I want to be passionate about my work... while working in my pjs
March 1, 2008 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Can I make a living coding from home, and where can I find such a job?

First, I'm a veteran coder. I've been working in the software industry for 10 years. I'm experienced in all aspects of the software life cycle. I'm an expert in C#, and very experienced in Java. Over the last few years I've been trading time between roles as solution architect and lead programmer. That means I do more requirements analysis and development and system design now, but I still do a lot of coding.

A couple of years ago my spouse started a business, and it has become far more successful than we had expected. However, the problem is that she had started her business in a small city, and that city doesn't have a large software development market. In fact there are only four or five companies that develop software within 50 miles. And, for various reasons, she is unable to relocate her business or us.

So, I currently work for a defense contractor, and I'm making great money for a small city (>$100K). However, I'm yearning to get back to the "real" software market - developing consumer, enterprise, or business-to-business software applications. And, I want to get back to working at a start-up-type environment, and being passionate about the products I'm developing.

So, how do I find such a job that will allow me to telecommute 75% of the time? Is there a job board that exists specifically for telecommuting jobs? Or, do I just scour the web sites of potentially interesting software company and email them my sales pitch? Plus, would I expect to take a big pay cut if I switch to telecommuting? I may not care, but just curious.
posted by brandnew to Work & Money (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Have you checked out Rent A Coder? Might be a good place to list yourself.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 9:57 AM on March 1, 2008

Seconding Rent A Coder. I've been working there for awhile as a part time job, and have had no trouble finding jobs.
posted by DanW at 10:08 AM on March 1, 2008

If you want to compete with offshore developers working for $peanuts, that is.

Guys, he's earning six figures currently; discount-rate sites like rent-a-coder are emphatically not the crowd he wants to associate himself with.

Seriously, what's with all the rent-a-coder links lately? Are they paying MeFi users to link to them or what?

I have only limited experience with fulltime telecommuting; in my case it was by keeping the same job after a relocation. My pay didn't change at all, which I understand is typical (the costs and hassle involved in working with a telecommuter are offset by not having to keep an office lit and powered.) If you find new fulltime telecommute work, you might expect a pay cut but primarily because the job will likely be different (management-level and architect-level work is much more difficult to do from a remote location.)

You might consider freelancing instead of telecommuting; if you're reasonably successful the pay can be better than fulltime work, and the variety can be invigorating. (Though often not in the "passionate about what I'm building" sense, unfortunately.) Word of mouth is your best bet for finding this type of work; if you're as experienced as you say you are you should have no trouble at all.
posted by ook at 10:30 AM on March 1, 2008

Look up major corporations' recruiting websites and look for programming jobs that list location as "Virtual" or something like that.
posted by Doohickie at 12:01 PM on March 1, 2008

I've seen coding projects listed on http://www.elance.com/, but you'll be bidding against a lot of Indians, Pakistanis, etc. who can afford to work for a lot less than you.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:07 PM on March 1, 2008

You could write the software of your dreams nights and weekends; and if that works out well enough, transition to doing it during the day, too.
posted by ambilevous at 12:17 PM on March 1, 2008

Run away from the big jobs sites. Monster, Dice, etc are all just headhunters. The smaller job boards on sites devoted to software developers are much better. Here's a couple I monitor:


The rest that I monitor are specific to technologies. Right now I'm partial to Ruby, so I keep my eye on a few sites devoted to that.

Also, become active on the mailing lists for open source projects related to the technologies you use. There are lots of posts of people looking for help in implementing the project, and it's a good way to network. Answer as many questions as you can on these lists and reply to the list. It won't take long for people to think of you when they need help with that technology. Check to see if you have a local Java/.NET group. If you don't, start one. Invite all the developers and companies in town you can find. Finally, start a blog where you talk about these technologies.
posted by AaRdVarK at 12:17 PM on March 1, 2008

I can't imagine that rentacoder or its isotopes are what you're looking for. Time to strike out on your own? You've got the technical skills, and your wife's got the business head...

Fire your resume off to a few agencies, with an explanation of what you're looking for?

Networking, tell colleagues and friends that you're looking to move?

Don't discount a job just because it appears at first glance to be tied to a desk. I think you should consider negotiating a telecommuting component in the same way as you'd negotiate your benefits package.

(DanW: what are you doing to get jobs via rentacoder? I've tried 10 or 15 times. I provide a summary of my skillset and experience, a first estimate of what the job might cost, and a request for a more complete description of the task/invitation to discuss in more detail, and I never hear back. I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong.)
posted by Leon at 12:18 PM on March 1, 2008

I will also say, avoid rent-a-coder, elance, and any other site that has you competing with other developers on rate. Your mantra should be selling quality and value, not price. On price, you can't compete with programmers in Eastern Europe and India who dominate most of those boards.
posted by AaRdVarK at 12:19 PM on March 1, 2008

I find it's pretty much the same as in the straight world, the best contract gigs come from folks that know you and your work. Stay in touch with past clients. Let people you like to work with know what you are up to. Call and say hi a little more often. And don't completely write off the possibility that there may be some contracts nearby. I've found over half a dozen locally, where there should have been none (in a remote rural ranching area). I've also found a couple of gigs on craigslist, but they were far from ideal fits. I've been pure telecommute for years and it's the best and the worst way to go. Good luck
posted by okbye at 1:52 PM on March 1, 2008

Seconding Leon's networking suggestion - try LinkedIn. I've known a few people who've gotten gigs through people they knew on LinkedIn.
posted by kristi at 5:45 PM on March 1, 2008

I'm a software developer working for a small privately owned software vendor whose headquarters are in Dallas. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have weekly teleconferences and I fly to Dallas every six weeks to two months or so. In fact, a lot of the developers work from home. I know several companies that operate similarly. It works out well, and I've done this for over two years now.

I guess I'm saying that it can work out just fine. I got this job by networking, which is probably the best way to find any job.
posted by Daddio at 6:21 PM on March 1, 2008

I have several friends who do this, and make gobs of money. Three are self-employed. Four work for companies that allow them to remote and make well north of six figures. The ones that are self employed generally have a more relaxed life and make more money, but do have to spend time getting work.

I also freelance from home on a part-time basis, and have no shortage of work.

By far, the best way I've found to get work is to write a blog about software and give advice on forums relating to software. Put your blog link in your signature and reference posts that solve problems that people have. You'll get a reputation as a whiz kid and people will start sending you coding jobs.

If you're a veteran Microsoft guy, look into getting a job with MS that allows you to remote. Scott Hansleman does this, and might be able to give you some advice.
posted by SpecialK at 7:44 PM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone! It appears that I just have to catch up on my networking skills, and build my reputation a bit. I've been meaning to set up my blog for some time, now it gives me a good reason to get moving on it.

Also, I apologize for reposting this question; I should have looked harder before posting, since there were a few previous entries on this subject. Thanks again.
posted by brandnew at 12:18 PM on March 2, 2008

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