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Ask HN: How to become a remote contractor?
311 points by zerego on May 11, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 160 comments
I'm a javascript developer working in London and I want to become a remote contractor so I can travel the world while working remotely. Where can I find people or companies that can help me getting into the world of contracting and even be a intermediary? Is anyone in this situation that want to share how they did it and how is going?

I've quit my day job in 2012, found a contract with a great client on Upwork (forget how it was called at the time). Initially a 6 months project, I've worked with them for 2 years.

Got a few other contracts off that site, until one day I've asked one of my main clients to move out of that platform and work with me directly. Worked with them 2 years, until I got an offer in January to become a full time technical director and shareholder.

What I've learn contracting:

1. Increase your rates. Make them non-negotiable. There's people that are ready to pay for quality. If a client asks you to lower your rate, they probably aren't a good client in the first place.

2. Increase your rates every year, as you get more experience and technical knowledge.

3. Upwork was bad, and now is even worse. Move out of those kind of sites ASAP, when you can trust your client.

4. If you do good work, you'll have old clients pinging you once in a while with new opportunities. So, do outstanding work, and you won't have to look for new contracts as much.

5. Don't be afraid to learn. Try not to specialise too much. Generalists/full stack devs are very sought after. You'll start a contract as a web developer and soon you'll be doing DB optimisation and securing their infrastructure.

6. Increase your rates.

> 5. Don't be afraid to learn. Try not to specialise too much. Generalists/full stack devs are very sought after. You'll start a contract as a web developer and soon you'll be doing DB optimisation and securing their infrastructure.

Nice tips but I don't agree with this point.

Being specialized makes you stand out from the crowd and being "the person who does <foo> in the <bar> industry using his extensive knowledge in <baz>". Otherwise you are just "the person who does <computer-stuff> for all industries".

I agree that it's simpler to not be picky at the beginning but later on you should specialize - not just in technology but also in an industry.

I agree to disagree :) you might be right, that point is mostly a personal opinion.

My personal goal and career path has always been to be a jack of all trades, I even entertained the idea of explicitly writing that in my resume.

One might prefer to specialise in something instead, and master it well. That's absolutely fine, I just happen to love to learn about anything, mostly because I easily get bored if I'm on the same thing too long.

It's suited me fine, but it's definitely not the Only Way to be a consultant.

> 1. Increase your rates. Make them non-negotiable. There's people that are ready to pay for quality. If a client asks you to lower your rate, they probably aren't a good client in the first place.

What if you're mediocre, though?

It depends on which vector you deem yourself mediocre. If you think your technical skills are mediocre and want to be a technical contractor, then focus on being a great solutions provider.

And by "solutions provider," I mean take the time to deeply understand the root causes of your clients' problems, then help them find the actual solutions. Sometimes these solutions are not even technical, which is totally okay. Clients will love that you're helping them solve problems in addition to providing technical services.

I can write code that works, finish features, and I'm pretty good at debugging. I can also teach/encourage others without condescending, ask good questions, and explain a problem clearly technically and non-technically (once I understand it myself).

I guess I'm mediocre in that it consistently seems to take me 8-10 hours to finish jobs that come with a 4 hour time estimate (my company is big on estimates). I'm also pretty sloppy - code reviewers routinely catch minor errors that I should have known better than to commit.

I have the experience, way too often, of using some feature that I pushed months or years ago and learning that it's, like, haunted or something. Doesn't work the way it's supposed to at all. Obvious failures that I should never have called "done".

When it comes to building a complete product, from start to finish, I mostly can't get past MVP stage (talking about personal projects in this case). And I once spent over a month trying to update the version of TinyMCE for a CMS that I was working on, and did not succeed. I literally got another job and left the company with that task unfinished. The new job pays double, and I still feel like a bit of a fraud.

And yeah, I'm writing "bog-standard PHP" as the other commenter put it. I've tried to get work in other languages to diversify my skillset, and haven't succeeded. At this point I'm starting to not care anymore - I like PHP just fine, loose typing be damned, and I'm starting to think I want to move out of technical roles rather than improve my language skills.

If you like dealing with clients (and it sounds like you may be patient enough to be good at doing this), you could try your hand at being a project manager and managing several development contractors for the projects you get from your clients. I built a web development agency like this several years ago.

Basically, you start with the same clients that have been hiring you, then tell them you can assemble a team of developers to help get their project done, and all they have to do is work through you as the main point of contact.

This is easier said than done, of course. Starting with existing clients is a nice way to jump-start this kind of a business, but you'll need to find more clients eventually. There's also a whole arena of skills you'll need to develop in terms of recruiting, account management, and project management too.

This isn't for everyone. But someone with technical skills has a vast advantage in such a role over someone who doesn't, with all other skills being equal.

Just an option to consider as you think about moving out of a technical role.

I think I'd like to be a project manager, but honestly I'd be happy doing it at my day job. Any suggestions for how to show people that you can do that kind of job?

I suggest checking out the book "The Passionate Programmer".

There's a general focus in that book about building your personal brand in an organization so you basically have leverage to do what you want.

Beyond that, the short answer is to assume the role. Take on a PM-like presence amongst your team if you haven't already - ie. help any PMs you're currently working with on small tasks, ease their burden where you can - then have a candid discussion with your supervisor at some point about how you can see yourself in such a role.

I totally agree with everything brandall10's written. I've always found that "act as if" can be a powerful tool, except perhaps in dysfunctional organizations. In other words, "act as if" you're already a project manager. And you'll definitely need to let your manager know about this career aspiration too.

If you want to do this as a remote contractor, then I think your options are:

1) Look for an existing dev agency that needs remote project managers.

2) Start your own dev agency.

keep building new stuff, on side in addition to your job (which is usually borring/monotonous). concentrating on details. Once you've spent 10k hours on programming it'd just come naturally to you. You'd be amaised how magically and naturally you can solve complex problems. This is an unfailing formula of attaining mastery in literally anything you can imagine [0].

