Turning Code into Cash: Lessons from my €100k+ Journey as a German IT Freelancer

Ever wondered how IT freelancing can yield €100k+? Get insights into my journey as a German IT freelancer, and learn how to turn code into cash.

Felix Vemmer
Felix Vemmer
February 11, 2024
Turning Code into Cash: Lessons from my €100k+ Journey as a German IT Freelancer

Checking back on my journey, I started freelancing as early as 2017, when I was still studying to make some money on the side. Thinking back it wasn't Typescript or Python but rather Microsoft Access and Wordpress. I was still learning the ropes, but I was already making money and enjoying the freedom and choice to work on things I enjoyed the most.

By 2024, my hourly rate had quadrupled from 30 to 120 euros, and I had cumulatively earned over 100k euros since beginning my freelancing career. Having gained a wealth of knowledge over these years, I'm eager to share insights from my journey as a German IT freelancer and guide you on how to monetize your coding skills.

Just like one of my favorite books, The SaaS Playbook, and an insightful resource from Lukas Hermann, Bootstrapping a SaaS Business in Germany: How I did it, I aim to make this blog article super practical and actionable. So, let's dive in!

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Why Freelancing?

Starting a freelancing career transcends mere coding passion; it involves embracing both autonomy and its inherent challenges. It affords the freedom to select projects, clients, and set your own hours, yet be prepared for hurdles like client acquisition. It's a path marked by continuous learning and growth.

Top Three Reasons I Love Freelancing

  1. Freedom: I have the freedom to choose my projects, clients, and working hours. I can work from anywhere, be it a beach or a mountain, and I can take time off whenever I want.

  2. Learning: I'm constantly learning new things, and best part is that I can choose what I want to learn. I can work on a variety of projects, with my favorite technologies, and I can learn from my clients and their businesses.

  3. Financial Independence: I can set my own rates, and I can work as much as I want. My success is directly related to the effort I put in.

On the flip side, freelancing comes with its own set of challenges. Here are the three things I dislike the most about freelancing.

Top Three Challenges of Freelancing

  1. Client Acquisition: Finding new clients can be tough, especially when you're just starting out. It's a constant hustle to find new clients and projects. Closing can take time, and you might have to deal with a lot of rejections.

  2. German Bureaucracy: Navigating through German bureaucracy is a significant hurdle for freelancers. The process involves registering your business, filing taxes, and managing extensive paperwork, which can be particularly daunting for those new to freelancing.

  3. Uncertainty: Freelancing is inherently unpredictable. The timing of your next project and the reliability of client payments can be uncertain, adding stress to the freelance lifestyle, especially in the early stages of your career.

How to Get Started as a Freelancer

Next, let's talk about how to get started as a freelancer. Here are the steps I took to get started. What I would do different today, and what I would recommend to others.

Freelancing on the Side

I started freelancing while I was still studying. For me it was a great way to earn some money on the side, and I could work on projects that I enjoyed. It was a great way to learn new things and to get some real-world experience and also proved valuable when I applied for internships during my studies.

Later on, I continued freelancing while working full-time. I was able to work on projects that I enjoyed, and I could set my own hours, but still had the security of a full-time job. This was a great way to build up my freelancing business, get some first clients and projects under my belt.

Before you start make sure though to...

Before you dive into the world of freelancing, it's crucial to ensure you're legally prepared. One of the first steps you should take is to:

  1. Check your current employment contract for any clauses that may restrict freelancing activities. This is especially important if you plan to freelance while still employed full-time, as some contracts may have non-compete clauses.

  2. Make sure your hours and income stays below the limits of your mainjob so that you don't get into trouble with your health insurance and taxes.

Understanding the legalities of your current employment can save you from potential legal issues in the future. It's always better to be safe than sorry!