How to become a Python developer contractor

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Becoming a Python developer contractor involves a combination of technical skills, business acumen, and networking.

Here are 16 key steps to take to help you become a successful Python contractor, writes Ben Quinn, senior technology recruitment consultant at Leap29.

  1. Learn Python, thoroughly!

Start with the basics of Python, including data types, control structures, and functions.

Then progress to more advanced topics like object-oriented programming, data manipulation, and working with libraries and frameworks.

To formalise your learning, next consider taking courses or earning certifications in Python, like those offered by Coursera, edX, or even Python's own certification.

  1. Build a strong portfolio

 Create a personal website or portfolio where you can showcase your work.

Really showcase projects that demonstrate your Python skills, such as web applications, data analysis, machine learning models, or automation scripts.

And don’t leave any of your readers in doubt -- provide clear explanations of the projects, your role, and the technologies used.

  1. Specialise

Identify a niche or area of specialisation within Python that interests you.

For example, you could focus on web development, data analysis, machine learning, or DevOps.

Then develop expertise in your chosen area by taking courses, earning certifications, and staying up-to-date with industry trends.

  1. Create an online presence

Build a professional website that features your skills and experience – it will need to feature your portfolio, of course.

Once your site is live, maintain active and updated LinkedIn and GitHub profiles to drive traffic, attract potential clients and interest agencies. Similarly, engage with social media to share your knowledge, insights, and projects, always taking care to insert a link to your site for those who want to know more.

  1. Network

Attend tech sector meetups, conferences, and industry events to meet potential clients and fellow professionals.

Then go further -- join online communities and forums specifically related to Python and your chosen specialisation.

Your objective is to develop strong relationships with colleagues and mentors who can provide guidance and referrals.

  1. Use tech freelancing platforms

Sign up with freelancing, project work and technology job websites like Upwork, Freelancer, Toptal and Technojobs.

Complete your profile with a detailed description of your skills and experience.

When starting out, be patient and accept ‘small’ – such as by taking on little projects to build your reputation and client feedback.

  1. Ensure your CV and cover letter are always to hand!

At this stage, you should develop a professional résumé or CV that highlights your Python expertise and showcases your relevant experience. 

Then, whether you’re targeting temporary opportunities as contractor or full-time positions as applicant, write a compelling proposal for each end-client or cover letter for each employer, respectively, that emphasises how your Python skills and experience fulfils the brief/role.

  1. Build client relationships

Communication is crucial if you’re going to succeed as a Python developer contractor.

So, clearly understand the client's requirements, ask questions, and provide regular updates.

With day-to-day developing, deliver high-quality work on time and within budget to earn positive reviews with a view to securing repeat business as an independent Python specialist.

  1. Continuous learning

Python and its associated libraries and frameworks are constantly evolving.

To not get left behind, you must dedicate time to learning about the latest updates and trends in your specialisation.

  1. Price your services competitively

Research how much other Python contractors are charging in your market and set your rates accordingly.

Initially, you might offer lower rates to build your reputation.

  1. Cover the legal and financial aspects

To achieve longevity as a Python developer contractor, ensure you understand the legal aspects of operating as a contractor, including contractual matters and taxes.

You may want to consult with a lawyer or an accountant for specific guidance.

Don’t overlook financial considerations either -- so create a detailed budget that covers your personal and business expenses. Similarly, set up a business bank account to separate personal and business finances.

  1. Manage your time and resources

To not panic in the event you get potentially more than one Python client ‘biting’ (forgive the pun!), it’s crucial to efficiently manage your time and workload.

Tools like project management software can help you stay organised and meet deadlines.

  1. Customer service

Provide excellent customer service at all times as a Python contractor seeking repeat contracts, renewals or extensions.

Happy clients are also more likely to recommend you to others in the Python space!

  1. Negotiation

Don’t expect your technical prowess as a Python developer contractor to do all the talking!  You must also develop strong negotiation skills to secure contracts and rates on terms which are favourable to you and your businesses. This includes understanding the value you bring to a project and effectively communicating it to clients (or your client representative like a line manager) as the project progresses.

  1. Insurance

Depending on location and nature of your work, Python contractors often have to consider professional liability insurance! You might be no exception – so look in PLI to protect yourself from potential legal and financial risks. It may well be specified in your contract!

  1. Consistency and persistence, just like a Python!

Success in the competitive contracting market (not just with Python), takes time. Be patient and persistent in your efforts.

So remember that becoming a successful Python contractor isn’t about landing one hot Python contract -- it takes time and effort over a period of time. It's important to follow the above 16 tips on how to become a Python developer contractor, and then check back over time to see how many you can tick off, as both your reputation and clientele build.

With lots of determination; a little luck, and the right skills and approach, you can establish yourself as a sought-after Python contractor, particularly if you’re looking to capitalise on a significant chunk of time already spent in a full-time Python job.

Written by

Ben Quinn

Senior technology recruitment consultant at at Leap29

Since joining Leap29 Ben has made a significant impact in the business, helping to build its recruitment team and client-base from scratch, delivering recruitment services for key clients. Ben is an excellent relationship-builder and has a strong record of recruiting for software professionals across Digital & Development. Ben uses a variety of headhunting, talent reports, networking, and sourcing techniques to ensure a consistent and constant flow of excellent qualified, highly attractive, and sought-after professionals across Europe.

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