Everyone can say: I will be your developer. And if you say the same, you are no different from millions of other developers. In a world where jobs are in shortage, you need to stand out with unique skills and niche value propositions. By selling very specific services freelance you will be able to find clients even in the middle of a recession.
So you decided to become a freelancer, however, what should you sell? As a developer, you spent most of your life working full-time on solving very specific tasks that your manager told you. Now you are not working full-time on anyone but, rather providing some specific service of yours to a lot of people.
The transition from a full-time employee to a freelancer may be hard. You need to learn which services to sell, how to find clients, how to build loyalty with clients, etc. In this article, we will close the first pillar of freelancing for software developers – which service to sell.
Building MVPs by template
I think the most exciting freelance service for IT specialists is building MVP (Minimal Viable Product) by a template. It is when you have some code that you can rebrand and sell to your clients as a new software. It is an amazing deal for both startups and sellers. As a startup, you can get your MVP done in about a week, and as a seller, you can skip utilizing the already existing code base to produce a new product in a short period of time.
From the moment you sell such a product to clients, you no longer own that code, however, you still own the template. With time, you can grow your template with additional functionality and integrations. It makes this freelancing service super powerful because now you also can launch startups in a matter of a week and the piece of code you own is worth tens of thousands of dollars.
The biggest complexity here is finding high-quality templates. The template you use needs to be built in a way so that you can easily repackage it and sell it within the new industry or with the new business model.
Here is a library of 100+ projects you can use as inspiration for your freelance service: Airtable – Gallery here are some places where you should look for more templates:
Your pet projects
If you love coding and visit a lot of hackathons you definitely have a bunch of projects in your GitHub which can be used as an MVP template. It can be a marketplace, CRM, or even an online chat. If you were developing this project with friends or partners, please make sure that they are aware you are going to sell it as a template.
Open-source projects with a license that allows modifications, reselling, and commercial usage are golden nuggets of the internet. Some open-source projects like Grafana are utilized by thousands of companies to build and sell the hosted version of it.
Here is the library of open-source tools that you can modify and resell to your clients: https://github.com/nikhilrayaprolu/awesome-open-saas
Envato Market has acquired a bunch of companies that are selling templates for WordPress, Shopify, and other website engines. Here you can find templates that can help you to build a clone of Airbnb in 1 week or a clone of LinkedIn in 2 weeks. A lot of templates are having poor quality on here so be careful before suggesting something to the client. Try to buy a template first and if it is a good quality feel free to sell it as a service.
No code tools have their internal marketplaces of templates. Most of the time those templates are developed by a no-code tool itself so they have pretty decent quality. Pay attention to big no-code platforms like Bubble, FlutterFlow, and Webflow.
Building prototypes and POCs
POC (Proof Of Concept) execution is extremely demanded in corporate walls and there are a few people who can do it well. POC is made to execute the possibility of doing some integration, using some new risk technology, or changing architecture. Any kind of choice may have a POC and that is why I love this niche. Have you heard of a new Node.js replacement called Bun? I would be happy if someone proposed to create a POC for migrating our Node.js application to Bun.
The main difference between POC from MVP is that in MVP you build a product from 0 or use a template, here you will get an already existing product and would need to change something in it. After changing you would need to evaluate its performance and provide a detailed report to your customer. Sometimes it is not about performance though, it also can be about usability, speed of development, speed, cost optimization, etc.
To be able to generate ideas about POCs you would need to read the latest news from your industry and often be proactive about reaching out to clients. When you write your headline you can utilize the benefits of the technology you are using as your own service benefits. For example, you can say “I will make your Node.js app run 5 times faster by migrating it to Bun”.
Here are some ideas of POCs you could do:
- Database migration. Find some new databases and propose your clients integrate them e.g vector db for AI
- Framework. Find some hot new frameworks and sell migration services e.g Bun
- Package. Find some package that can be used widely to improve website performance, and speed, make it more user-friendly, or make it easier for developers e.g RTK queries from redux-toolkit
The concept of 3D third-party integrations is very similar to POC but instead of utilizing some open package or technology, you are utilizing someone’s services. For example, there is a whole market of people who are doing no-code development with Bubble or integrating Salesforce. This niche is undervalued, especially from the perspective of monitoring tools. The development team happily would pay someone to set up Grafana with custom Prometheus exporters for their servers. They also would be happy if someone configured Sentry for them and made custom notifications and integration with Slack.
The idea here is similar to POC, you can sell the advantages of your integration as your own service. You can say “I will help you to achieve 99.9999% uptime by integrating Grafana and smart alerts”.
Here are some ideas for integrations you can sell as a service:
- Monitoring tools. Every team needs an observability framework with alerts, charts, log tracking, and smart suggestions.
- Product analytic tools. Every product manager and founder needs tools for analyzing product usage, measuring user engagement, and doing A/B testing.
- Functional tools. Some products may wanna add a ticketing system, gamification system, referral campaign, email notifications, etc.
Refactoring code and writing tests
Code refactoring is a much deeper field than looms from scratch. The very basic refactoring may include adding a linter and formatting the whole project. The most advanced refactoring includes architectural changes and writing of end-to-end tests.
Tests can be a separate section by itself however most of the time dev teams need tests when they have plans of great refactoring and refactoring most of the time can’t go without writing tests.
You will be surprised how much teams struggle from poor 1000-line components on frontend and backend which know nothing about the word “type”. Doing such refactoring is pretty fun and this is the best service niche to position yourself as a professional and find long-term projects.
Examples of such services:
- I will describe all TypeScript types in your project.
- I will configure a strict linter to your requirements and format the project.
- I will refactor your API to follow the newest REST practices.
- I will optimize algorithms on your backend.
End-to-end tests, unit tests, and integration tests can go as an extra service for which you can charge clients additionally.
Organizing deployment workflows
Every team needs to be able to deploy their applications and test them on staging environments. However, it takes decent efforts to organize the deployment workflow and this work can easily be delegated to freelancers.
In order to enter this market you need to be able to propose a comprehensive deployment solution with things that a normal full-stack developer can’t build in 1 day.
Here are some ideas for such services:
- I will create a CI/CD with GitHub actions for a single repo project.
- I will deploy your application to k8s on AWS and configure CI/CD and staging environment
- I will set logging, monitoring, and tracing using the Grafana stack on your K8S cluster
- I will configure horizontal POD and Node scaling for your K8S