0: https://www.amazon.com/Outliers-Story-Success-Malcolm-Gladwe...

Why a contractor has to be great but the one who is enjoying his service, should not be the "most generous" person?

You see the irony? Appear weak and someone will own you. Appear strong, you'll own them. Simple.

Then you belong in the cubicle. Stay there until you are good. (Which won’t happen automatically, you have to put in the work.)

This isn't true. Very few people are bad across the board -- find your strengths (as other commenters have said) and focus on those.

It's better to be excellent in one or two areas, especially ones your passionate about than solid across the board. If you suck at something and it's causing problems, that's a different story -- but don't get stuck on comparing yourself to others.

I wish I could downvote this comment. Please ignore it.

Quite a few people don't have enough skills to freelance. Either because they don't have that one skill in high demand, or they lack the drive to network and sell themselves. These people will just become miserable trying to make a living without a steady employer.

Increase your rates regardless. Clients don't know, or really care, about quality so long as what you build works.

Where quality is important is in keeping your costs low. Having to revisit old code to fix bugs or trying to work with bad code to add features has very little impact on your client. It affects you. Strive to write good code for your own sake.

Plus, if you take on fixed price projects writing code you don't need to go back to really increases your profit.

> so long as what you build works.

You mean, ships on time.

You should still aim for charging quite a bit higher than what you think is reasonable. There are an awful lot of bad developers, so even mediocre is probably fine. I've had consulting gigs where I've charged $200 an hour to answer a survey as a domain expert, and I learned later that I probably undercharged. People will pay, don't worry about that.

If you land a job that you feel got a bit close for comfort, lower your rates and re-calibrate. But assess why before selling yourself cheap - was it really beyond your skill? Did you just need more time? Don't forget that if you charge more, you can better devote your time to those projects. If you charge less you have to spread yourself more thinly to remain solvent.

I can’t imagine any professional setting I’ve been in, where firing up the machinery to get a consultant in place would be worth $200. Conversely I’ve been in many situations where an expert reading one page of text and nodding (with a follow up email) was worth several thousand dollars.

If there is a list of annoying false things technology people believe about business, this notion that bill rates track technical ability would have to be near the top of it.

Your rate has almost nothing to do with how good a programmer you are. Sorry, excellent programmers who've had a hard time getting consultancies launched.

Your bill rate roughly† tracks how much value you provide to your client. "Value" is complicated and situational. For programming work, for most clients, extreme technical excellence is of marginal value. Clients that engage third party developers tend to see software as a cost center and/or are simply trying to solve a business problem. They care about how quickly that problem can be workably solved, and (please take notes:) how predictable the costs are.

You can be thoroughly mediocre at programming and an excellent business value, if your mediocre code solves business problems people will allocate budget for and if you can deliver it predictably. If you can deliver predictably and fast, you can ship bog-standard PHP code and charge integer multiples of what a much better developer might implement in Rust or Haskell.

The market tends to pay a premium for problem domain specialization, and less of a premium for elite skill.

None of this much matters for someone just getting their feet wet trying to get their first couple clients. Do whatever gets you started. But get out of the habit of convincing yourself that you have to qualify somehow to charge more money. Even the consultants who are constantly telling people to raise their rates are also not charging enough. I'm a varsity member of team "raise your rates" and I thought we were undercharging 4 years ago. Since then, FTE rates have gone through the ceiling and our rates have not scaled with them. It is very unlikely that any consultant chatting about consulting on HN is charging their real market rate.

I have one bit of bad news for you: if you want to make a career out of being a contractor or consultant, you need to get off freelancing sites ASAP. It's fine to get started there, but you're not developing your practice in any meaningful way as long as you're using them; you're just getting better at slinging code (which doesn't earn you better rates!), while radically undercharging clients. Getting off freelancing sites is rough, because freelancing sites tend to provide a comparatively stable revenue stream, and real consulting revenue is lumpy. If you've never experienced "lumpy" before: it's (a) terrifying and (b) really easy to screw up, by assuming you're flush with cash when really you've effectively just been pre-paid for the next N quarters.

Some people reasonably don't want to work under lumpy consulting conditions. Better you figure that problem out for yourself early rather than wasting your time pretending, or, worse, forgoing a fuckload of income by chaining yourself to freelance sites.

† Roughly because most serious clients allocate a budget that establishes a range of what they're willing to pay to solve a problem, and an invisible component of that budget is how much work they're willing to put in to sourcing a contractor --- the first credible contractor they talk to might win the deal, meaning there's no competition to aid price discovery. Corollary: one way to "provide value" and charge a premium is to be easy to source. Something that people who build consulting firms, the kind with lots of consultants, learn quickly: clients put a premium on firms that are always available.

Thomas, you talk a lot about raising your rates and I believe your points are valid.

How do you go (being completely remote) from nothing to have a high quality client (as in corp/high net startup).

Take these into consideration:

- Can live off savings for the next 2 years.

- Can expense 3/4 travel costs for US/EU/Asia.

- Can setup offshore US/HK company and bank accounts.

- Doesn't mind if the process take 2-4-6-8 months.

- Doesn't mind traveling, staying late, taking calls anytime, etc.. if it can give me an edge.

What are the steps to take to land the first whale. Also, I have the following skills: Cryptography/Security (still a beginner), Blockchain (somewhat good), DevOps (medium), Web Development (Pretty good experience).

Bear in mind pretty much most of my clients before were low quality clients (making wordpress sites for the average business, made me decent money but only for the cheapness of the country I live in).

Would appreciate any advice!

In parallel:

1) Produce publicly visible artifacts which demonstrate that you're able to apply technology to impact business outcomes. You do not need many of these; ~3 is fine. You do not need to block on the other steps. You do need to plausibly connect the technology to a business outcome; blockchain and beginner-level cryptography probably do not get you there.

