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[OT] Freelancing advice?

by Withigo (Friar)
on May 31, 2003 at 07:40 UTC ( #262049=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Hello monks,
I am looking for some input from anyone who's had direct experience with web-based freelancing. I'm a university student who's studying mathematics and in need of some extra income; but I'm also a self-taught c/perl/mysql/cgi/bsd-based-junior-jack-of-all-trades geek. I'd like to put my skills to use somehow, and even expand and hone them for future work in programming, rather than take employment in an area completely unrelated to coding(i.e.,"would you like fries with that?").

Mainly, I'm not looking for full-time employment, nor a salary equivalent to a full-time job(which is why I'm not looking for a job in my local region), so I thought doing a few contracts on the side during the year would be a nice source of some extra income. However, I'm not sure what level of expertise is advised to be successful in this, nor am I sure if it's best to do contracts solo or to work in a small team(I'm sure I could get a few local geek buddies to participate). On top of that, I'm not even sure what the market rate is for the service I would be offering, so I don't even know whats a good price to charge when bidding for posted jobs.

I've been browsing through some of the most popular web-based freelance coding sites, but I'm not sure how worthwhile or credible any of them are, and I'd like some input from anyone who's been there and done it. I had a look at the following sites:

If there are any sites better than these, please let me know, and if anyone has any comments or helpful advice, I'd sure appreciate it.
Thanks in advance.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: [OT] Freelancing advice?
by phydeauxarff (Priest) on May 31, 2003 at 16:51 UTC
    I have done much freelancing over the years, at one time doubling my 'real work' income, doing various consulting gigs from networking to web programming and the best advice I can give you is to put yourself on the market and start taking jobs.....any job you can accomplish.

    Over time, provided you do quality work, as you gain word of mouth advertising from satisfied customers you will eventually end up with more work than you can take.

    As for a good place to start, every city I have lived in has a local PC users group....these are a great opportunity to network and perhaps even advertise your services as other members often are looking for assistance. They are also a good resource of 'what the other guy is doing' so you can often find out what the going rate for work is but in the long run, your services are valued by agreement between you and your client.

    At one point (long-long-ago) I was volunteering with the OKC PC Users Group leading their web development efforts for their site...this produced many contacts as customers came looking to the user group for a 'developer' you might look for some 'free work' for a non-profit organization to get yourself noticed. You can also work within your existing network of friends, neighbors, and associates to see if anybody needs work done.

    In short, go ahead and jump in the water is fine....the only piece of advice I leave you with is to be honest with your clients, seek outside help when you need it, and don't over-represent your abilities..we already have far too many of those out there

    Good Luck!

Re: [OT] Freelancing advice?
by sauoq (Abbot) on Jun 01, 2003 at 06:50 UTC
    I'm not sure what level of expertise is advised to be successful in this

    You'll need a level of expertise sufficient to do a good job on the projects you take on. The key isn't your level of expertise, which will rise over time and with experience but which you have no control over at any given moment. The key is the projects you take on. Take on only the projects that you know you can do well. Don't overestimate your ability and, whatever you do, don't oversell it.

    If you listen to the description of the project and you think, "Oh yeah... I can do that. No problem!" then take it. If you think, "I think I can do that... I'll just have to get a book and learn XML and XSLT first..." then pass on it. Tell the potential client that it just isn't within your skill set but that you would be pleased if they contacted you when something else came up. Then, go get a book on XML and learn it anyway. That way, the next time a client asks if you can do it you'll think, "No problem!"

    nor am I sure if it's best to do contracts solo or to work in a small team

    There's nothing wrong with a team if you complement each other's skills and you can work together well. One upside is that you might be able to take on some bigger projects. One downside is that you'll all want to be paid. (That can be a real bummer when one person isn't pulling his weight.) Teams work best when one person leads and that one person is good at leading. Remember that working together isn't about being buddies; it's about getting the job done right for the client.

    If you do go this route, remember that the team needs to speak with one voice to the client. Don't let the client catch wind of internal disputes; it will look unprofessional and will erode their confidence in you.

