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The Rise of the Full-Stack Freelancer (fortelabs.co)
36 points by tchalla 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 24 comments





Cutting through a lot of buzzwords and general marketing bullshit, this is a good article on converting a regular freelance gig-based job into something of a freelance agency, even if it is still just you yourself working for it.

Aka: gig economy requires you to have a skill set of 5-10 people, perform the job of those 5-10 people, and get paid a fraction of 1 person's salary.

Even this is some boilerplate text for the reality (at least how i experienced it)

You had a two week course in University on ML? That goes right on your curriculum as Skill. Had an Excel course in school? "Office suite knowledge" Created one endpoint in a C# .Net Core API? API programming check.

So our company hired some of these full stack freelancers. While the code "works", it is not anywhere in a acceptable performance range and full of bugs. A SQL server job that runs two hours to create some 1000 simple new datarows is just not okay.

But for the business end, server job performance is not a value they can "feel" unless there is some UI connected to it.

The point I want to make that it's a potentially harmful game in the long term for any company that reads the skillsets of a developer without ever asking 1 or two questions.


It is harmful and I have seen it many times. People are often selected on their frontend portfolio but they did 'a bit of backend' as well and thus they are 'fullstack'.

The end result is systems that are completely lob sided; nice frontends in the latest tech with insecure, slow, badly created backends that crumble under load. But it doesn't matter because you can get better performance throwing money at it in a pretty simple straightforward way, while hiring other programmers, refactoring etc are very unsure endeavors(it could end up worse, deadlines aren't made etc).

I have said it here many times before here; a lot of funded startups (especially) simply prefer to burn investor money rather than do things properly. I see aws/gcp bills of 20-100k per month that can be below 10k with a few weeks (sometimes even days) of effort from someone who knows what they are doing, but nope, not happening. Automatically resolvable mistakes like having no (!!) indexes in a mysql database and so running $8k/month db bills to keep it performant (multiple times often) is becoming a little be too normal for my taste.


My current rate is 7x what I earned as an employee. and I was a top earner... (europe)

What kind of freelance do you do?

i have a small company and we do projects for municipalities and corps

usually in space IoT and AI but also some qt/c++ and web sometimes

i consider myself still a freelancer as I dont have employees. but i outsource work regurarily to other freelancers. ususally coders

my high rate comes from the fact that I alone can push projects to completion. i am not a wheel in the coq but i lead the effort and own failure and success


Out of curiosity, where in Europe do you live/work with such high rates?

Netherlands. I work for quite some companies in the States though. They pay a bit better

How do you get specialized in such a broad spectrum from IoT to AI?

I work in IoT and a friend had to get a PhD to work in AI so it sounds super difficult for one man to specialize in so many things at once.


outsource when necessary to the right people. know enough to guide the project towards success. learn learn learn

Fair enough. And how do you find customers for your work? I mean before you have a strong network built up.

i had some kind of network already in place from starting out. all my initial gigs came from acquaintances. and from then on usually referals. i only had 1 client so far that i acquired out of nowhere. and it was random luck. i also cooperate tightly with thought leaders who operatw in certain industry (eg Smart City). people who can talk and inspire decision makers. I am then their tech guy whenever they convince someone to build an AI for X... this is a win win. they can shine and i get a great project to do :-)

I've been in the industry for almost 10 years but never managed to network my way out of the engineering circles into the money/decision making circles or thought leaders as you call them.

This is mostly by design by companies to keep engineering side detached from the business side and the borders are strictly enforced to have every engineer as a replaceable cog.

Is there a way to build that initial network as a dev or is it just a matter of luck, like the right contacts in university or being at the right place at the right time? Since just cold calling business people or approaching them at gatherings doesn't get you anywhere since nobody trusts strangers they just met.


yeah. the latter doesn't work!

i think the first "right" step I took was that I asked for a broader role in the startup I was working for. I didn't just want to be a senior dev anymore. I wanted to have client contact and also contact with potential suppliers/business partners. At one of our business partners back then, I met a guy who brought last year up to 200k of business for me. That was 5 years ago and we are friends since then, working together since 2 years.

So long-term relations are key. And patience. When I first met him he was just a great drinking buddy with whom I could talk about politics :P


Thanks for the advice.

top earners in programming do not earn that much (in europe). But 7x is solid.

depends on the company. i had 90k pre tax

I think that gig economy (in our programming world) do not care about having skill of 10 expert people, but having some skills in multiple areas. Lets be honest in here, most of the programming jobs are not really that complex. Be good in reading source code and making sense of mess other people left there, have some people skill, be on time and you are set for a life.

-> Lets be honest in here, most of the programming jobs are not really that complex

I am pretty positive that this notion is one part of the problem. Seen in the SQL area: Code has been created to do a simple task. Code does it's job. Data gets bigger and bigger. Upon analysis we found out that Code is very suboptimal, no thought put into indexing, partitioning or operating on set-level overall.

SQL isn't complex to learn and to be honest, it's not difficult most of the time. But there are points in knowledge where people think: "That's it, i figured it out" and the general topic is sooo much more complex underneath. This hidden complexity leads to statements like yours, given off by relative beginners (not assuming you are one).


Also, most development systems are built to do simple things easy and fast; after that you are pretty much on your own. So the first simple crud versions of the software are straight forward, but after that, unless you have (a lot of) experience, it gets a lot harder fast. Even for apps that seem simple. Then the lack of experience in part of the (full)stack starts to show; those are the parts which will suffer from issues. And indeed sql queries & db structure are often the first to go sour.

I’ve earned multiple times that of top end salaries where I live.

What a bunch of buzzword crap.

Did you even read the article?



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