2) Begin getting into conversations with people who either a) have purchasing authority or b) talk to people with purchasing authority, at your target clients or firms very similar to them. This can be as simple as bonding over technical things with technical people. You want to become Internet buddies with e.g. senior engineers / team leads / etc at software companies.

3) Walk the network of your new friends to engagements, either at their firms or peer firms. Do not make another WordPress site for the average business; make something for a software company.

4) For every engagement you land, attempt to get referrals to more clients, attempt to land follow-on work with the same client, and attempt to land ongoing maintenance/retainer/etc agreements with the client.

And then: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4247615

1) How can I find out what to build if I don't have any significant corporate experience. I don't necessary like to work for software companies but I just have no clues of what "sells". (That is on a corporate level. Both services and products).

2) How do I get into conversations with decision makers? Cold approaches? I know I'm a decision maker for buying a sofa for my living room. But I get to discuss with the seller because I'm in his shop? How do I get to discuss with him if he doesn't have that shop to trap me there.

If you like podcasts, there’s a great one by Kai Davis and Nick Disabato called Make Money Online. I can also recommend the Indiehackers podcast. The greatest insight to effort would probably be The Personal MBA by Josh Kauffman, a really great business book. What sells is solving expensive problems or making companies with lots of money better or more efficient at making money. You can get into conversations with decision makers by cold emailing people saying that you’d like to buy them coffee and talk about their business. Lots of them are busy and will not reply or say no. Some will say yes. These are informational interviews not sales calls because you don’t have anything to sell yet. Or you could go to your local chamber of commerce meeting and talk to people.

One recent Indie Hackers episode had Nathan Barry on. He swore by the tactic of doing presentations on a topic that would be useful to small business owners at chamber of commerce meetings, collecting emails and adding people to a mailing list. Apparently most of the leads he got didn’t convert themselves but they referred other people who did. All for the price of free coffee and donuts, a presentation and time.

I would go farther and say that rates are uncorrelated to skill. Like actually zero.

Rates have much more to do with how in-demand the provider is relative to their ability to deliver. And a big part of "in-demand" has to do with how you market yourself, the quality of your network, and other non-work product factors.

I've seen mediocre to really bad people getting paid $3000/day for their mediocrity and not delivering results.

Increase your rates.

For how many workdays in row?

For over a year.

You are making a huge mistake assuming that everyone has ability to tell a mediocre from a 10x engineer, which is patently false assumption to begin with.

Market has information asymmetry baked in. Not everyone is informed, that's where you earn your bucks.

Doesn’t matter. People pay too much for broken crap all of the time.

Persistence and QA. Find your own mistakes before someone else does.

You can produce quality work.

What does mediocre mean?

What I have found on upwork is the smaller the contract amount the more difficult the client and more likely to get a dispute.

40 dollar for a small task seems to be a magical cutoff point where any task less has a checklist of dozens of smaller tasks bundled in.

800 seems to be the level where above that you can expect some professional-ness

Excellent advice. Imposter syndrome is very real and can cause people to low ball themselves but people should be asking for far more than they think. A contractor has to cover every benefit for himself and build a nest egg for downtime to boot.

But for a new contractor what to charge seems to be the struggle. I exited contracting when the .com bubble burst. These days I'd want to charge double my previous rate, possibly more.

Upwork previously was oDesk AFAIK.

Elance-oDesk, it came out of their merger.

Isn’t it against your contract with upwork to move off the platform with a client?

Upwork makes you jump through code challenge hoops and competes you against people in countries where $1/hr is kingly. Doesn't exactly engender loyalty.

Wait, Upwork gives you a preemptive code challenge just for you to promote your business (since self-employment is a business)?


From another perspective, upwork gives people in low-incinr countries a chance to work for companies in high-income countries without winning a lottery and leaving their families behind.

Therefore upwork directly improves equality of opportunity in the world.

It's more expensive to live in a society with rule of law and basic services. But that doesn't mean we should encourage the alternative.

I can only hope the transfer of wealth accomplishes some greater flourishing of human rights across the world as well.

Upwork terms of service require you to funnel funds through them for 2 years, then you are free to move elsewhere. Upwork also allows for early leaving if you pay a fee of $3500 or some other number based on crazy calculations.


1) who cares? And,

2) what could they possibly go about it?

Ban you from the platform, which is what they do often. According to them, they own the relationship between you and your client.

I'm a digital nomad who as in the same position. I couldn't find contract work for high-skill engineers. So, I started building a marketplace for it. Today that's Moonlight - we are still small, bootstrapped, and growing, but we have companies ranging from startups to a publicly-traded company hiring through the site. Hourly rates average a little over $100US.


I've been on Moonlight since it has launched and has not panned out very well for me. I'm in that ballpark of rates and most projects have been duds. Only 1 lead to a prospect and he balked on the rate (again, in the ballpark of what Phil is advertising here).

Thanks for being on Moonlight! We have been working hard to increase the number of jobs. It's been about doubling month over month and has been our #1 focus. We are working on a lot of product and marketing initiatives focused on that.

It looks like you've submitted a few proposals - unfortunately, half of the jobs stopped before selecting a developer. If we had more posts on the site, getting declined would be more of a numbers game and less noticeable. Still, keep at it - looks like you have two open matches right now!

The good news is that, among people who get selected for jobs, they often get rehired again and again by the same client.

I'll give it a shot again in 6 months. I've since landed a contract (not related to the platform) but my gut is that my effort was not worth it. I got much better results from my own local networking at higher rates.

Clarification: 3 of the 7 projects you applied to were canceled without selecting a project - but this isn't a representative sample.

How have those projects been duds?

They either ask for a dev and then take it back (half of the time, according to Phil above), or my guess is they think I'm too expensive (and yet, I'm still priced less than the average that you see for a senior front-end/rails developer). The proposals I submit are highly targeted - what they need is exactly what I can provide. And yet only 1 proposal has lead to a statement of work, and they rejected it.

