Welcome to Ask a Career Coach, an advice column where real bootcamp career coaches take a minute out of their busy days to answer a question from a Course Report reader. Today, Nancy Her, the Career Counselor at Sabio, is answering a question about the pros and cons of freelancing or contracting after a coding bootcamp.
Nancy and her team support every student during the last two weeks of Sabio and post-graduation. That means reviewing, revising, and enhancing their resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and working 1:1 with alumni to help with mock interviews, connecting bootcampers with industry professionals, and negotiating salaries. In just two-and-a-half months at Sabio, Nancy has connected 50 alumni with jobs!
And our question comes from a coding bootcamper, who writes:
I’m about to graduate from a coding bootcamp in 1 week and am considering a freelance job. Do I have other options if I can’t find a full-time job right away? What’s the difference between freelance, contract, and contract-to-hire?
This is a great question and one that I’m used to being asked – as the Career Counselor at Sabio, I work directly with every student to make big career decisions. Before that, I was an Assistant Director of Academic Advising at Northeastern University, advising and career counseling our students in The College of Engineering, so I’m well-versed in the area and love connecting alumni with satisfying work in their field!
Let’s start by defining these terms: freelance vs contract vs contract-to-hire work.
As a freelancer, you work for yourself. Your time is not owned by a specific company and you promote yourself. You can work for many clients or companies at once if you choose.
Contract means you’ll be working with one specific company on a specific project or for a specific amount of time.
Contract to hire involves a probationary period that leads to a full-time job. For example, a company contracts you to work for six months, then decides within those six months if they’ll hire you on as a full-time employee after that period. If you perform well and excel at your job, you have the potential to get hired full-time. These roles are a great opportunity for both the company and you to understand if this work is a good fit.
Consider the pros and cons of freelancing/contracting:
Freelancing is not always a “backup plan.” There are many reasons that a bootcamp grad may want to freelance. Working full-time may not feel like freedom for you, and you may prefer to freelance to be your own boss. Freelancing offers the freedom to work on projects that are important to you and deny any work you don’t agree with or don’t want to do.
Of course, the tradeoff is stability, but If you're a young professional just starting out in your career and you need the experience and you're excited to learn more to enhance and build confidence in your skills, then freelancing will help you get to where you need to be.
Freelancers are 1099 employees, not W2 employees. Instead of being paid an annual salary, freelancers can expect to earn a set price or hourly rate for their work.
Pay rates really depend on the company and their location. Pay will vary based on if they’re a startup company or more established. Contract positions range from $25-70 an hour.
Compensation isn’t just salary – keep in mind that freelance jobs usually don’t offer any benefits like health insurance or retirement.
If you're looking for a job that has benefits like health insurance, then freelance and contract work might not be the best option for you and it may be better to stick it out until you find that full-time position with benefits.
At Sabio, our goal is to place students in full-time jobs, but here are a couple of examples of contract-to-hire roles that have led our students to amazing full-time opportunities.
One of our Sabio alumni received a contract-to-hire for a role at Temple University as a Software Engineer. He completed his 6-month contract and was hired full-time when the contract was up. Not only is he still working there full-time, but also receiving an education benefit to go back to school to earn a college degree, which is one of his life goals.
Another Sabio alumni chose to freelance and created an app. He is now partnering with zoos across the US to utilize his app to help them improve their processes.
Knowing that not everyone will land a job right away, the key to the waiting period is to keep coding. If working a freelance role will help you keep up the practice, that might be a good route for you. You need to be confident talking about your code in interviews and the only way to do that is to keep coding. If you don’t, you will lose those skills. Do whatever it takes to continue coding so that you are successful in finding that dream job that you want!
If you do find a freelance or contract job, consider the upsides: freelancing and contract work will absolutely add experience to your resume, especially after coming out of a bootcamp. If you’re continuously coding, you’ll have that confidence built up, too.
We also recommend that you keep applying to full-time jobs! Freelance and contract work is not permanent, so in three, six, or nine months, you’ll be looking for something else. Look at the overall big picture and set goals for yourself, both small and big goals.
At Sabio, even when alumni land a contract job that works with their schedule, we still want to know how many applications they’ve put in that week and who they’re interviewing with. Then we want to know how we can help them land that full-time position where they have a better chance at that sense of job and financial security.
We also have great resources at Sabio! We connect our newer alumni to other alumni to work together on their own personal projects. They never stop coding, which becomes essential for successfully landing that full-time position later on.
Freelancing could be just the stepping stone you need to get to where you want to be later down the road.
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