Software Professional's Guide to Make Extra Money And Survive Recession

These are tough and rough times. Everybody who has a job should consider themselves lucky. But who have lost their jobs to recession should not be completely dejected. If you have the skill and will, then you can easily survive through this downturn. For a software professional, there are lot of avenues open and available to earn decent money to make ends meet. I am not going to write some philosophical notes here about survival. So lets get down to business.

Where is the work?

Everyday we hear the terms that jobs are being shipped overseas or you have to compete in global economy. Well that is very true. The big companies usually outsource their work to well known and established consulting companies. If you look at the statistics, there are more small to medium size businesses who also outsource their software development work. These small companies definitely benefit from outsourcing because it helps them to keep their costs down while they are in growing stage. Especially in tough times, they really need to keep a check on their expenses. That means that there is more and more work that is being done by outsourcing it than hiring somebody full time in the company.

There are few good sites out there that facilitate outsourcing of work for individuals, small or medium sized companies. You just need to be aware of these sources and get registered with them to get started.

What kind of work I can find?

Here is list of some commonly posted projects on these sites

  • Web Development
    • Creating clones of existing web sites
    • Creating HTML/CSS layout for new web sites
    • Creating icons, images or graphics for web sites
    • Fixing bugs in existing web sites
  • Software Development
    • Design and architecture of new desktop, mobile device applications
    • Bug fixing of existing applications
    • Prototype development
    • Complete development of applications
    • Adding functionality to existing applications using open source apis
    • Customizing open source APIs for particular need
  • Data
    • Scrapping of data from existing web sites
    • Data entry
    • Design of database for new applications
  • Writing
    • Writing articles for content sites
    • Proof reading content of documents for mistakes
    • Translating documents from one language to another
  • SEO
    • Optimizing new or existing web sites to improve their position in search engines
    • Promoting web sites to increase their site visitors
    • Link sharing

This is just a high level list of type of work you can find. The work is not just limited to this list. There is lot of work out there that falls into this high level list in some form or the other.

What kind of skill is hot?

There is no definitive answer to this question. You will find work posted in all categories. But you will find that there is lot more work posted in area of web application development. And that work can fall under any of the sub categories that I mentioned above. So there is work for everybody.

Acquire new skills

The whole idea of outsourcing is to find skilled resource at reasonable cost to do good work. And part of cost cutting is use of open source technologies. There are a whole lot of technologies out there that get used these days. And it is not possible for an individual to be proficient in each and every technology or language out there. So you are thinking what kind of new skills you should get. What you need to figure out is that given your current skill set, what new open source technologies come close to them or what you feel comfortable learning in small span of time. I am not saying that you can't learn all of them. But you definitely do not want to spend all your time in learning. You have to get going soon because it is tough competition out there and time matters. Here is a list of open source technologies that you may want to get proficient. I have compiled this list based on my experience and doing some research on data obtained from various sites.

  • Wordpress
  • Joomla
  • Drupal
  • DotnetNuke
  • All Google APIs
  • Paypal
  • Ebay
  • Amazon
  • JQuery
  • YUI
  • Dojo
  • Ajax.Net
  • FaceBook
  • Twitter
  • Ning
  • Open Social
  • PHP
  • ASP.Net
  • MySQL
  • Apache

Along with these open source APIs and technologies, make sure that you keep your skill with programming languages upto date as well. Knowledge of following languages give you a better chance of landing projects

  • C#
  • VB.Net
  • C/C++
  • PHP
  • Java

This is not end of the list for open source apis, languages, technologies etc. Everyday we see new software emerging in open source community. You should not panic or go after every single technology out there. Do what is comfortable for you. Trust me, there is room for all kind of skill set.

What sites are available?

There are lot of sites out there that have lot of projects posted for which people are looking for help. I will mention couple of them here because I had some decent experience with them.

I personally had a great success with RAC. They seem to have lot more projects posted on their site than other sites I have come across. And I have met some good developers on that site as well. Their process from project bidding to completion is simple and payments are prompt. With Elance, you are limited to bidding on only 3 projects in a month. If you want to bid on more, you have to subscribe to their site. If you look at rate of success of winning a bid, then 3 bids per month is not something you can work with. I found that business model not very effective for small freelance professionals. LivePerson is mostly used for very small scale projects or homework help etc.