Whereas a serious amount of networking locally yielded me a 10% pay increase and a 6 month contract.

I think this is why you get all of this advice saying that these kinds of sites are a race to the bottom and not worth investing too much time into.

Neat site, I just signed up...hopefully I can find a neat company to do some additional work with (working for a college is great from a stability perspective, but it doesn't always force you into the most interesting of projects...so the ones I come up with I have to find time for outside of the normal day to day work stuff that comes up...hopefully if I can find a good company to do some extra work for it'll help provide an outlet for me to continue my personal growth :-).

Definitely! It's a great way to experiment with technologies that you are passionate about, or use open-source libraries that you have been working on!

Looks great ! Just hope your product or Stripe would provide payment system to more countries as soon as possible. Looking forward to join.

Just a word of warning. I signed up and their signup process requires you to link your card or bank account with stripe. And then the nightmare starts when you want to have access to the account at stripe. Stripe says you need to contact moonlight, moonlight says you need to contact stripe. I asked both of them to cancel my account. Moonlight replied that they cancelled it but stripe says they still have it and I can't get it cancelled. So yeah once you sign up your payment account is at the will of moonlight website.

Reminds me of that friends episode when Chandler tries to quit the gym LOL.

What differentiates you from freelancer.com and upwork.com?

The Problem at freelancer.com (currently testing that) is that it is hard to differentiate yourself as a good contractor it seems more like quantity then quality. However isn't that just the result from getting big?

Maybe there is an inherent stochastic process in freelancing platforms that lowers the average rate as more people get on it. So your main challenge should be to avoid that but that seems like a hard problem.

Toptal does screening, which does not scale, Upwork and Freelancer do nothing (or do upselling via courses, bid-boosts, etc.).

Awesome. Can you share with us how it's going with getting more clients on your platform to hire contractors? I know competing with upwork and toptal must be a challenge.

Yes! It's our #1 focus. We continually experiment with marketing and product changes to increase the number of jobs. The good news is that, when a client starts hiring, they are likely to work again with their contractors, and they are very to post additional jobs using Moonlight. We launched three months ago, and the money we pay out to contractors has about doubled every month since then, and we are on track for another record week this week.

Would be great if you give hint about how much info/time is need to complete the signup on the developer onboarding page: https://www.moonlightwork.com/onboarding/developer

That's reasonable - thanks for bringing it up. Our #1 focus right now is improving the client experience to get more jobs on Moonlgiht, but redoing the developer onboarding experience is next up on the list. I've logged your feedback for that project!

I am still waiting for cryptocurrency or Paypal support. Stripe is not supported in my country.

We looked at cryptocurrency very closely. Basically, money laundering laws and slow adoption of crypto among businesses make it really hard to get adoption among clients: https://www.moonlightwork.com/blog/cryptocurrency-and-compan...

I have a moral opposition to Paypal after using it personally, but we are looking at solutions such as Payoneer to expand country support!

It's worth pointing out that you can incorporate in Estonia or the USA (e.g. through Stripe Atlas) to get access to Stripe.

+1 for more countries. Wrt incorporating in Estonia, I suppose while bringing money from there to my home country, I might be liable for more taxes...

Really nice. I signed up. I have a question: why are you forcing me to setup stripe in the signup phase? I would prefer to do it later (when I get some work). Of course getting paid would be a priority for me, but not now.

It's mainly identity verification and fraud reduction. The whole app strongly relies on Stripe Connect, so we also want to make sure you can get paid automatically.


Signing up, to give it a try. I've got a FT day job but have been wanting to try to crack the nut of how to land a contracting position on the side for a while now.

Just signed up :D Thanks!

I 55 and have worked remote many times during my career (including currently). The best way I've found is to work onsite initially and dazzle them. Then when the contract is up tell them you are willing to continue remote.

I have done this so many times that now, it's my default routine. "Dazzling" includes not only the work that I do for them, but also by doing it as if I were already remote. Writing emails, requirements, specs, and reports becomes as important as writing code...

- impeccably written emails detailing everything about every project and keeping everyone in the loop

- documenting every issue, question, and plan of action via email, letting nothing fall through the cracks

- status reports like clockwork

- precision on requirements and specs, spelling everything out, leaving nothing to chance

- a great attitude and team player (barf barf) in writing

Do these things and insist that others do (along with all you other dazzling work) and they'll have no excuses not to keep you when you decide to go remote. They'll already know you're a "professional".

Upvoted! This is absolutely the way to do it; then, once you've built up your "remote work portfolio" things get much easier

If the organisation is not setup for remote work you will sign yourself up for hell.

I guess it can work if you work alone and with high autonomy.

For many jobs just having someone say "yeah fine" is not good enough for success.

I agree this way is difficult to help you catch truly remote-first job, as requirement of sitting butt in an office contradicts it.

I recommend screening company with Glassdoor (WFH hints etc.) and at interview asking about communication/collaboration tools in use, remote teams etc.

Nowadays there is a large middle ground of companies which have globaly distributed offices. They may ask you to show up for some initial period to gain trust and mix into culture - definitely important for a long-term cooperation. Afterwards switching to remote is like relocating to different office but staying in the same project, which is pretty common practice. Tested myself several times.


I'd always negotiated remote work upfront, but doing it this way is clever.

The key insight is to have a better alternative if they say no. You have to be in the position to speak authoritatively about your subject matter to the extent that your client realizes your time is too valuable for tire kickers. Make the case that your best work is done on your terms. It's not that you don't want to negotiate it, there is simply no mechanism for you to provide the advertised services in suboptimal working conditions.

If you have no plan b, this tactic loses all of it's teeth.

It may make you feel dirty, but get on LinkedIn and connect with a bunch of recruiters. This is literally what they are there for. My LI feed and inbox are a constant stream of contracting opportunities in London, and a (small, admittedly) percentage of them are remote.

