Join LinkedIn Learning Developer Instructor for an in-depth discussion in this video Freelancing, part of Career Clinic: Developer Insights.
- It was scary to on my own take on the responsibility of designing the app for the client, recognizing what's possible and steering them into what I felt was going to be a more affordable way of doing it and taking the reins on that. It was definitely scary, but I also knew that I needed to kind of throw myself into the deep end to some degree because I'd been getting projects from other people before that, and I needed to take on that responsibility.
It wasn't a huge project, but it was pretty challenging. I think it helped that I was able to send him incremental builds along the way so that I could get feedback and he felt comfortable that I was able to do the job, and I got positive feedback that I was doing the job. The fact that he was happy about it and excited with it definitely helped me feel like I'm on the right track, I'm getting this done, and I'm doing what he wants me to do. Again, that communication back and forth of is this what you wanted? Yes, it is, or no, it isn't.
I wanted this. It helped me realize that I wasn't going way off the path at any point in time. - So, I've been freelancing for almost my entire career. I had a brief job right after college and after that, it was freelancing. I took an office job for a few years in there, but in general, I've been freelancing for almost all of my career. It took me a while to realize that I have to dedicate some of my week every week to actual what I think of as business development. There's things like invoicing the clients that I have, but there's also thinking ahead, there's scheduling and planning.
Okay, I've got work for the next couple months, and then what happens after that? Who do I need to be in touch with to remind them I'm available to see what projects are coming down the pipeline? And so then there's also the financial piece of that. There's paying your own estimated taxes, and just keeping your books, keeping your expenses, making sure you're invoicing on a regular basis. And another piece of freelancing for me has been about, I work at home, and I've been working at home for a while, and that can be a really interesting tightrope to walk. I talked to a number of people who don't freelance and they're like, oh, you work at home that must be just wonderful.
And I'm like, okay well, it has its pluses and minuses and it takes some real focus and practice to make that work because sure, I don't have to go anywhere. I don't have a commute. I can get up out of bed, take a shower, eat breakfast, and I'm at work. But making that delineation, then that delineation becomes pretty fuzzy, and it can be important to have some practices to make a clear, bright line between when I'm work and when I'm not. - The things you should understand about freelancing if you do want to go that route.
First of all, don't quit your job like I did and just start doing it. That's a terrible strategy. You definitely want to find out if you actually like it first. You want to find out if you can find work. The best way to do it is try to start taking jobs at night, on the weekends, in your spare time, do a little bit here and there, and get a real sense for what it's like to freelance. Can you actually make money? Do you actually get paid? All that wonderful stuff. Once you feel like you've got a client base going, they're coming back to you. You've built your portfolio, then you can start to move on.
You can try to reduce your job from full-time to part-time, maybe you can get out of your job altogether. The other thing that I would really encourage freelancers to do, if you think it's a direction you want to go. I am not a financial advisor but I would strongly recommend you pay off any debt that you have before you go down the freelance road. Maybe you still have a house payment, that's okay, but anything else, credit card, student loans, all of that stuff you need to pay it all off before you start freelancing. The second piece of advice I would have is to save a full year of expenses.
Whatever it takes, if you could not work for an entire year and you had to live on a savings account, how much money would you need? And, save up that pile of money, and I know that sounds like a ridiculously large amount of money and it's a really hard thing to do, but it brings a tremendous amount of piece of mind. You can try to find ways to stabilize your income. For me, that's been teaching. I always knew that I had teaching money coming in, and then like the freelancing income goes up and down. That's like one of the biggest challenges of freelancing is trying to manage that income.
You're not going to get paid every two weeks. - I am a huge believer in freelancing, of contracting, it is incredibly powerful as a young, new person into the field to have this broad experience across all of these different types of teams, different working environments, different projects, different technology stacks. It lets you soak up like a sponge, you can collect and vacuum in all this stuff very, very fast, in a very short amount of time and it can give you a great idea.
It gave me a great idea of what I like to work on, the types of teams I like to work on versus the types of teams I would rather avoid that I thought someone else would be more appropriate for.