I’ve been having a lot of conversations with you blog readers over email about making a living as a developer. All the questions follow the same theme. Are you an underpaid developer? If you have to ask yourself then it already means yes.
The definition of underpaid here is in terms of money. We’re not talking about how much fun you have at your job or the amount of learning you’re doing. People want to know how they compare money-wise to other developers. Well, there is always another developer that makes more money than you. The truth is almost all developers are underpaid.
Being underpaid at a regular job
You’re always going to be underpaid here. When you get a job offer they always lowball you. Then they make it seem like a big ordeal to negotiate. This system is designed to always pay you just enough to keep you content.
The company you’re working at wants their workers to keep their salary a secret for a reason. So you don’t know someone with your comparable skills (or very likely even less skills) is getting paid more money than you. Someone always is.
Even the highest salaried developers (at $150-170K/year) will be surprised at how much freelance developers make. It will make you realize your regular job is being a slave developer.
Being underpaid as a freelance developer
You’re a hired gun and you’re paid to come in to execute. So you’re able to command a hefty price tag. Even if your rate is a few hundred dollars an hour there are a bunch of developers who know how to make more. Their earning potential isn’t limited by the number of man hours they spend working.
The highest paid freelance developers learn how to charge based on the value they provide to the business. If you can set the correct context for your client, they won’t have any problem paying you what you want. The amount of money they pay for the project is minimal compared to the amount of money their business will make from it.
I’ve seen these type of developers easily clear $250-500K/year freelancing.
Biggest hurdle of getting paid more is yourself
After the developers I talked to realized they were being underpaid they wanted to fix this problem. The most common solution was to acquire more programming skills — learning backend development if you’re a front end developer and vice-versa or learning new technologies like Node.js. Essentially, developers didn’t feel like they were prepared enough to earn more money.
Well, that feeling never goes away. Programming is a never ending learning activity. The only thing stopping you from making more money is yourself. You just have to jump right in, be agressive and get what you want now. Don’t be scared and wait until you think you’re more qualified. That day might never come.
How underpaid are you?