(Of course, they're no use to me, as I'm very happy as a mostly-remote startup CTO, but these opportunities are out there.)

Contracting tends to be something that's hard to break into but easier once you're there - what people want to see on a CV is previous contracting experience. So even if your first gigs aren't remote, they may help you in the long run.

I do this, too. Unfortunately, recruiters suffer from two really big problems for a contractor:

1. They take a cut, a very big cut, of your hourly or daily rate. Thus, to the client, you seem very expensive, and to you, you seem cheaper than you should be. It becomes a new effort to maneuver a proper rate.

2. Recruiters suffer from the fact that they are salespeople, and salespeople often intuitively omit information for fear they'd lose the deal. So they operate the same way as they do for employee recs. Here's a concrete example: several times in the last several months, I received offers of "contract to hire" even though the recruiter told me it was contract only. They failed to tell the client I was contract-only, and they failed to tell me it was a contract-to-hire. Believe me, they knew. Then the inevitable question, where I have to be careful not to be too mean in the response, "Can I ask you why you want to stay as a contractor? It's a really exciting company and there's stock opt... yadda yadda." For a contractor doing it right, every invoice is a bonus or an opportunity to purchase stocks with no vesting and no strings. :-)

> Recruiters suffer from the fact that they are salespeople ...

reminds me of the real estate agent trick of posting a listing for a home that's too good to be true. when a potential buyer calls that agent, the agent says the home is no longer available, but asks "are you currently working with an agent?"

God I've had people do that to me with dogs. No, I will not be conversing with you further about spending $1000 more on a dog I don't at all want.

I heard you can go greener and get the best deals on the used dogs market.

I (think I) 100% understand the snark, but that’s usually where I’m looking. Not in the aforementioned situation though. So good call?

On a side note— with Toronto salaries we can’t afford a dog anyway outside of getting to come home midday to walk it. Walker fees run close to $500 a month. I’m in love with the rescue Korean Jindos though. They’re like goofier huskies. I just can’t help but look.

I'm really surprised that so many employers use the middle man to find contractors. How do you tap into that market and skip the middle man? Seems like a win-win to me. (Except for the recruiter who's left out in the cold)

It's a critical question you're asking and one I'm actively exploring. It's a huge, huge pay difference if you eliminate these middle men. I think networking plays a massive role in it. I'm not a famous speech giver at conferences nor do I have an online presence past a simple tech blog I don't have time to update. However, it seems people sometimes want to work with me again and pay me for it. I'm learning now the value of this, because there aren't enough yet of these connections. I also lost contact with many people over many years as an FTE.

Conspiracy theory: Follow the money and you will usually find that the staffing firm or consultancy has a "good old boys" relationship with the employer. I've seen it personally, but I don't buy in to the idea that it's pervasive or even occuring more than 20% of the time.

Of course, in the world of sales, those relationships can form quickly. Even if you've never heard of me and my staffing firm, I can present you tickets to a concert or golf tournament, or something similar, and win (buy) favor fairly easily.

Most of these middleman staffing firms are not really differentiated from one another. They find a client and leech on to it.

Yes, this. A lot of recruiting goes through LinkedIn.

I did this building a small agency in the marketing and ad space.

Happy to advise on specifics but in general here’s how we did it:

Build up a portfolio of content (since we develop content) that shows we know what we’re doing.

Go on speaking circuit for your niche and give lectures on your expertise.

Take whatever comes your way for first few deals. Always get a solid statement of work & contract.

Rinse and repeat. If you’re ok with going slower this works well. I manage a team of 9 now and after some serious time spent training them I mostly just approve work and put out fires with clients.

> Build up a portfolio of content (since we develop content) that shows we know what we’re doing. Go on speaking circuit for your niche and give lectures on your expertise.

Cannot emphasize this enough. I started a database blog years ago, and built it up into a 5-person remote consulting firm. Inbound marketing is king: build up your brand and people will bring you exactly the projects you want, for life (rather than you having to seek out work and settle for stuff you don't really want to begin with.)

Mind sharing a link to your blog (if it's still active)? Thanks :)

> Mind sharing a link to your blog (if it's still active)? Thanks :)

It seems to be there: https://www.brentozar.com/blog/

Bam. Inbound marketing seems to go well, a HNer just linked to the blog by inspecting the HN profile the consultant put on HN ... ;)

Hahaha, it’s true.

Also work entirely remote. Maybe 15% of my time is spent in the same city as cofounder. 85% is spent in others. Slack works best for communication.

8 employees are spread across world.

We actually have a few interviewers at Karat who are doing exactly what you're doing. (Disclaimer in case it wasn't clear: I work at Karat :)) It's remote contract work, but we find the work for you, so you don't need to spend any time finding clients etc. This can be really helpful for contractors who are just starting out like yourself, or for existing contractors who are looking to supplement their work.

At a high level how it works is: You put availability on your calendar; we schedule you for interviews in those slots. You can set as much or as little availability as you want week to week, at any time of day. The interviewing is all online, so you can do it from wherever you want as long as you've got a quiet location and a reliable high-bandwidth internet connection.

All we look for are solid technical chops and interpersonal skills, though prior interviewing experience is great. We train you on how to conduct interviews (generally takes about 25 hours including mentoring and practice interviews); training is paid and again on your own schedule. The only real restriction is that we ask that you be able to interview 10 hours a week on average, just because otherwise the time investment and ongoing training stop making sense.

If that sounds interesting you can apply here: https://jobs.lever.co/karat/d44ab283-c7c0-4bbd-b8c3-4dc0ced6...

Also happy to answer any questions about it here or via email: josh@karat.io

I don't quite understand the proposition. Why would I need to do 10 hours of interviews per week?

First, I think my first post left out some context so I should be a bit more explicit that the job is being an interviewer: You interview software engineering candidates on behalf of our clients. (Possible you already get this, but mentioning it just in case.)

