Articles Cookbook
Back to articles list
- 11 minutes read

Why and How to Find Freelance SQL Jobs

If Covid-19 has you all “I-want-to-stop-working-for-the-man-and-enjoy-a-more-fulfilling-life-as-the-master-of-my-own-destiny”, then I’ve got news for you. Not only is it possible to be an SQL freelancer, it’s also a potentially lucrative and liberating career move. It will allow you to work for a diverse range of clients and march to the beat of your own drum.

Of course, SQL freelancing isn’t for everyone. You will need a strong sense of self-motivation, some serious hustling skills, and the ability to sell yourself and your services as THE ABSOLUTE BEST all the time, every time - day in, day out.

In this article, I’m going to run through four key ways you can make it in the SQL freelancing world, along with some of the pros and cons of adopting the #freelancelife. But this life ain’t for everyone.

SQL Freelance Life

If you’re new to SQL and simply testing the waters for potential career options, then SQL freelancing may not be something you can jump into immediately. You’ll need to get a bit of experience and some strong SQL practice first. If you’re looking for a comprehensive course to take you from SQL zero to SQL hero, then take a look at SQL from A to Z. It covers both basic and advanced SQL skills, equipping you with everything you need to start finding database jobs – whether they be for a traditional employer or as a freelancer.

Then there’s the question of how much you can earn as an SQL freelancer. Well, that’s very much in your own hands, but Reddit shows that it’s certainly possible to earn big bucks. On a thread titled “Freelancers making $250K a year: What do you do?” one savvy SQL freelancer made the following comment:

Reddit

Now that’s SQL freelancing success!

How to Make Money Through Freelance SQL Jobs

Would you like to have an office like the one in the picture below?

Thailand

Image: AdrienBe

Finding freelance SQL projects is your ticket to making that dream a reality. But how do you go about it? There are actually a number of different ways you can break into the world of freelancing; I’ve rounded up the top four paths you can take to become an SQL freelancer:

1. Work as an Independent SQL Freelancer

The first type of SQL freelancer you can be is a free freelancer. That’s the type who works under their own banner – agencies and talent sites need not apply. This might be the most difficult route, though. Without a platform or agency, you’ll rely completely on your own hustling and self-marketing skills to pick up new clients.

Independent freelancers often operate as a business, have a website in their name, and pursue a range of marketing tactics to attract clients.

Independent freelancers are often also proficient at a second programming language; this broadens their field of potential clients. If you’d like to learn a complementary language, look at this list of the Top 5 languages to learn alongside SQL.

2. Work as an SQL Consultant

Another type of independent SQL freelancer is the consultant. An SQL consultant has been in the biz a long time and knows the lay of the SQL land like the back of her hand. A company might look to bring a freelance SQL consultant on board if they’re keen to reorganize their database administration or formulate some new approaches to data analysis.

Many SQL Server consultants support the installation and configuration of a new server system. As an SQL consultant, your role is very similar to that of SQL freelancer. However, it may involve more oversight and project management than other hands-on SQL projects.

3. Work for an SQL Agency

Agencies charge the big bucks and pass on the slightly-less big bucks to you. Businesses are attracted to the reputation and slick marketing of agencies and are therefore willing to pay a premium for their services. While you won’t get the hourly rates being charged by the agency you work for, you will benefit from their ability to bring a steady stream of clients your way.

It’s more likely you’ll find work with a broadly-focused IT freelancer agency than an SQL-specific one. If you’re keen to have others pull in clients but still want to retain a sense of freedom, then working on SQL projects through an agency may be the right move for you.

4. Get SQL Jobs on Talent Sites

Talent sites are the new agencies. These ‘job portals’ are crammed full of millions of clients and freelancers, all working together without the traditional agency middleman.

There are thousands of database jobs available on talent sites. If you’re serious about SQL freelancing or just want to pick up a bit of extra work, check out these platforms:

Upwork

Upwork (previously called Elance and oDesk) is a huge community of freelancers and clients. While there are always more freelancers (12 million) than there are clients (5 million), it’s actually relatively easy to get hired through the site. However, you may need to work a few low-paying jobs to get some good reviews before you can earn decent money.

While Upwork gigs cover a wide range of industries, there are often a good number of SQL-related job postings. I did a quick search and found a few like the one below:

Upwork job

Guru

Guru is another talent site where freelancers and clients from all over the world can link up. Here’s a recent job listing for a MySQL expert on Guru:

Guru job

Flexjobs

Flexjobs is a great job listing site that has options to filter job posts by ‘freelance’ and ‘flexible schedule’ – helping you find an SQL job that fits your lifestyle.

Here’s an actual SQL project I found on Flexjobs. Sign up and get notified when new jobs come up!

Flexjobs

Toptal

Toptal is a little different than Upwork and Guru. Toptal actually vets freelancers before they are allowed to join the site, meaning that only the creme de la creme of SQL freelancers make it. This thins the competition you’ll face when applying for job postings.

If you want to see what great SQL freelancers look like, check out some of the site’s top SQL freelancers.

