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Houston, TX
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Houston, TX
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Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, but its cost of living is far lower than that of New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. All three of the nation's most populous cities land in the top ten for most expensive, according to the Expatistan Cost of Living Index. Houston's rank? Way down at twenty-ninth. It also placed ninth on CreditDonkey's ranking of the best cities for frugal living.

While it's the biggest city in Texas, Houston tends to live in Austin's super-hip shadow when it comes to IT. But Austin doesn't have a monopoly on Texas technology. In fact, Houston ranks second in the nation for IT job growth, according to the Houston Chronicle, having added approximately 45,000 tech workers since 2010. It was also ranked by Forbes as having the country's second-highest concentration of engineers. If you're an IT freelancer, there are plenty of companies hoping you'll move to town.

"We have a real shortage in IT of everything from entry-level to senior architects," says Dave Hopson, managing partner of Triumphus, an IT consulting services company. "We are hurting, from the industry side and from the consulting side. Some of my clients have asked permission to hire my guys because they just can't find anyone."

"There's a lot of opportunity for people to freelance," says Michael Graves, Project Manager, ZipDX, a specialty audio conferencing company. "Because it's such a big place and there's such a lot going on, if you are able to go out and do the legwork and meet people, there is opportunity."

Houston has a reputation for being a pretty social city, and Graves says Meetups and other networking groups are popular here for freelancers and tech entrepreneurs.

"There's a lot of opportunity for that kind of networking," says Graves. "In fact, so much so that you have to be careful about your use of time."

Hopson says transplants quickly find a lot of reasons to love the city.

"We've got a wonderful music scene, fine arts community, and a cool bar scene," says Hopson. "All my 20-something network engineers, they love it here, even the four guys I stole from Microsoft in Seattle."

As icing on the cake, there are plenty of resources in Houston for tech entrepreneurs: Houston Technology Center, one of the "Ten Technology Incubators Changing the World," according to a report in Forbes; NextPlex, which serves as a hub for the local tech community; START, a co-working space that also connects its members with investors and advisors; and TX/RX, a hackerspace with the goal of educating the public about technology.