Can Freelancing help with Age-Proofing your Software Career?

In our previous article on age-bias, we(Srikanth and I) have talked about how the technology shifts are making things harder for experienced professionals to stay in the software industry for longer.

Unsurprisingly, one of the follow-up questions we get asked in our conversations with community members is about how to make career age-proof in this era of giant technology shifts.

While we humbly accept that there is no silver bullet for addressing this complex issue, we firmly believe that freelancing can help alleviate this problem to some extent.

In the rest of the article, we’ll illustrate with an example about how the work culture in many companies are not conducive for growth and development of employees. Professionals ultimately run the risk of getting fired by the very same companies owing to business decisions related to technology migration. And also becoming irrelevant in the market due to the stagnated skill-set.

Then, we move on to discuss freelancing and the potential it can offer in helping one to gain a exposure to latest technologies, thereby enabling them to stay relevant to the market.

Stagnation of Skills

In Software Industry, it is an uncontested fact that technology shifts happen once every around 5 to 10 years. It may take around a decade or so for the large scale adoption of these new technology shifts.

It is essential for a software professionals to keep updating their knowledge base and stay current with technology trends. If the re-skilling aspect is ignored, it could potentially put one’s professional life in disarray to say mildly.

To put things in context, let us give you an instance of how things played out in the real-world with one of our community members.

We met a professional in our meetup. He was working as a loyal employee for a reputed firm for over 10 years. The only drawback was, he was working on a technology of the yesteryear’s. He was eventually given the pink-slip stating that this employee services were no longer required.

It was a big blow to this person, both personally and professionally. Now this person asked us about how to get started as a freelancer. Imagine a person who has over 10 years of tech experience is looking for a job and there are no takers for his skills.

When we tried to dig a bit deep into his “let go” phase. We got to know that this person as well as some of his colleagues got some signals about the impending decision to be taken. This person (and some of his colleagues) was a little late to react and re-skill. I keep wondering what would have happened of the others who were laid off along with this person.

[Felt scary. Seems there is a generation of IT professionals still in the pipeline to get laid off. Let’s wish them well.]

It should come as no surprise to the reader if we say that the above example is just the tip of an iceberg. One needn’t look too far to find cases, where people are laid off for the lack of relevant market skills.

Unfortunately, most of workplace environments are not conducive for the employees to gain exposure to latest technologies owing to factors like compartmentalization of roles, internal politics etc which in turn leads to stagnation of their skill-set.

Discovering & Learning Relevant Skills

While new technologies are emerging across multiple disciplines like Mobile, Web, AI etc it is imperative that one can’t aspire to become an expert in all these technologies.

A good place to start is to look into technologies which share similar paradigms with your past experience. Then your further learning will only strengthen your resume for the potential client. Moreover, you need not deviate afar from your strengths.

Say you were good with Relational Databases. A natural progress could be achieved by learning the NoSQL Databases. Do a bit of searching over the internet to see what are the most in-demand skills these days which will might be in use for the recent future.

Another way to understand which skills might be worth learning by looking at courses on the popular online course marketplaces like Udemy, Coursera etc. The more popular and subscribed courses might be the ones to learn.

Also, if you look up popular YouTube channels (like JSconf for JavaScript related conferences) which upload tech conference videos. The speakers in here usually talk about the up-coming technologies which not only give you some good learning but also you could be aware of leading developers in that tech space.

Cool, now that you can decide your major skill(s) to focus on. First check out the free or inexpensive MOOC platforms. Coursera, EdX, Udemy are some of the trusted brands in this space.

[We consistently post resources from various renowned learning platforms on our social media i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. If you would like to see some open source/free resources, do follow us.]

Re-skilling definitely opens up new doors for you.

Applying New Skills via Freelancing

Once you are done with upgrading your skills, it is time to apply them to build some real world projects. This not only increases your confidence, it prepares you for future work. This is where freelancing can come handy. We have written a blog post on getting started with freelancing. Please do take a look if not done already before jumping in further.

It is tricky to bag a project being a beginner who has no previous work to show. One must definitely try to build some side projects to show as a portfolio. And also, at least in local markets, we have come across a few clients who are willing to try out with beginners.

So, don’t fret about whether freelancing will work or not. Keep trying persistently and things will start working your way sooner or later. Also, don’t bother yourself with too much about pricing the work as you are just starting out.

Another potent alternative to improve your portfolio is by working for a non-profit organization. You could build a website or an app for their use which helps the non-profit. Not only would one be able to practice their skill but also making a live application which gives a good confidence boost and heightened joy. Since this would be real work, you can add this to your resume and LinkedIn too.

Why we are betting big on freelancing is because the market is showing such signs. Quite a few companies are becoming open to remote working employees. In time to come, many companies may choose to outsource a lot of their technical work to independent consultants.

In an unstable market, where the active working span of a regular IT professional is limited(around 15 to 20 years), it is better to bet on your skills than on employers who cannot guarantee your next salary.

We are also hosting a meetup event in Bengaluru on 1st of December to discuss more about this topic. If you happen to be in Bengaluru and are interested in hearing more about this from us in person, you are more than welcome to drop by and attend the event.

Tagging Srikanth, the co-author of this article explicitly as Medium doesn’t have support for adding co-authors, to give the credit where it is due.

We would love to see your thoughts, suggestions etc in the comments section or if you rather prefer email communication, you can always reach us at