Skipthedrive

Skipthedrive is an umbrella site that gathers remote tech jobs from around the web and delivers them to jobseekers. It’s free and there’s no registration required. It’s not really a talent site – more a gathering point for freelance job ads, but it’s worth checking out. It certainly beats trawling job listings yourself looking for remote work options.

SQL Freelancing: Pros and Cons

To fully understand how different freelancing is to your average desk job, let’s take a look at some of its pros and cons.

SQL Freelancing Cons

Workload and Weekends

Do you like having weekends off work? Unfortunately, freelancers often give up their weekends to get work done. They may give up evenings, family events, summer holidays, and festive occasions, too.

As a freelancer, the buck stops with you to get your clients’ work finished on time. You may have to say goodbye to 5pm finishes and work-free weekends.

No help

Are you a self-starter or someone who needs a bit of direction? It certainly takes a special kind of person to be a freelancer – you need a mountain of self-motivation and the ability to write your own work plans and stick to them, day after day. Something wrong with a client? It’s entirely up to you to solve it. Not feeling well? There are no sick days in Freelancerland!

If you’re a social butterfly and love chatting to colleagues and working collaboratively on projects, then the solo nature of freelance work may also be a little jarring.

Difficult to earn the big bucks

Unless you have a huge portfolio of work experience and a whole heap of references, then starting out as a freelancer can be tricky. Getting well-paid gigs may be many months away. On sites like Upwork and Guru, client reviews are king: building good reviews should be your top priority. Of course, getting your first job on talent sites without a single review to your name can be tough, but hang in there! Once you get over that initial bump, everything starts to get easier.

Admin time

In your full-time job, you get paid a nice salary that covers every bathroom trip you make and every hour of admin work you do. Basically, you show up from 9am-5pm and know you’ll be taking home X dollars per week.

With freelancing, all your admin – finding clients, emailing clients, billing clients – is often done on your own time. You can build this into your hourly rate - but still, no one will be paying you for time spent at the water cooler like your full-time employer did (wittingly or unwittingly!).

Organizing and paying your self-employed taxes is also a major time and money vortex to consider before diving into freelance life. Setting aside the right amount of money is entirely on you - so make sure you understand the tax rules that apply to you before setting sail on your freelance journey!

Bad clients

Just like there are bad people in this world, so too there are bad clients. There’s a fairly unequal power balance in the freelance world. You need work, so you bend over backward for your clients. But without a proper contract or the protection of an agency or talent site, you could easily find yourself dealing with difficult clients or worse – ones who disappear without paying you.

Hustle

Don’t underestimate the hustle of freelance life. Clients will come and they will go. Often, they will come all at the same time (stressful!) and go all at the same time too (equally stressful!). Finding good clients can take a huge amount of effort and energy – you’ll need to work HARD to build up your reputation, keep it intact, and keep the work rolling in.

SQL Freelancing Pros

Freedom

The list of freelancing cons was long, but the main pro makes up for all the negatives and then some. Freelancing = Freedom. Sweet, sweet freedom!

Work when you want. Work how you want. Work the jobs you want. Get rid of the clients you don’t want. Work from a café. Work from your holiday resort. Work around your family time. Work extra. Work less.

It’s really hard to overstate this: Working on your own terms is the most liberating thing in the world. If you think you have it in you, it’s well worth giving it a shot. Work freedom is a pretty powerful thing, folks!

No commute

What would you do with two hours extra time each day? That’s what you could gain if you’re currently doing an hour’s commute to work (and back) every day.

Losing the commute and embracing the work-from-home lifestyle is something that more and more people are choosing after gaining an appreciation for remote work during the quarantine period.

A commute-free day means you can fit in extra fitness or hobby time, have more time for rest and family, and perhaps even sleep in a bit! What’s not to love?

Less monotony

Working as an employee certainly has its upsides, from the consistency of the paycheck to the support of colleagues and managers. But doing the same work month after month, year after year? It can get monotonous and boring! Freelance SQL jobs offer a great of diversity. Because you’re working for multiple clients and changing projects regularly, you’ll find there’s little chance of getting bored.

Uncapped earning potential

If you work for an employer, you’re lucky to get a pay raise of a few thousand dollars every year or so. It feels good to climb up the pay ladder, sure, but the increase is typically comparatively small. And the limits of your employer’s budget will always keep your income capped.

Working as a freelancer frees you from those limits and allows you to reach for the financial stars. Although most freelancers have a slow and bumpy start, once you’ve established a name for yourself, you could earn 2 or 3 times your previous salary. Not everyone manages this, but it’s a real prospect.

Freelance SQL Jobs – A Ticket to Career Freedom

If you’ve been looking into SQL jobs, freelancing may well be a wise move. Not only are there a huge number of freelance database jobs available right now, but becoming a freelancer could change your life for the better. It frees you from the daily commute and gives you a sense of personal freedom that no 9-to-5 job can offer. Plus, it offers the potential to increase your income.

If you’re just starting your SQL journey or need to refresh your skills, this SQL from A to Z course has everything you need to gain SQL expertise fast. And if you’d like to read more about finding SQL jobs, my colleague Jakub has a great post on the Top 10 Websites That Will Help You Find the Perfect SQL Job.

go to top