It is a good time to be a freelancer in India. I am working as an independent React developer for the last 9 months now. Being independent has kept me quite busy. I thought I will share my little experience for the benefit of other freelancers.
There are lot of projects if your billing rate is low – between $15 /hr – $25 /hr. Bidding low will keep you busy, very busy. But is that what you want? If you are looking to work 1600 hours per year, a minimum billing rate of $30 /hr will make your life comfortable. You are in comfortable position if you have steady work at $30 /hr. If you are able to get projects of shorter duration, I will recommend a billing rate of $40 /hr.
In India, as a freelancer, you have to pay regular income tax. Since there is no TDS, you have to pay advance tax as per the schedule. Register with MSME (Ministry of Small Medium Enterprises) as a sole proprietor. Service tax is applicable if you are doing more than 9 Lacs of business with other Indians. A chartered accountant should audit your books if the annual income crosses 25 Lacs, which is quite likely.
There are various platforms available. Upwork is the most common freelancing platform available for Indians. But there are some more like CodeMentor. In general, it is not difficult to find clients on your own without using any platforms. Invoicing with Paypal is just about fine. Use platforms for visibility and to get the initial clients.
There are lot of assholes in the world. People who are unreasonable to you are assholes, no matter how respected they are in the world. Unreasonable people usually demand lot of work, lot of time or lot of communication. There are some people who demand consistency. Anyone setting hard expectations is an asshole. Since, we do not know who the nice people are, charge a high rate initially. Give discounts to nice clients. Also, do not promise anything about long term availability without checking if the person is an asshole. Say NO more often.
Be a freelancer
Remaining independent is tougher. There are two challenges: the temptation to start an agency and missing out training needs.
It is easy to make money in India by scaling your business as an agency where you hire cheaper developers. Doing so will help you make a bit more money. The quality of work is an issue as you won’t be doing software development. You will end up doing more project management. Not creating an agency will help you remain independent.
The other challenge to remaining independent is technology. UI is where freelancers are most sought after. Keeping an edge in UI related technologies is hard as there is a lot of technology churn. Allocate enough time and money for self-training and keep an eye on upcoming technologies in your area of work.
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