>> "You are now a consultant" <- this kills me.
there are so many steps and effort before rising your rates, and becoming a consultant
This is so similar to the "how to draw an owl" meme
I ended up embarassing myself a couple of times, by either:
- asking for a high day rate when I lacked experience (e.g., for freelance Rails work, when I kinda knew Rails but lacked experience with most of the tooling, testing frameworks, etc)
- trying to sell "consulting" work when I had only a vague idea how consulting worked.
So, yeah, while "charge more!!!" might be a useful message for underconfident programmers who don't know their own value, it's too simplistic and it omits many essential steps.
My takeway: if you plan to freelance long-term, you should treat it as a business, and plan to build a specialism. Once you've built a specialised skillset, and demonstrated credibility, then you should start systematically looking for higher-paying clients, and be confident in asking for what you are worth. But you have to know you are worth it, first. Once you've done that for a while, then you can start thinking about business-level problems and doing something higher level (which requires nailing a whole bunch of soft skills, too).
Another factor to consider is that if you're in a major city, there are probably other programmers doing freelance/contract work in your skillset, which you can use to gauge what a sensible rate would be, and what knowledge you need to gain.
Oh and - there's also the factor that as a newbie freelancer you often find the really crappy low-end clients that have a fixed budget and high expectations (e.g., small local businesses. I have nothing against small local businesses, but they're not good clients for freelance coding work). I went through a lot of stress working on such projects. Working for more high-paying, professional clients (digital agencies, banks that hire a lot of contractors, etc) is ironically a lot less stressful.
And if a lead enquires about why you're so much more expensive than that option they found on some cheapo website, you can spell out the consultant's version of the iron triangle: cheap, competent, available; pick two.
Step 2 is to network with people a few years ahead of you in your specialism, who can help you figure out how to do more "high-level" work in whatever you do and maybe bring you on as a junior person for some of their projects
Step 3 is to demonstrate credibility (portfolio of projects using your specialism, professional online presence, know how to sell yourself to clients, etc)
Step 4 is to increase your rates and start labeling yourself as a consultant
Not saying other approaches are perfect but I'm trying to understand alternatives.
What about when the requirements look unlikely to change though? You always think fixed price is not worth it or too difficult to arrange?
> With a weekly rate I just work as long as needed to complete the work
You mean you can finish in a few days and still get paid for 5 days? And if you take the full 5 days you'll probably get asked to do another week?
> Edit: I should also note that I have a much easier time closing leads when they see pricing broken down vs full quote up front. It’s the same price basically unless scope changes but psychologically it’s easier to accept.
Hmm, to me one problem with weekly from the perspective of the client is the friction it creates when they have to consider if they have enough work to keep you busy for the week to get their moneys worth. I think with fixed price the proposition of "result X for cost Y" is easier for them to weigh up rather than them having to think about time estimates.
My point is, if you're doing hourly billing or something similar, when your expertise allows you to get through the work quickly you'll end up billing for less hours so you make less money. Scope creep is a risk of fixed price but at least fixed price doesn't punish you for being more efficient. No system is perfect though so I appreciate your perspective.
I agree with the latter :)
When I first moved to Amsterdam, I gave myself a 3-month "trial period" to figure out if I could find work and if I wanted to stay. This sounded then like a good amount of time, but it goes by much quicker than you think. I only started to contact people when I arrived and looking back now, I probably should’ve started much earlier. Building a network is a slow process, so you have to start before you quit your job.
it's slow and hard? who knew. How does someone with no experience move in one of the most expensive cities and suddenly have a good living? Yeah a lot of stuff does not add up.
> I must admit that I’ve also never worked with a contract and that I don’t have any other form of terms and conditions for clients to sign.
I'm not a freelancer, but this sounds pretty unprofessional to me.
A job description though, that both parties know what to expect from each other. (When the work is done and payment is due) can be done in an email.
In terms of getting paid, knowing which clients and projects to avoid, controlling scope creep, setting expectations and structuring work to get paid as you go are more important in my opinion. Once you're at the stage of pointing to contract terms the project is probably on rocky territory already where your client isn't going to be happy at the end of it.
Get a contract as well but I keep reading people talking about getting "air tight contracts" as if they're the most important part of getting paid.
Contracts are not about honesty. They are a way to avoid having to negotiate how to act when predictable problems occur by setting the conditions (i.e., what to do when something happens) on paper.
If a project stays permanently on its happy path then you don't need safeguard clauses, but often it doesn't and having to decide how to proceed after problems occur is not easy or enjoyable for any part, because someone's ideal solution may not be aligned with someone else's best interests.
Unstable income, having to market yourself and more means it isn't for everyone though.
Is not being able to even legal? I'm pretty sure employer can't put anything like that in the work contract where I live. My spare time is my time. Sure one can sign a non-competing clause, but employer owning your side projects sounds just insane.
I've never heard anything about unlimited PTO that wasn't a riddle of caution and skepticism.
It can be incredibly time-consuming, leads to a bunch of stress and uncertainty, and you can’t really bill for it.