0.5-2 hours of work depending on skill level, and unrelated to our business, so nobody feels like "they're just using me to code for free") and have an interview where one or two developers sit in and talk about the provided solution. In all successful interviews, that quickly became a friendly back and forth about techniques, patterns and preferences, getting much more informal, like developers talking in private at some conference.

My biggest concern as a potential employer would be this: If you've been successful as a freelancer, where you made good money, were able to choose your jobs and did new and interesting projects every other month, are you really willing and able to give that up, or are you going to feel that you've made a mistake after 12 months and quit after I've invested a lot of money and time into making you a team member. If you can make me believe that you are, I don't see a lot of trouble hiring you.

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Possibly, but it depends more on you individually... do you want to work in a structured team setting? That's the 1:1 answer to your question.

You can obviously code and produce finished products by yourself, which... not everybody in the industry can, so full stack positions seem appealing, so let's assume the tech skills aren't going to be a problem. Adjusting to business culture however is and you have to be willing to do it.

But, as with everything, search enough, find a mom and pop shop and then you'll be the sole developer with business funding for your endeavors, so there's opportunities to be had for all types of personalities (avoid Agile shops probably).

  • I went from developing my own side projects into an "Agile shop" and found the constant feedback about how others were doing quite useful. I didn't feel as "left behind" as I could have otherwise. I figured out that other people struggled at tasks and that I wasn't the only one learning. I also found help easily when I was struggling, so Agile can be a good way to learn how to judge yourself as well as do a little bit of socializing,even if it's still business. – computercarguy Mar 23 at 0:10

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