Getting a part-time programming job without a degree...
August 31, 2010 5:49 PM   Subscribe

How do you go about when you look for a part-time entry-level software developer job?

Previously I've asked a similar question here, but it never really pertained to the ultimate goal of getting real world experience. I did look at previous questions, but some are a few years old and it may not even pertain to my question because of it.

In a nutshell, I'm a funemployed 21 year old where my last "job" was at a small startup company for 9 months. Unfortunately, I did not learn much there, and I am sort of kicking myself in the leg right now for not quitting sooner. I did learn plenty of Django material, which seems to be the hottest thing for entry-level programmers. However, I can't find any advertisements on craigslist that are looking for Django developers. So I guess I just want some advice on how to look for them, and whether or not Django is still hot in the job market.

I do go to community college, and frankly it is taking longer than it should (4 years to transfer) due to entrance exams, difficult teachers, and my discipline is to blame as well. I've taken 3 quarters of C, 1 quarter of Java, 1 quarter of Unix, 1 quarter of Python, and 1 quarter of HTML (easiest class ever) in terms of classes relating to the computer science field. Right now I'm teaching myself how to make iPhone apps, but I sort of gave up on the idea when I found out how saturated the app market is.

I was thinking about freelancing, but my previous boss told me that I won't be able to touch that market until I have two years of real world experience. So my thinking is that seeking a job locally is the more viable solution to my unemployment. I've been running around in circles trying to figure out how to get a part-time coding job.
posted by RaDeuX to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why part-time? Where are you in the world? What are you looking for in a job: which translates to, are you looking to work overtime because you enjoy beautiful code or do you want to work 'flexible hours' because you have prolific beyond-programming interests?

No: you don't need two years of experience in anything to freelance, although you'll be a lot better at it if you do.
posted by tmcw at 6:01 PM on August 31, 2010


I skimmed your last question and saw that you had an internship before - have you tried looking for other internships? Might as well while you are still in school.
posted by astrid at 6:03 PM on August 31, 2010


I thought part-time would be better so I could get out of school quicker. That and Calculus and Physics next quarter will probably give me several headaches.

I suppose I should look for other internships. It's just that most of them are for free, and I wish they would at least compensate for my transportation fees (a.k.a. gasoline) and give me free lunch.
posted by RaDeuX at 6:05 PM on August 31, 2010


I was thinking about freelancing, but my previous boss told me that I won't be able to touch that market until I have two years of real world experience. So my thinking is that seeking a job locally is the more viable solution to my unemployment. I've been running around in circles trying to figure out how to get a part-time coding job.

This is not totally true.

When I was freelancing, I would often meet with clients who, upon a few minutes' interview, revealed that their budgets were woefully short for my fees. In defense of their budgets, they often referred to off-shore freelancers who would complete projects for an order of magnitude less than I estimated--so, a $15,000 gig would be bid at $1500. You can capture that market, if you're willing to take so little pay.

Now, this is kind of against my self-interest, in that you'd be driving down the price of developer time.

But, on the other hand, many of my most lucrative gigs have come after a student porked a project and they needed to get something usable fast.
posted by Netzapper at 6:16 PM on August 31, 2010


There's no such thing as a part-time development job.

If you need income, get a part-time job in customer service.
If you want experience, continue with internships when you're not at school, and build cool stuff in your spare time.

Upload it to GitHub and share it with people. There's probably a Python/Django user group or social club in your area. Find them and get involved. They're a great resource for picking up new ideas and techniques, for sharing thoughts and tools, plus they'll be your most direct ticket to employment once you graduate.

Don't go down the freelance route unless you limit yourself to doing simple cms-powered websites for your local sports club / user group / church / agrarian reformist society. Anyone with serious cash and heavy requirements is not going to hire a 21 year old kid, and if they do, they're going to screw you, HARD.

Continue learning and using Django - there are some cool companies doing awesome stuff with it, so it's worth investing your time in.

