For most of the early web, freelance web development has been the norm. If you needed a website you hired a Wordpress developer and they hand crafted a beautiful website that met your needs. These developers had some backend development skills, but their real strength was frontend development, wrangling the html, css and javascript necessary to manifest your soon to be online property.

The web has evolved, and the websites people are building are in some cases becoming more complex, they aren’t only concerned with a nice place to present things digitally, but in addition with backend systems to handle various tasks, either through integrations with 3rd party cloud web services or fully fledged SaaS web applications.

Whereas previously these types of websites and applications were only built by large organisations’ in-house developers, the tooling, frameworks and technologies have progressed to the stage where it’s possible to embark on such projects with freelance developers. The world of freelance web development is broadening, and this is a great progression.

The wider industry still has to mature and reshape to accept this new reality. Developers doing this type of development have been siloed inside organisations, who’s hiring practices are anti-freelancer. This is something you realise pretty quickly as a freelancer when you apply for regular jobs. The recruitment process is structured in such a way that the freelancer has to pay for it. Organisations expect applicants to perform tests and take-home projects in addition to many rounds of interviews, and they don’t pay a penny. It’s a totally unsustainable backwards situation. Large organisations are expecting their recruitment process to be funded by individuals who are often struggling to get by. They are completely shocked when you suggest that they should be paying for your time. This keeps freelancers poor and in-house developers locked-in.

In my opinion freelancing should be the norm everywhere. Joining a company more permanently should be possible but the norm should be to start as a freelancer and then transition to a full time position. The work force should be more mobile, it should be easier for individuals to move between companies, or to operate independently, and to plant roots when it makes sense to do so.

The move towards remote work is accelerating this shift. Dan Andrews and Ian Schoen serial entrepreneurs and hosts of the TMBA podcast, in a recent Q&A episode (24:00) spoke about the myth that freelancers are more likely to leave, freelancer and business owner incentives and the improved innovation that freelancers can offer.

Dan is “Long freelancers”, he thinks the role that freelancers play is being redefined, and that in many ways the interests of business owners and freelancers are more aligned, with long term partnerships growing from initial low friction and flexible freelance engagements.

I’m on the freelance road, and it’s especially tough in these uncertain times, but I thought it might be useful to others to share my strategy as I move forward. I wrote about it on Indie Hackers. It’s very much like marketing and promoting a product, a multi pronged campaign to highlight my freelance services. I’ve also implemented a job interview policy that I am sticking to. It’s something that I have to do. It’s not sustainable otherwise. I encourage you to take a similar approach that makes sense for you.

I aspire one day to have an organisation that can fund it’s own recruitment process. One which works with freelancers as a normal way of doing business. I believe new ways of working have the possibility to improve the whole ecosystem. I think it’s an important topic that we should be discussing.

I would love to hear your thoughts about how you see freelancing will evolve over the next 10 years.

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