As for the 10 hours, we spend a lot of time onboarding and then continuously training our interviewers. Between that and the overhead of managing the relationship with the interviewer, we find things work best with interviewers above a certain activity level. Put another way, it's easier to work with 10 interviewers doing 10 hours a week each than 100 interviewers doing 1 hour a week each.

Does that make sense?

What kind of pay does it involve? I'm always open to some steady gigs/moonlighting things as I find software clients for myself.

I'll double check with our interviewer team on Monday but I believe it's $70-100/hr.

Thank you for generously sharing this! I wonder if we should have an HN contractor github wiki or something similar.

Looks like the LiquidTalent site is gone.

Thanks! Bookmarked!

> so I can travel the world while working remotely.

I thought the same thing. Perhaps it is because I work for someone else instead of for myself, but since I've been full time remote for the last 2 years, I've had 0 free time for anything. I rarely leave the house. Pretty much everything I need comes from online purchases or grocery delivery as I don't even have time to do that.

Sounds like you need to set some boundaries. Don't be afraid of setting more realistic deadlines as well.

This x 1000

Before I worked remotely, I thought that working remotely would allow me time to exercise and eat better. I had dreams of going on a daily bicycle ride, instead of being stuck in my car.

The reality is that working remotely just allows me to put in insane amounts of hours. About once or twice a week I'll start my workday at three in the morning due to insomnia, and just work 12-16 hours straight.

I think this is particularly prevalent when the entire team is working remotely, because ALL of us are wrapped up in this crazy schedule.

Wait. You've made a choice to engage in unhealthy work habits. It may not seem like it, but this _is_ your choice. I've been working as a remote contractor for almost 20 years. If you want to remain sane and happy, you need to set boundaries, both with clients and yourself.

yeah I think it takes time to realize you need to actively develop these habits. I've been working remotely full time for 2 years and it wasn't until about a month ago that I realized that I wasn't exercising and doing the things I said I was going to do because I didn't prioritize them or make them a habit. I'm just as busy now with my work as I was when I was in an office, but during the day my office mates and I would take afternoon walks regardless. Also, I got a lot of steps in by walking to and from the office to where ever I parked my car (city jobs amiright...). So yeah, I've finally started a routine to go to the gym in the AM before work and/or go for runs/walks around my neighborhood at some point during the day.

tl;dr; you have to actively work to develop these habits because it's easy to just sit and work the entire day

You're still paid for a standard day of work. This is insane and you can just stop. Set the alarm for 17:00, disconnect, and go cook something.

You pretty much have to do it at some point unless you think you can happily spend the rest of your life like this. I'm working with a primarily remote working people, and yes - due to flexibility sometimes people get caught up in something and work later. But mostly we're telling each other that things can wait and to go offline. Normally we all still save time since there's no commuting.

Wow mine was completely the opposite.

I told my clients that the largest number of productive hours you'll get out of a developer in a day is six (which I believe to be largely true) and that's how many I worked. Start at 9am, you're finished by 4; most of the places I worked the commute was a 15 minute scooter ride and I'd have the rest of the day for swimming, learning guitar, doing my own projects, etc.

I actually moved back to London for a short time because I worried I was getting too relaxed.

Fellow contractor (non-remote) here. First if it makes you feel better I piss away 40m each way on a commute to the client site, and that's on pub transport (a car would take longer). Time is money and that time is lost.

Second are you sure you're compensated sufficiently? You should be able to take time off with that money you earned?

Something that people don't realize about remote work is you get into a routine of being home all the time, and it's a hard habit to break. I have been working remotely for ten years and I've developed some pretty serious agoraphobia. Running errands is extremely stressful for me. I am considering taking an office job just to get out of this rut.

Go to a coworking space.

I was thinking about Croissant myself when I actually get remote gigs, it's a sort of timeshare system that books numerous different coworking spaces from one central app. It has a subscription monthly fee model with different options of hours.

Jeez, sounds awful. Is there some specific reason 8 hours a day of work-work does not suffice?

If you have more consulting work than you can/should handle, increase your rates.

And delegate some stuff. Negotiate!

It's funny how with all the job sites and modern tools we still live in the world where employees and employers can't find each other. I'm the CEO of a US based startup, but we're hiring everywhere. We actually have a few digital nomads at the company. Somehow we still have troubles finding more talent.

There are a few job boards dedicated to digital nomads, but the volume there is surprisingly low.

You should have a link or something in your profile.

Here some talent for you https://www.linkedin.com/in/claudio-viola/ :-)

Hi @isalmon, I can definitely solve your problem.

To put in context, we, at Idea To Startup (https://ideatostartup.org/), have helped startups from 5 different continents around the world create the best remote team in the shortest time.

Let's discuss this over chat. What's the best way to contact you?

Thanks, Nikhil

network and get to know directors/upper management at very large companies. You can do a lot of this by just hanging out at happy hour spots near a large corporate campus. Those people are the ones that get tasked with implementing large programs or processes. If you they know you and your skills are even remotely relevant then they'll reach out to you when they can't get anyone in the internal IT/tech department to give them the time of day.

Also, huge veins of money run through these places you just need to stick in a needle. Cutting a check for $150k means absolutely nothing to them. I've seen million dollar budgets burned with absolutely nothing to show in the end and the business team just shrugs and moves on.

Those are the gigs you want.

How close to stalking are you suggesting ?

Don't stalk. If you hang out very frequently, you'll get multiple real random encounters.

I lived and worked in Edinburgh for 2 years working as a contractor for an engineering consultancy, I had to eventually leave the UK because my visa was going to expire.

They were so desperate for skilled engineers in Scotland when it was suggested I could keep working remotely they jumped straight on it. I'm now working 100% remotely for them in Canada.

As others have suggested getting yourself into the contracting market in London and then going remotely can work if you're a developer with the right skills though it may be slightly slower then trying to find remote work first.

May I ask which consultancy this was?

