How to start working remotely as web developer - based on true story


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I started to work remotely on 2012, and up until now, still working remotely as full-stack Ruby on Rails developer

When I started it, I had no idea what is it like to work for someone or company far-away (in fact, most of my employers now were on the other side of the earth).

Let's start with the story before I worked remotely.

2010

This time, I live on far-away city from my hometown - about 300 miles.

I almost finished my bachelor degree on computer science.

My lecturer suggested me to get a job before I am done with my final assignment and graduated.

He argued that it will be easier to land a job when you're still connected to your university ( which means you're still a student ).

I followed his advice and sent some applications to some local software development firms.

Fast forward, I got a job as a junior CakePHP developer at nearly end of 2010.

From there, I'm also being asked to learn Ruby on Rails.

I still remembered I used Ruby 1.8.7 with Rails 2.3 at that time.

Though most of the tasks were challenging, I always enjoy to work there.

Outside of my office hours, I also tried to challenge myself working on some small side projects I got from freelancer.com and odesk.com ( now, odesk is merged with elance and it's been renamed to upwork.com )

The time goes by . . . 

2012

The mid of 2012 my father passed away ( he's been fighting his illness since 2010 )

It means, my mother will live alone on my hometown because:

  • My brother was still in the middle to pursue his master degree ( this year, he's got his Phd - so proud of him )
  • My sister just started to pursue her bachelor degree.

That means, no one will be able to take care of my mother except me.

At this point, I still had no idea if my job as web developer can be done remotely.

I talked with HR about my condition, and they allowed me to work for them remotely from my hometown( thanks to them ).

However, things did not work out as it should be.

Near the end of 2012, I finally decided to resign from my position as Rails developer from that firm.

From there, I started to look for more remote projects on oDesk.

At the beginning it was very challenging since I had no decent reputation yet.

Here are what I do to get approved for a job on oDesk at that time, and eventually sustain my income from there:

  • Look for small project with easy requirement - the project that I am confident I can finish it successfully.
  • Look for hourly project - because such project turns out to be a long-term one.
  • Once I was approved as contractor of a project, I am doing my best to follow all requirement, and always be honest to the client.
  • I always ask some questions if I am not confident that I understand the requirement correctly. It's better to ask dumb question rather than working on something with wrong direction which will waste both of my time and client's
  • I never demanded a raise from any clients I am working with. In fact, over time, they raised the rate because they are satisfied with the result of my work.
  • I always treat any remote project I am working on as I am working as in-house developer which means:
    • I always come online at the hours I had agreed with the client.
    • I always send a brief update of my works near the end of the day.
    • I always send an earlier notification (usually one or two months earlier)  if I had plan to go off either for vacation or for other things
    • I always send a notification in case I was sick and unable to work for that day.

2013 until now

Since then, I've been working remotely for some employers (either individual or company).

I am not sure how did they find me, but as I remember, I never reached them first or landed an application to reach them.

I don't mean to brag but it's due to fact that I'm always focusing on the projects I am working on

I often need to reject the offers too, because I just can't take any new job anymore (sorry).

So, that's my story how I am still working remotely.

It's not because I want to, but it's because I must to, due to my condition: where I need to accompany my mother after my father passed away.

Now, I am grateful that I can work from home, make a decent living, and at the same time taking care of my mother and my family.

What you need to start working remotely?

After reading my story above, you may be curious: what you need to start working remotely as web developer ? Is it possible? Will it allow you to make a decent living?

As web developer, yes it's possible to work remotely.

It's also possible to make a decent living but don't expect you'll have a luxury one.

Working remotely is totally different than working as in-house developer on a top corporation.

At last, here are what you need to start working remotely, based on my experience:

  1. Be honest. Even if a company reached you out and give you offer with a good amount of money, but you realize you had no more time to allocate, just be honest to them and reject the offer politely.
  2. If you're honest, you'll gain trust over time from your employers.
  3. If you've gained trust, then more jobs and more raise will come to you.
  4. Start with small and easy projects, only "apply" or "bid" to the projects you had confidence to finish it.
  5. Treat your employers as you're working as in-house developer for them.
  6. Be open mind. Always open to learn something new.
  7. Be patient. It won't work overnight. It took me more than four years before I can make a decent living.
  8. No need to buy expensive courses if you don't have budget. But if you have, it's better.
  9. Be humble. Even if your employers said wrong things, don't challenge them. Explain to them politely so it won't hurt their pride.