by Rob Joseph, Freelance Android Ninja and Instructor with CodingNomads
Published in 2018, updated in 2020
I took the leap. So can you.
Eight years ago I quit my corporate job to jump into the world of freelance Android Development. At the time, I had no formal Android training, and no experience building apps for anyone other than myself. However what I learned from making that leap: it’s not as hard as you may think.
Demand for mobile app development skills in Android and iOs is high. Demand for quality developers is even higher. Of course you’ll have to start small and take the gigs you can get. But once you get a few projects under your belt, you’ll have ample opportunities for work as a freelance app developer. Here are 6 tips for landing freelance app developer gigs.
1. Launch your own apps on the Play Store / App Store
The reason for this is twofold:
If you’ve just learned how to develop mobile apps, you don’t have any professional work experience yet for your resume/LinkedIn. Having your own apps on the Play Store and/or App store demonstrates that you have relevant experience for a job, and provides valuable stuff for your resume/social media.
Most companies, especially startups, like to see that you’re enthusiastic about Android / iOs app development outside of the job. They also want to see that you keep up to date with latest app development trends. Having your own apps on the Google Play / App Store provides a good indication of both.
You don’t need to build the Mona Lisa
In my experience, your app doesn’t have to be grand. It doesn’t even need many users or reviews. Oftentimes HR managers / recruiters just “check the box” that you have apps on the Play Store.
That said, I’d highly recommend releasing apps that provide use to some subset of mobile users. A “Hello World” app has amateur written all over it. Ultimately you’ll still have to show the dev team you’ve got the skills to do the job, so put your skills to work!
2. Your Resume (CV)
Just like any other job, applying for freelance roles requires an up-to-date resume. To be blunt: oftentimes your resume doesn’t even get read, just scanned for keywords. Employers want to know if you can do the job. Therefore your resume should scream “I can do this job.” Here’s how to convey this plain and simple:
List your relevant skills and achievements
A few short bullet points like: You have x amount of apps on the Play Store, experience working with X, Y & Z SDK’s, experience programming in both Java & Kotlin, familiar with SQL, etc.
List your relevant work experience by project
If you don’t have professional full-time or freelance app developer experience, list your own apps as work experience. Remember, it’s all about showing that you can do the job, so if your projects are functional and complete, they can help boost your resume while you’re building professional experience.
If you do have professional experience, I’d suggest you break it down into projects. For example: you worked on Project A for company X from dates Y to Z. This helps highlight your exposure to various technologies, making your resume more robust.
Get those keywords in, make it shine
For each work experience item, provide bullet points (not paragraphs) of the notable technologies used, anything interesting / unique about the project, and any notable experience you gained such as working with an SDK, etc. Remember: keywords.
Secondary resume info
After this you can add previous unrelated work experience, hobbies or whatever else to make you look like a well-rounded person people want to work with. Just remember that this is second priority after all the above.
3. Update your LinkedIn & AngelList
Keep it simple: Copy your CV
I personally advocate that your LinkedIn profile mirror your CV exactly, and link to companies you’ve worked with before. That also makes it less daunting to fill out, if LinkedIn isn’t “your thing.” A lot of CodingNomads students feel that way about LinkedIn and AngelList. But many of our students also found jobs through these sites. So they really can help, and it really doesn’t take too much time.
Recruiters search LinkedIn for candidates based on profile keywords. List all the technologies you’ve worked with, and ask your network to endorse you for those technologies.
Put your title as “Freelance app developer – seeking opportunities” so that people can find you by title, and see you’re looking for work. Let your network and recruiters know you’re available for work by sending public status updates, and turning on your “Open Candidate” toggle.
4. Upload your CV to every job site you can
I’ll be honest: I’ve never heard back for a role I’ve applied for on a job board. I don’t apply for job board jobs to get that gig. I do it because when I apply, my CV is uploaded to the job board’s database. Now every recruiter with access to their database has just seen my CV pop up, and knows I’m available for work. Because my CV is now stacked with projects, my phone starts ringing almost immediately.
Try it – go on a job board, find any freelance app developer role, apply for it by uploading your CV, and you should soon hear from recruiters offering to help you find your next gig. Then find another job board and do it again. Obviously the more experience, projects and technologies (keywords!) that you have listed, the more “boxes you’ll check,” and the more recruiters you’ll hear from.
Tapping into your existing network plus expanding your network can definitely increase your opportunities.
For your family, friends, and professional contacts – write up a quick message telling them the type of work you are looking for, and highlight your skills and motivations. Send it to your network, and ask them to pass it along too. Your mobile development skills are in high demand, and you never know who is looking for the skills you have to offer.
How to Build your Network
Now with most meetups happening online, you can join a hackathon, various Facebook communities, or volunteer for a tech event to meet other people in the field. The more people you talk to, the more contacts, ideas and avenues to explore will open up. You can also learn what people are looking for, and if you should study up on certain skills to be a more appealing recruit.
Reach out to people on LinkedIn and AngelList who work for the company you want to work for. Send them the quick message you drafted above. Demonstrate interest in their company/product, and ask if they are looking for a freelance app developer. Ask them if they’ll intro you to the appropriate person. And follow up. You’re offering a valuable service, and the squeaky wheel oftentimes lands the job!
6. Take what you can, but don’t sell yourself short
If you’re just getting started as a freelance app developer, at first you’ll need to take what you can get. It might not be a project you’re interested in, it might not be an ideal location, it might not be ideal pay. But it is a foot in the door, and once you have one gig under your belt it’s wayyyyy easier to get the next one.
All that being said, don’t undercut the market when it comes to your compensation. You have the skills required for the job, or you wouldn’t be close to getting the gig. Don’t let someone value you less than the market rate for an entry-level developer, because you don’t have any “official” experience building apps. If you can do the job, you should get paid the same as anyone else who can do the job.
7. Stand out from the rest
Now that most work takes place online, you may be faced with more competition for the same role. It’s up to you to stand out amongst the other applicants. Consider making a video with your application, or using bold/funny subject lines to catch their attention. As mentioned, reach out directly on LinkedIn to make a personal connection with someone at the company. Even if these suggestions feel out of your comfort zone a bit, your potential client will notice your extra efforts.
And as always, get crazy good at your skill, and you’ll have a lot more leverage to take your skills remote.
Freelance app developer job sites
There are places you can look for remote gigs like AngelList, LinkedIn Jobs, RemoteOK, WeWorkRemotely, YunoJuno, Jobspresso and Airtasker, just to name a few. Take a look at these job postings. If you don’t yet have the skills to qualify, try learning them and building them into your next project!
Also check out these additional tips for finding a job after a coding bootcamp, including how to seek companies you want to work for, customize your outreach, prepare for the technical interview, and succeed on the job.
Lastly, it’s never a bad idea to think like the hiring manager. Try to understand and embody what the company is really looking for in their next hire. Our friends over at TopTal wrote a great guide, How to Hire a Great Android Developer that has some useful insight and example interview questions to help you out.
Now go get ’em!
And there you have it, my best tips for getting that next freelance app developer gig! Having been in charge of vetting potential contractors to work alongside me, I can safely say these tips will separate you from everyone else. Simples.
This article was edited by Kim Desmond, CodingNomads