I have found that there is not a huge amount of remote work for companies based out of Scotland.

I am a remote executive recruiting contractor. Applied through a job listing. They liked me. They hired me. Now I look for senior and executive people online, remotely.

What’s the best way to contact you? I’m in the market for a remote tech exec role but found all these remote job boards cater towards engineering roles.

Is there a specific tie for you between being a contractor and working remotely?

I started contracting on-site for a Federal government department (leaving a salaried state government position for it), through an agency, then moved onto more on-site contracting for a telco, through a different agency (in a different state), before finally starting to take on clients directly.

For several years I worked primarily with a single company, effectively as a regular staff member, but paid based on invoiced hours.

I moved overseas while still working for them, started a new company ( I operated as a sole-trader before ) to allow me to invoice from my new country, and then started working with companies initially through word-of-mouth from existing acquaintances/former colleagues, and more recently through HN's "Seeking Freelancer" threads.

If you just want to travel but dont want the hassle of finding new clients, I'd suggest looking into a company like X-Team (https://x-team.com) - the company I was working for/with when I moved overseas - as they're 100% remote, and have (or had) a number of nomad-ish staff already.

Just ask them. I had this world thrust uppon me, as I offered to help with night time, so now I live in SE Asia.

It's not all roses, internet connectivity and being available is a must. Travel is incredibly stressful as you need to be always online, so that means always having batteries, cables multiple phones, tools and travel SIM cards. You cannot leave anything to chance.

Get ready to be cut out of the office politick, which is great, but also means I didn't know our SVP walked out as he was signed onto the online collaboration tool for another 3 months after he stormed out. And it didn't help that he would ignore me from time to time.

Devops has more opertunity just because of the following the sun model.

So yeah, be flexible, add value and just ask, create the crissis and the solution. If only people were fully awake and always available and knew the infastructure@3am....

We run a mobile game design agency - https://mobilefreetoplay.com helping people create apps. Some tips from me

   1. Get yourself an account on Transferwise.com so you can accept all currencies. It then works well to bill people in their local currency as they pay quicker.
   2. We use Xero for all accounting and invoicing. It works and saves time at end of year.
   3. Slack. I am on 9 different teams. I binned off email a long time ago.
   4. Write content on a blog and blog posts, this is the single best way we get new clients.
   5. Keep your prices high. We work with Google, Amazon, Warner Brothers and we got that through recommendations. High prices = top quality.

> We work with Google, Amazon

What kind of work do you do for Google/Amazon?

I recently started posting about this here: http://www.breakintoconsulting.com

My basic advice is: become a visible expert in the space by starting a blog, posting articles, and go to meetups and speak. Then, start with your network (old jobs and coworkers) to look for work, and expand out from there.

The good news is there is a ton of work for javascript developers right now, so that’s one advantage you have.

Consider finding a reputable and talented agency to work for. I some people automatically reject working for an agency, but when your goal is to travel, it's nice to have someone else maintaining the infrastructure for you e.g. generating leads, signing clients, and taking the liability.

That's what I did, I took a job with a great _local_ agency who is actually remote first. It has allowed me to spend more time with my family and plan actual world travel.

Best thing to do is look on r/forhire on reddit, build up a portfolio on upwork/etc, and check all the remote job boards like remoteok, weworkremotely, etc..

Freelancing is hard to start - -you need to be part marketer, you don't get paid for the time finding new clients, but AFTER you have a steady stream of good business, it gets a bit easier to keep filling your pipeline with jobs through word of mouth / etc.

About how much can a relatively skilled developer get on upwork or similar? My feeling when bidding for projects there was that I needed to go incredibly low to compete with businesses in India or Pakistan. Or does it get better as you get more clients?

I'm still aiming a little low, but I've seen a lot of profiles of devs who charge 80-100/hour and seem to have a solid history on there.

My thinking is you need to start low till you build rep/reviews then you can start charging more per hour.

Edit: Also there's a lot of people who want u.s. or english native speakers. I'm in u.s. not planning on traveling much but I like working out of my basement and not wasting time commuting.

r/forhire and upwork are absolute piles of garbage with 90% of the jobs being "edit my shopify theme for $25".

If you are an experienced engineer with more sophisticated skills and don't live in India and Pakistan just don't bother.

I totally agree it's my emergency site when I can't find clients or need money. Reddit had been real good for me as has word of mouth on LinkedIn as well. I think remote job boards are good to if a steady but remote job is preferable over freelance contracts. I definitely am not stumping for upwork at all unless you're in a bind, but if you have a decent grade on there you can get the better jobs but it's still a pile of crap I agree.

If only there were like a global dev Union or something so the price of devs was standard everywhere or at least had a minimum wage of like $20-30 per hour.

1. Get foot in the door. Bid lowest and touch the codebase, oh now it's dirty and you've access to their secret.

Tell them, oh it's dirty code - it's unmaintainable crap. I quoted you the wrong rate, to deal with this I'll need $500 per hour I've other contracts waiting for me. But yeaa this is something which I had done last month for a different client. Now, I am busy, so just drop me a line on whatsapp if you don't find anyone else to do it. Leave this, "Anyone who can really do, will charge at-least 2x of what I am quoting"

2. Wait

3. Wait

4. You get the contract.

Don't regret for the ones who never get back to you, you'll make plenty from the one who tickle you the second time!

At $500/hr even if you are not the expert of the task you are undertaking, you'll find plenty of people on upwork to do it for 100-200/hr. Why? Those people just want to talk with a technical person who has clearly defined the scope of work! Most of those people are technically good from Russia.

So lie, cheat, and steal, basically.

You sound like the type who makes contracting and consulting so much harder for everyone else, because you exploit your clients ignorance and trust for your own personal gain.

Ironically, you'd make a lot more in the long run if you had a more long-term outlook instead of being so transactional.

I don't force them to make any decision. How am I exploiting them?

Most people end up with less money, not because they lack skill but because they've not used their skill at the right place at right time.

