Freelancing is Deadly, Like a Chainsaw pt 1.

Have you heard about The Micropreneur Manifesto by Rob Walling? Neither had I until I ran into this post from Dave Donaldson (@arcware). If you haven’t read Dave’s blog before, you really really should.

Anyway, one of the maxims states the following:

#4 | Freelancing is Dangerous

As you look for a way out of our job you may be tempted by a seemingly easy way out: freelancing. You might have heard that doing freelance work is a great way to break free. Maybe you’ve even taken the plunge.

Every corporate cog dreams of doing freelance work because they think it consists of working in a coffee shop with attractive baristas serving free lattes, cutting a deal on your cell phone just before logging off for the day around noon to go catch a matinee.

The real story is getting a call at 7pm on Friday from an angry client telling you that their site hasn’t been updated, or the server going down at midnight and having to take care of it while you’re on vacation.

With freelance work, you essentially trade your one boss for many—except now they’re called clients. And they don’t pay for health care or vacation days, or worry about your job satisfaction. Some won’t even feel obligated to pay you for the work you’ve done.

So while it may seem tempting, freelancing typically results in working more hours, not less. Which means it will take you that much longer to get your product launched.

Now Rob isn’t wrong, this is exactly what can happen to you when you freelance. Your crazy demanding boss becomes twelve crazy demanding clients. You client doesn’t pay for the hours you bill. You’re working on the weekends and fielding phone calls over dinner while your spouse glares at you in stoney silence. If this is your life right now, let me extend out a friendly hand to you . . .

. . and slap you hard in the face.

Because it’s your fault. Because you trained your clients to be that way. They’re emailing/calling you at all hours because they know you’ll respond, because you’ve responded all those times before. They don’t pay your invoices because you’ve placed deployed their code on their servers before you’ve collected payment. They don’t pay because you haven’t billed them for time spent fixing bugs/defects in the code, because all those times before you’ve felt guilty and fixed it “just this once.”

I’ve been there, that was me my first year and a half. I spent so much time dealing with this one client my nine month savings runway dwindled to four weeks and I was a stressed out wreck.

Until I had enough, I had to fire them and take a long hard look at what I had done wrong.

And that’s where Rob’s bleak world of freelancing hell falls apart. As a freelancer, the greatest tool you have is the ability to set the conditions of your work. You decide who to work with, how much you want to get paid (notice the phrasing, it’s what *you* want to get paid) and the schedule of when the work is completed. The best time to negotiate these terms is at the start of the project; set the boundaries at the beginning of the working relationship, and enforce those boundaries throughout the course of the project (and after). You also get to fire your client if things get to a point where you can no longer continue.

That’s what I did, I fired a client that stayed with me as I went from a part-time freelancer to full-time. I took on small projects with a faster turn around, adopted tools that would help me add value to my clients that didn’t involve a lot of custom development. I learned how to ask for a higher rate, maintenance retainers, and set a timeline for payment in installments (it’s easier than you think). I also learned to say ‘no’ to clients/projects that didn’t fit my new work style. In a year, I had climbed myself out of the hole I dug for myself and started putting money back into savings.

I began to understand something about freelancing. It’s a chainsaw, wielded correctly it can quickly cut down a forest of obstacles between you and your goals. If you use it incorrectly, you can just as quickly chop off your own legs.

In the next post I’ll talk about how you can use freelancing to help you launch your product.

EECI Talk: Extending your ExpressionEngine add-ons with KnockoutJS

Now that I have a blog like a real Internet person, here is my talk from last October at EECI 2012. If you haven’t heard, EECI is a large annual conference for ExpressionEngine and CodeIgniter users. 2012 was my first conference and the first conference where I was a speaker. Being a speaker at a conference was a great experience and I learned some important things:

  • When you’re a speaker, people are more likely to make the first move and introduce themselves. I’m an introvert, so people coming up to me to make introductions really helped me network.
  • Don’t code live onscreen, just don’t. Also lots code is pretty boring, so keep the code samples down to a minimum
  • Have a good idea of the experience level of your audience, too basic and you could lose a significant portion of your audience
  • Focus on answering the WHY in your talk, not really the HOW or the WHAT. If they’re interested, they’ll do the legwork after the conference
  • Load your deck online FIRST
  • Record the audio of your talk, you’ll learn a lot about how you speak and present.
  • Be funny, but be careful to not alienate your audience and be “edgy”

Anyway it was a great experience and I hope to speak at this year’s EECI as well. I’ve attached my KnockoutJS talk below and the audio recording. Enjoy!

My story

Yesterday at Venture Cafe, Brian Zuercher, CEO/Founder of Venuseen had a big ask for us at the table and anyone trying to build a startup business in Columbus.

Tell your story

When I started Anecka almost three years ago I didn’t have much of a plan really. I had some money saved up, a pink slip from my previous job (yes I was fired, that’s a different story), a green light from my then-girlfriend-now-wife, a fresh hole in my heart from losing my mom to cancer three months before, and a determination that I had to stop talking about going on my own and just do it.

In the past three years I’ve

A lot has happened in three years, last year I beat what I was making at my corporate job. That was the moment I figured I’d be okay. I hope to offer other freelancers & microprenuers some hope & insight on how to turn a desire to do something great into reality.