It's been 6 months
It's been 6 months since I went full-time freelancing, sold our house in the US, and moved to the UK.
I left a rewarding 11-year career as a pharmacist to become a full-time web developer and I couldn't be happier. COVID put my priorities in sharp relief, and though pharmacy was rewarding, it did not provide the creative outlet that I needed.
What I've learned in 6 months of freelancing fulltime
I'm hoping you'll find the following helpful, I can only speak from my own experience.
Ease yourself into freelancing
I went full-time 6 months ago, but that was a year in the making. I started freelancing in the summer of 2019 and took whatever I could find. Now, I'm a bit more choosy.
I did web development alongside working as a pharmacist to make sure that I really liked it, and ensure I wouldn't leave my family without an income.
There are no gatekeepers. One thing that really attracted me to working freelance is that it's a permissionless model. You can start today with your portfolio without a round of job applications, interviews, and whiteboard horrors.
You do have to convince a client that you can solve their problem. But that's it, it is to solve their problem. They care much less what you use to solve it. They don't care that you're using the latest framework or the fastest sorting algorithm.
Concentrate on value to the customer and you can't go wrong. They care that it works, that it's easily maintainable, that it's within their budget and done on time. Clients care about results. They want to stop thinking about this as soon as possible and are happy to pay you to think about it.
Clients don't really know what they want
As a developer, you are wired a little differently than other people. You can usually break apart a process into its component elements and think of different ways you can solve it with a computer.
I've heard this trope many times but after talking to dozens of clients in the past 6 months, I've only found that it's truer than I thought.
Clients are acutely aware of their pain. By the time a client is coming to you for a software solution, their pain is obvious. Your job is to help them define it fully and then redress it.
Find out how their business model works. For you to offer a comprehensive solution, you really need to understand everything they care about. They will not state it to you in clear terms. Have a mapping session with them where you go through the problem, how their business works, what a win looks like for them, and where they want to be in 6 months.
Do a good job and clients will come to you
People talk and business people talk a lot. If you do a good job, then the word will get around and you will quickly run out of time to take on new projects.
Ask for introductions at the beginning of a project. This sounds completely off the wall, but if you ask for introductions at the beginning of a project it helps you spend more time coding. Marketing is not an easy task, especially if it's not in your wheelhouse.
Provide weekly checkups with your client. How would you feel about paying thousands of dollars for a product, and it comes in 6-8 weeks without hearing an update? I wouldn't like it, neither would your clients.
Space out your visual feedback for the client. I made the mistake on one project of doing all the frontend development first without working in the plumbing. The first several weeks they were really excited with the progress but didn't understand why things weren't changing as I started connecting the backend in the subsequent weeks.
Many more nuggets
There are probably many more nuggets that I could share (and will). These were the ones that have sat at the forefront of my mind in the past 6 months.
Stay tuned for more on freelancing, development, and custom events.
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A small favor
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