Size of projects

You will find there are projects posted ranging from $5-$15000 and some time projects are posted with Open to suggestion note. What that means is that buyer is not sure of amount of work involved and what costs are involved. Fixed cost projects are based on type of work and amount of time it may take for a person to do it. One thing you need to keep in mind is that a buyer estimates these costs or time based on his or her perception of work. If you think that the buyer's estimates are way too low, do not hesitate to communicate it to him or her. A lot of time you will find that these buyers take a second look at their proposal. They will go over your comment and suggestions and ask you to submit your bid of amount what you think is reasonable. I have been very successful in negotiating projects with buyers and got them to raise their budget for the work. But you have to do your diligence to present a proposal that highlights the reasons why you think that initial estimates are low. Also make sure that your proposal is stated in very clear and easy to understand terms. You need to keep in mind that lot of buyers are not very tech savvy or they do not have time to research on your proposal. They want all the information upfront in front of them to make their decision.

Project too small for me to consider?

I have come across lot of professional who will not entertain a bid if they see that maximum it is going to pay is $20 or some very low amount. They think that is below their level to even look at it. Well, I don't think that way. I remember 2 weeks ago I did a project on RAC for $5. Well, only $2 came to my pocket. But project was as simple as to refer the buyer to a link for certain type of source code. Well, it took me one click in google to find the site. And give that link to buyer. Well, I may have only made $5 from that project but see what extra that I gained from that deal.

  • A 10 rating in my record
  • A count increase on number of projects I have done
  • A nice rating note left by buyer
  • A contact with a new buyer who may give me some preference over others when he posts some bigger project

Even in money terms, I made $5/min. Well that's not bad at all. It took me a min to search the site and send that message to buyer. So when you are looking at small projects, there are couple of things that you may want to consider before turning it down.

  • Amount of work involved and time it will take.
  • Does the project involve new API or technology that you want to learn? I would not mind somebody paying for me to learn new technology. But you have to also consider that do you have time for it? If you are already involved in some bigger project, you don't want to jeopardize that one for this small one. After all, your future project winning depends on your history. You can't afford to get bad rating from past work.

Communication is the key

At the end it all comes down to communication. From entering a bid to winning a bid, communicating with buyer is very important. You want to be as descriptive as possible in your bid as possible. There are some important things that you should mention in your bid message.

  • Your understanding of problem
  • What approach you will take
  • How much time it will take
  • If there are some potential roadblocks, highlight those. A buyer really appreciates it if he or she knows impediments ahead of time.
  • If you have done some past work in same or related problem domain, add reference to that
  • Link to articles or demos that you have posted on some sites. This shows quality of work to the buyer

Make sure that you reply to buyer's messages in timely fashion. This is very important because this shows the buyer how quickly you can respond to his requests when you are engaged in doing the project. If you are running into some technical issues or some personal issues that can delay delivery of the project, let the buyer know ahead of time. Telling buyer at the last moment does not leave a good impression with buyer and can be cause of friction.

Get frequent updates

Most of these sites have some kind of mechanism to send you latest open projects. Make sure that you take advantage of it. Mos of the sites provide RSS feeds. Subscribe to them. This way you will have latest list of open projects. Lot of time just by looking at small description in feed you can decide if you are interested in this project or not.

Join hands

A lot of time you will find projects that are little larger in scope and it is not possible for you to execute it alone. Join hands with your friends or co-workers who may be in same boat as you. They may also be looking for some extra work to survie through hard times. Most importantly since they are your friends or co-workers, you know their work style and their capabilities to deliver projects. So make some useful alliances and take on some bigger projects with help of those friends.

These are not the only avenues there to help you make some extra money or surviving recession. Look around and you may find some more sites that offer similar kind of services. You can always send me comment and I will be more than happy to append those to this articles. If you have some thoughts about this topic, feel free to send me comments.

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A lot of time we get lot of projects for which we do not have time. Please read the following link if you are interested in helping out and in process making some extra cash for your self.

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