Finally, make sure you pick up enough Java (or .NET) at school in case you have to resort to working for Big Corporate. For every awesome Django job, there's probably 10 Java/.NET jobs that pay just as well (if not better.)
posted by cheaily at 8:29 PM on August 31, 2010


As the lonely lead developer at a tiny startup with a laughable budget, I hire freelancers like you.
-Along Netzapper's lines, no one with a budget is going to hire you. There is a segment of small businesses that prefer to work with local low cost people over off-shore if possible and you must find them.
-The way to find them is to network. Join local programmer's groups. Go to small business events. Contribute to an open source project. Blog about programming. I go to my local PHP group every month and I say, "Hello my name is Kwine and I work on blah and blargh and if you are a person who can configure a Magento extension for a little extra cash, or you know such a person, please see me after the talk"
-Pick a language to focus in for freelance purposes. Your experience seems pretty scattered. Write something useful or cool in that language. Then write another cool or useful thing in that language. Congratulations: you just earned an interview with me. Be able to explain why you made the design decisions that you did-be able to walk me through the code, and answer my questions about it.
-The biggest difference between freelancers I hire back and ones I don't is follow-through. Some people get things done when they say they will, and have a good excuse. When I write them to ask how the project is going, I hear back from them before the end of the day. Some people don't return phone calls, or miss my deadlines while tweeting about how they are hungover. Be in the former group-those are the guys who get full time jobs. Sometimes I get to give them glowing recommendations.
posted by Kwine at 8:32 PM on August 31, 2010


So I guess I just want some advice on how to look for them, and whether or not Django is still hot in the job market.

Java, .NET and C, in that order. If you want to write games, reverse the order. Do not waste your time with Obj-C or its crack-pipe (the iPhone).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:59 PM on August 31, 2010


Java, .NET and C, in that order. If you want to write games, reverse the order.
Is that in order of pain?

Sorry, I kid, I kid. To the point: Django is hot in a job market, but it is not a worldwide-popular system like, say, Windows XP. If you're looking to specialize in Django, you'll need to find "Django shops" around your part of the world, and get involved in the technology - it's a small enough technology that saying "I can write Django apps" doesn't get you the instant deskjobs that, say, Java experience will give you, but it has a good shot at getting you cool (small companies, good code, if these things are important to you) jobs when you score them.
posted by tmcw at 9:06 PM on August 31, 2010


Wow, thanks for the great advice guys. This is really convincing me to scrap the idea of making iPhone apps for chump change. :P

From what I've seen on craigslist, there seems to be a lot more Java careers than anything else. The thing is, I took Python before Java, and I'm leaning towards Python (I have more experience in it anyways). Java is similar to Python in the sense that it's an OOP language, so hopefully it shouldn't be too hard to manage a slight transition. Now I wish I studied a little bit more in Java during the summer quarter, but calculus was pwning me more.

Java or Python/Django... I suppose that's a decision that I have to ultimately make myself.
posted by RaDeuX at 10:07 PM on August 31, 2010


Java or Python/Django... I suppose that's a decision that I have to ultimately make myself.

You're really missing the point.

Knowing a language does not get you a job. Knowing how to solve programmatic problems gets you a job. You should be able to pick up a new language in about a week. Aside from a bit of sugar, all languages are roughly equivalent. Python and Java both allow you to express the same idea--Python's approach might be pithier, but Java's is better for static analysis.

Taking a whole bunch of different language courses is essentially pointless. What you should be taking are data structures and algorithms courses. A linked list is a linked list in any language. And once you understand the algorithms and data structures, you'll find yourself caring about programming language about as much as you care about the design of your fork at a restaurant.

If you focus on the specific technology you use, you're going to wind up one of the endless web hacks whose total view of programming competence is remembering which function finds a substring. These people consistently make less money than people who are excellent general-purpose programmers, and whose allegiance to any particular technology is convenient at best.
posted by Netzapper at 6:04 AM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah. You asked "How can I get freelance or part time coding work with little experience?" but don't mistake the answers that you got as answers to "How can I best position myself for a career as a programmer?" which is what it seemed like you might be doing in your last. Netzapper's answer is a good one for that question.
posted by Kwine at 6:36 AM on September 1, 2010


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