Making the leap

It’s a recurring thought that has crossed my mind ever since I knew I wanted to be a developer

Wouldn’t it be cool to freelance/work remotely for yourself?

Well, wouldn’t it?

To me, it’s a daunting thought. This daunting thought has actually become much more of a reality for me recently.

This post is largely about myself and my experiences so far, but it is just as much about you and thought trains that I’m positive you have been a passenger on at one point or another. So many circles of people I talk to share this in common.

Making the switch from full-time to freelance seems to be one of trades. You lose things like full-time benefits and job security (although one could argue that if you are good at what you do, then job security wouldn’t be an issue) but I believe you gain so much, too.

I am about to embark on an exciting journey which will see me moving from Australia to England to be with my girlfriend. As a result, I have left my job and pursued a few different routes in order to secure income for when I move. I have a feeling that my journey so far has been a bit more straightforward than many others. I’d like to talk about it and hear about other people’s experiences.

My first port of call when realising that I won’t be remaining in the country for much longer was my employer. I had a fantastic relationship with my most recent employer and I was confident that I’d be able to convince them to let me work remotely for them - at the very least, on a trial basis.

Nope.

Okay, so that wasn’t going to work out. What next? I was basically stuck at a fork in the road. Do I start applying for jobs in England like crazy and hope that I can work my way through an interview process from the other side of the world and put all my eggs in that basket, or do I try something else?

I decided to try something else.

I started speaking to people. Now, I know this sounds ridiculous when stated so simply, but from my experiences I am genuinely surprised how many developers don’t just put themselves out there and talk to people.

Who are these people? Anyone.

  • You
  • Me
  • That person on the street
  • Strangers on the internet
  • Developers
  • Business owners
  • Friends
  • That friend who has an idea
  • That friend of a friend who has an idea

Anyone.

It is incredible what happens when you start talking to people. I can absolutely attest to this. I started getting put in touch with people who wanted to hear about my ideas, tell me about their ideas, or even flat out offer me work on the spot.

Other thoughts then started going through my mind. What if I started picking up freelance jobs through freelancing websites. What sort of things could come of that? At first I thought it was going to be a case of bidding on a project to be much like a mini interview for the project. Boy was I wrong. It’s a more like a sea of bots, spammers and hilariously bad projects (seriously… hilariously bad). When you do filter down to the nuggets of gold that are projects worth bidding on, you then have to contend with developers with seasoned profiles and developers who are offering to do the work for seriously low amounts of money.

It’s not all bad, though, because I do believe (warning: I’m probably going to be met with disagreement here) that a project manager who actually wants a good developer and quality work will actually realise that they can’t magically get this for next to nothing.

As of right now, I am doing ongoing development for someone who I did freelance work for and to be completely honest with you, it has been fantastic. I feel that I have freedom to go about my tasks at my own pace which is a liberating feeling. I also feel trusted. This one is a big deal for me as I feel that in many dev shops there is always going to be some divide between management and technical staff, even if you are lucky enough to have management are tech-minded.

So, why am I making this leap from full-time employment to freelance development? It sounds like I’ve mostly been negative on the idea. There is a simple reason why.

I want to.

The thought of doing this excites me. I am presented with the situation where I am moving to a new country and I have the ability to give freelance development a go. What’s the worst that could happen? There’s a simple answer to that: If it isn’t what I want to do, then I’ll just get a full-time job again. So why not?

People - myself included - who want to try this sort of thing seem to often have a mental barrier which stops them from giving this a go. The switch doesn’t necessarily have to be binary either. You could try pick up a small freelance project online. You could spend a few hours a week building your own business idea on the side. You could commit to attending a network event each month to talk to new people. Anything to help the ball rolling. Once it gather momentum, who knows where it’s going to go? This would absolutely be the biggest piece of advice I could give to people considering it. I am obviously not a veteran of the freelance world - in fact I am in my infancy in this regard - but I can certainly offer advice to people that I wish I’d known from day one.

This post is not some kind of formula for setting yourself free from full-time employment. I don’t see it that way at all. If it weren’t for full-time employment, I wouldn’t be where I am right now, I wouldn’t have met the amazing people I have and I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog post.

Please tell me how you feel about this subject in the comments. I’m all up for discussions on the matter as I know everyone has a different journey and I’d really like to hear how other people have found their full-time/freelance experiences.

-Dave