Buffet advise doesn't work for everyone.

>How am I exploiting them? By entering into an agreement with intention to terminate early and not telling about it beforehand.

I don't force them to make any decision. How am I exploiting them?

You're entering into an agreement in bad faith, intending to alter the terms of the agreement once they're more committed and at a disadvantage.

Additionally, you're blatantly lying about your skill level, how long something will take, and the state of the market, in the hopes that you can find a sucker every now and then who will believe you.

This is fraud, pure and simple.

Imagine you hire a contractor to remodel your bathroom for $10k. As soon as they demo the bathroom, they lie and say they found a bunch of unexpected issues that will cost $50k to fix, and that anyone else who knows what they're doing will cost at least $100k, when the reality is that anyone honest would be able to just do the original job for $10k.

Sure, many people see through this ruse and will tell them to get lost and hire someone else (or at least get more bids), but some won't, and that's what the bottom-feeders who pull this shit are counting on.

Most people end up with less money, not because they lack skill but because they've not used their skill at the right place at right time.

Of course, and I regularly advise freelancers and contractors to charge more and to charge for value, not for time.

But that's distinct from lying to your clients and finding ways to put them in disadvantageous positions where you can exploit them. That's short-term scammer thinking.

For the record, I regularly make an effective hourly rate of more than $500 / hr, although I never charge hourly.

Here's the ethical win-win way to get to the same (or better result) vs. what you're doing:

1. First, establish some expertise and credibility in a particular space. You don't have to be the best in the world, but you need some results to show how you can solve a client's business problems in a particular area. The more expensive / valuable those problems are, the better.

2. Find clients who have that problem and give them a quote based on the value that you're adding, not the time that you're investing.

3. Over time, you can optimize, outsource, automate, and eliminate the work that you need to do in order to deliver that value, while simultaneously charging more as your expertise and credibility grows. This drives your effective hourly rate up on two factors.

The end result is that you can get a client who will hire you for $50k to do something worth $250k to them that will take you 100 hours ($500 / hr effective) and at the end, you'll both walk away happy, increasing the likelihood that you'll work together again in the future.

It's more work, but pays off better in the long run. Plus the side benefit of making you seem and feel like less of a scummy fraudster.

cut the chase and just show up with a gun next time. You are not building sustainable relations. Quite the opposite.

Both of you guys are posting from your real accounts a politically correct statement but you guys have showed no evidence that your method is really the superior one.

People at exon, large banking companies, stock brokers can make promises and a consultant/contractor can't change his mind?

No body cares about building sustainable business, most just want enough cash to retire peacefully.

Both of you guys are posting from your real accounts a politically correct statement but you guys have showed no evidence that your method is really the superior one.

Nor have you. Feel free to post your results and the amazing, rich, fulfilling lifestyle you've built for yourself.

It's telling that you had to post this from a throwaway. I don't blame you; I certainly wouldn't want my clients knowing I was defrauding them the way that you are.

I'm actually skeptical that you've even gotten this to work to any degree. I'm sure you've fooled a few people, but the jump to $500/hr is so huge and transparently exploitative that only the most naive of clients would be fooled. My guess is that you're struggling to make this work but you think it's the only way, which is sad.

People at exon, large banking companies, stock brokers can make promises and a consultant/contractor can't change his mind?

Unclear on what you're trying to say here, but the bottom line is that you're not changing your mind. You're lying to the client upfront so you can exploit them later.

No body cares about building sustainable business, most just want enough cash to retire peacefully.

Not true at all, and it's sad that you see the world this way, as a battle between success and ethics. Many (but not all) of the most successful people I know have a very high standard of integrity for themselves and others. None of them engage in the kind of fraud that you're espousing.

Copying the part of my old comment on a similar past post:

> I (re)started my tech blog after several years and made it more active and discussed things which were kind of like a "niche" that is web scraping and automation. I wrote posts how things are done and put the code on Github. At one side I was building my Github and in other hands, my SEO optimized posts attracted Google and eventually developers and..site/business owners too that helped me to get contractual work.

The biggest issue with us, techies, is that we don't know how to sell ourselves. Blogging could be pretty effective to get consulting work.

Working remote only with a mix of direct customers and customers through TopTal. To have TopTal as a backup is great. Land a new gig in a week perhaps two if you're picky (and your reputation is good).

We help senior remote developers around the world contract with companies here in the US, mostly Startups, for freelance work. Feel free to check us out at Skillhire.com

You’ll have to go through a technical interview process but most jobs are seeking JS developers, especially Node, React-Redux and React Native devs.

Hopefully we’re one more resource to help devs like yourself who want to travel and work.

I just got contacted from a company called NewtonX that connects tech leaders with companies that need an initial phone consultation. I haven't gone through with it but it looks like a decent way to do remote work.


Here is exactly what I do to get quality remote work:


Become a contractor in London first, which I assume you aren't. That should get you started into this world!

It has world-famous daily rates even for generalistic sectors like JS/React.

Try to save some money, so you can afford the luxury of choosing clients later.

Surprisingly, you have to do a lot of meatspace visits.

And if you're half way around the world and can't meet in person, people are really hesitant to work with you. I started out remotely with neither a compsci degree nor any prior experience at a tech company, and I definitely advise against being in that situation. The only good outcome was that it spurred me to generalize more so that I could build and deploy something for a client from start to finish on my own.

Nice. How did you get the job? Did you build a complete application from front to back on your own? Or was it through a connection?

I'd like to expand more on this subject. Can anyone suggest the best strategies or resources on how to raise your contracting rate?

doubleyourfreelancing.com is a great resource

Join toptal.

Check out www.moonlightwork.com

Saw them on www.indiehackers.com, think that might help you!

What's your email?

Work on your social media reputation and presence. People pay more if you are top of your field as determined by how many twitter followers you have, etc. On one hand it’s a bad metric, but we all value social proof.


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