I am a lot quieter on the Internet

Learned or Re-Learned in My First 60ish days as a Freelancer

Though it’s only been 60ish days [1], I have finished a few projects,some done well, maybe one done not-so-well. As I have battled my way through the fog of war, I think I have learned a few things worth mentioning. I have learned where I stand on the issue of payment: hourly or fixed-bid — with one possible exception. I re-learned that over-communicating is better than under-communicating. Finally, maybe most importantly, I learned that even when you lack any motivation to get things done, you can get things done.

Now, this isn’t all I learned. Freelancing has already been fantastic for my education and evolution as a developer. These are the notable,might-be-fun-to-discuss things. On to the show:

Fixed Bids > Hourly Work…

After 60ish days, I’ve decided a fixed bid is better than an hourly arrangement. One pro is the customer knows how much it’s going to cost beforethe project starts, which, it seems to me, typically results in a more comfortable customer. When the customer is more comfortable, I am more comfortable. Surprises can be fun, but not so much surprise invoices. Another check in the fixed-bid column is I can require 50% of the project’s cost upfront, which makes me happy, confident, comfortable, and excited to get started on the project.

I also enjoy the opportunity to attempt to “beat” my bid. In other words, I want to be more efficient than I thought I could be when I made the bid. I want to win. I want to deliver the same high quality final product the customer expects more efficiently than I thought I would. I think people call that a WIN/WIN. This is the primary reason I like fixed bid projects.

That said…

Except When Things Goes Awry

When a project is in a bad way, piling up like so many cars on a busy freeway, it’s easy to think “clearly I should only do hourly arrangements because: Wow! This sucks.” This is an obvious reaction, but, man, it is strong. It can also further sap your motivation, your gumption, as you begin resenting every hour you’re spending on that project. However, the things you can learn on a Pile-Up Project constitute a whole post of their own. A Pile-UpProject is a great chance to learn things that will be useful inwinning the next project.

So, forget it, fixed bid is still the greater.

Over-communicating is Way Better Than Under-communicating

Not asking questions that need answered, assuming an answer to a question you didn’t ask, and worrying about being annoying by asking too many questions are all things that I should not do. I know those. I knew those. I must have forgotten those. I re-learned them in the past 60ish days. You know a sure-fire way to create a Pile-Up Project? Do those things. Man, I’m angry about this. It doesn’t matter how many times it happens, I hate realizing I am repeating mistakes. Hate it. What is the consequence of over-communicating? What is the consequence of annoying someone? If the project gets done well, they’re going to forget they were annoyed. They might even be stoked about it. Over-communicate. Just… over-communicate. Honestly, it is easy.

I Can’t Always Be Motivated to Get Stuff Done, But I Can Always Get Stuff Done

I do not always sit down at my desk anxious to begin the day, excited to work on what it is that I need to work on that day. Some days, I don’t want to even think about the project about which I must absolutely think that day. You can’t always have that gumption [2]. You can always get stuff done, though. It’s difficult, and I’m not great at it. It is most difficult when I’ve just poured my coffee, opened my laptop, and realized I’ll probably have to put in 12 hours that day. Shit. If I don’t do something simple, like grab an index card and write down a list of things I need to get done, the day could go quite poorly. You know what I do every morning now? I grab a freakin’ index card and write down what I need to get done.

I Cannot Wait to Learn More

I think I have learned some valuable things, and I am very excited to learn more in the next 60ish days. I suspect that freelancing is an incredibly effective way to learn stuff, as it is very much a classic “sink or swim” situation, a trial by fire, probably yet another cliché that I cannot recall at the moment. Maybe the most important nugget, though, is that it is a lot of fun.

[1] – It’s been more than 60 days now, but this essay was conceived at around day 63.

[2] – I am warming up a post about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which speaks to gumption (approximately motivation) and its blockers.

Thank you to Dave Jones and Mike Rogers for reviewing, critiquing, and helping me to revise this essay.