    If you don't have experience working in a team, it's probably best to try to find a team of people who do have that experience but are willing to work with you even though you don't. That way, you'll learn from them. Working in a team is its own skill.

    There is another approach. At least at first, you may find it is easier and more rewarding to work alone. After you have some experience, you might be offered a job which is only slightly bigger than you are comfortable with. You might consider taking it if you can farm out a small piece of it to someone else. In this way, you can build your own team slowly, one person at a time even as you learn how to take the leadership role.

    Good luck!

    "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
Re: [OT] Freelancing advice?
by thealienz1 (Pilgrim) on May 31, 2003 at 16:07 UTC

    I am also in your same situation. I a Junior in Computer Engineering and I do some coding on the side for money. The best thing that I have learned how to do is talk to your professors. Either they need some coding done or they know someone who does. Especially in the engineering school.

    Just a little suggestion.

Re: [OT] Freelancing advice?
by halley (Prior) on May 31, 2003 at 18:37 UTC

    I often have more coding projects than I have time to implement, but would be good little practice jobs for junior programmers to develop.

    When I have some spare cash, I sometimes offer these little projects to interested parties, but it's never a substantial (living wage) payment. I've also suggested simple barter (such as write a one-day framework for something, and I'll send you an Amazon purchase of your choice).

    It depends on my mood, and my backlog of wishful projects. The benefit to me is that it's zero risk: if someone doesn't accomplish the project, it doesn't disappoint me or put me behind schedule, because I have none.

    I'm not sure if that's even the scale of "side work" you're looking for. But it works for some folks when they want to practice.

    [ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]

      I'll send you an Amazon purchase of your choice

      I choose a Segway! ;-)

      Is it an invitation for applications? Should the applicants answer by private messages? Of course I am interested.
Re: [OT] Freelancing advice?
by Anonymous Monk on May 31, 2003 at 22:31 UTC
    if anyone has any comments or helpful advice, I'd sure appreciate it.

    The online sites are crud. The vast majority of developers are talentless "I read half of Perl & CGI" programmers. Their shoddy work makes any company that won't be bankrupt in 12 seconds stay very, very far away. So what's the end result? It basically turns into a total scam, 20 developers bid ridiculously low (so low its not worth your time), provide total crap for a product, client never uses online service again. Rinse, repeat.

    So the solution? Stay away from the online sites, start your own business. Go after a niche market. Focus on excellent customer service, build up a reputation for quality work. It can easily be done part time.

    Why are you still reading this? Get started.

      I disagree (although perhaps I'm one of the shoddy developers bidding low to provide total crap :)

      I think that the online sites are a great place to get started if you have nothing else. Do a few good quality jobs and you've got a network of contacts who would prefer your good work to the other scam-artists they've worked with from the site. Also, a number of the buyers are savvy to the problems with low bidders and choose realistic people who bid five times the low bid.

      I wouldn't recommend doing that forever, but as I said, it's a wonderful place to start, and get some experience and contacts. The most important part is to *not* be one of the shoddy scam artists - if you made a mistake and bid low (as I've did more than once at the beginning), see it through anyway. Your client may be your biggest source of work in the future.

      Cheers! James Beninger

Re: [OT] Freelancing advice?
by kutsu (Priest) on Jun 01, 2003 at 00:19 UTC

    I started doing freelance work, mostly tech work, before getting my current job. I found that most of my better jobs came from people or companies in my area, and that most of these were replying to flyers or just word of mouth. Just trying to say, remember to advertise in multiple ways.

    All that was said came from my experience and should be remembered as such.

    "Pain is weakness leaving the body, I find myself in pain everyday" -me

Re: [OT] Freelancing advice?
by jbeninger (Monk) on Jun 03, 2003 at 03:00 UTC

    This has been my best source of freelance work. I've been working for less than I'd like, but I'm in about the same boat as you. I'm just out of university, and I think this is a great way to both get some experience with a myriad of technologies and make money doing something I love.

    If you have any questions on getting started, or on a project in general, I'd be glad to help out a fellow guru.

    One last thing (and it pains my heart to say this) - you'll have to learn PHP. After Perl, it's really no problem, but most of the projects I see listed want PHP programmers.

    James Beninger

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