I do love the flexibility of freelancing and, at the same time, I work very hard for my clients. I do work at home and I get jazzed about heading to my customers’ offices, laboratories and sod farms (yes, a sod farm) to work on their projects. I’m all for reducing carbon emissions by commuting less in my car and when I get a contract in San Francisco where I can ride my bike to a job, I’m in heaven.
While flexible hours, working at home and reducing the daily commute are great perks of the freelance lifestyle, I have a different top three.
People, technology and progress.
I say you should get into consulting because you love to meet new people, you are excited about researching and working with the newest technologies, and you can’t wait to solve the latest problem facing a customer so you can push that business to its next most important level.
Every time I successfully complete a freelance project, I am jazzed and excited to meet the next group of thoughtful, determined, and smart people trying to solve a problem that will catapult their business to new levels. I can’t tell you how many current friends and colleagues I now have because of my many years as a consultant developing software for a variety of industries. I now have associates in the smart home industry, the golf industry and the medical industry. I have long time friends who I met consulting in forensic science and postal automation. How may people can say that? I know that anyone I work with on a project is the lifeblood of my future and they will be the ones that enhance my life for years to come. It’s thrilling to anticipate who I’ll meet next.
When you build a solution for a customer, you often get to leverage the latest technologies. Listen to this. I walked into a meeting a couple years ago and the problem was laid out before me:
“Paul, I need to build a control system where someone anywhere can visit a website and try to hit a hole in one by controlling a golf robot, a real robot that hits a golf ball on a real golf course. The golf course is located in Arizona. By the way, I want two video cameras watching the action (one for the robot, one for the green), a weather station showing local conditions, and a tracking device that watches how the golf ball flies and where it lands. I want the webpage to look like a golfing video game and I want everything to happen live — command the robot to take the shot and watch the ball fly to the hole. What do you think?”
What do I think? I think that’s one of the most awesome things I’ve ever heard of! So we built it. We used the latest web framework and server platforms and the latest wireless video streaming. Of course we had to use tried and true TCP sockets and serial connections, too. Then we added an Android interface so users can control the robot wirelessly from a tablet using the latest Android OS. That is a cool project that I loved working on. So many pieces, so many new and proven technologies that had to come together to make the whole thing work. Bleeding edge development and its best.
The third major reason I love contracting is because I can devote focused, intense energy to help businesses achieve that next necessary goal that allows them to take off. Completing the golf project raised my customer to his next level. From what we accomplished, he was able to present a fully functioning product to investors and partners that opened up doors he never would have gone through without a working solution. That is a thrill.
That’s what contracting is to me. People, technology and progress.
So we know how rewarding, productive and energizing freelance work can be. Let’s spend a bit of time to recognize the less appealing side: finding the next gig. If you’ve ever been a freelancer, you know that you work your smartest, put your whole self into a project, then celebrate with the client when you’re done. That feels good.
There are two ways this goes. Either, once you finish a project, you spend full time ramping up search efforts to find your next contract or you spend your nights and weekends during a project to keep up your networking efforts and make sure you roll right into that next contract. Either of those scenarios is a good amount of extra work and can produce unwanted gaps in income or leave you sleep deprived, or both.
To solve this problem for myself, I’ve contacted Toptal App Engineering Network, the “exclusive network of the top freelance software developers and designers in the world.” Toptal promises to provide top talent to businesses that need expert, experienced, highly productive developers that know how to get the job done well. My first screening interview is scheduled so I’m just starting down the path of becoming one of their next top talent resources. The promise of working with Toptal, who will ease the burden of finding the next awesome contract, means that I can look forward to spending more time developing the projects that I love.
Stay tuned… I’ll let you know how it all works out.