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HN statistics (labs.im)
313 points by nhoss2 on Aug 7, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments

Your labs.im pitch is probably going to send you the worst freelance jobs you'll ever have. Nobody gives a shit about your situation, and your University tuition fees. Actually, this signals a red flag for serious clients: You might drop their project as soon as you get some financing.

Promote yourself as a young, intelligent and enthusiast developer with coding and design skills. Price your hourly rate at $80-100/hour; and get your tuition paid in the next couple weeks.

Edit: Quite a discussion here. I'd like to add that an important part of doing business is trust. Clients are going to throw lots of money that's going to evaporate on HTML and JavaScript code. They want to be sure that you are the guy who is going to give them the right result.

Tip: Make a decent lab page. Look at design agencies in sortfolio and copy them (not their design, their strategy). Build a couple more projects, and open source them on Github. Send emails to design agencies, and try to build a network.

Finally, decide if you want to do this for a living or concentrate on EE. The overhead to get a single project is the same to get a constant stream of projects.

I agree, I can't overstate how weak your labs.im pitch is, especially in regards to your clearly very impressive skills. That pitch easily cuts your market rate by half, probably more. And as csomar mentioned, it's going to get you the crappiest, bottom-of-the-barrel jobs.

In all types of pitches — to employers, VCs, etc. — desperation is the absolute worst thing you should ever let transpire.

Hey, OP here. I realize now that it was a mistake to come off like that but there were a few reasons on why I did:

- I just felt like a piece of shit when I wrote it because I have no connections and have had a very hard time trying to get a normal job. I also had no confidence that any of this would work out so that did not help my ego when writing.

- When I submitted this to HN, it was fairly late and I went to sleep about half and hour later so basically I slept through the entire discussion going on here and it would have been a bit late to change anything after I woke up.

- There was a comment or two saying that maybe I should change the post of labs.im (before I went to sleep) but I did not know what I could write. I didn't just want to write something like "im smart and can do this well" because anyone could say that and I particularly dislike talking about myself like that.

Also, to anyone that has emailed me, I have not replied to any emails yet but I am starting now. And sorry for the late reply.

I can relate to not wanting to say you're smart and can't do something well. I was/am sometimes the same way. For me it was imposter syndrome plus the idea that since everyone says it how would anyone ever believe such trite, cliche pitches. Well, I've learned from experience that there's a reason so many people market themselves in such similar ways. It works. It's still unbelievable to me but it works. Plus, if it ends up being true it makes your life much easier and things just flow.

You are smart and talented though. So just say so, feel cheesy about it, and profit.

This is the first time I have ever heard the term "imposter syndrome" and I realized that is exactly what I have. Thanks for introducing me to the concept.

I couldn't agree more with this.

As an employer, what really concerns me are retention rates. I don't want to spend more time a month later looking for another developer.

The way your story sounds is like you want to work for one month and then you will part. I don't know what your plan is, but if you just want to freelance temporally I suggest you go to sites like Elance or oDesk, you will not get much but you will get something. On the other hand, if your looking to start freelancing, even when you begin studying, I strongly suggest you update your homepage and come across more confident.

Finally, if your in a bad financial situation, don't announce it. People will take advantage of the situation and make you work for something your not really worth, when in reality, you know you're worth more.

I wouldn't have assumed OP was a broke college student if the home page hadn't told me. There's something about broke college students that just makes you want to make them work for free. And there's something about them that they do it without much persuasion.

Spot on. I visited the page and immediately thought "Dark Knight," for whatever reason, and I was telling myself this person is a great designer. Out of curiosity I went to the homepage, and the pitch, while moving and honest, kind of took away from him.

Something that I've learned, never undercut yourself when pitching yourself. Even if you don't have real world experience, act like you do. Don't lie, but don't flat out say it. If you act like you know what you're doing and can show a few things like this, this will be enough for most people. Overstate your passion for this stuff and that you're a hard and dependable worker. No doubt you'll get a few emails from this and some will be job offers. I was in the same exact boat almost a year ago when I posted something similar on HN, I got an offer and that gave me that good start I needed. Now I'm cofounding my own startup and we're in an accelerator and raising money. Keep your head up, don't be negative about yourself, and keep pushing, you'll get there.

$80-100/hour? Is this feasible?

Let's not get carried away here. A quick poll:

  If you are in a position to hire devs (with a proper 
  budget for it), would you hire this gentleman for $80/h
  knowing that he is a 2nd year EE student in Australia?
Given the circumstances, I'd have hard time justifying $40/h. Not because $80 is too high, but because of the inherent performance risks associated with this particular type of hire.

For "hiring as a dev", $40/hr seems in the right ballpark.

For freelance work, I've paid well over $100/hr to people with similar age/experience based on nothing more than portfolios similar to his and a plausible sounding phone-screen.

I've contracted students for work, and while I'm more likely to propose payment terms based on estimated hours with payment on milestone delivery rather than just hourly rates, I'll still assume a similar overall "hourly rate".

(That's in Sydney, Australia.)

$30 to $40 is reasonable...

Not in Australia. Minimum wage is ~$20/hour +/- $2 (That's about $22US). But you know, income is more equal here, so we don't have the highs. I think $60-$80/hour considering it is freelance.

Yes. Yes yes yes!

Did I mention "Yes"?

Look, I used to be you. And lately I've been missing me so I thought it would be fun to sit down with me and advise me on what I didn't have the guts to do years ago.

You're very worth it. Your site alone shows a combination of the following:

- The ability to program something more than just "hello world", a linked list, or the fibonacci sequence. You'd be surprised how many so-called computer science "graduates" I've interviewed who can barely do that, and if so, ONLY that. Don't underestimate the ability to actually program. Contrary to the impression you might get from Hacker News and Proggit, where it seems like everyone and his mayor is learning to code, MOST people in this world can't. There are great people in this world who don't or can't program. They may be smart, but they aren't programmers.

- Experience with modern Javascript, web apps, HTML5 (whatever THAT is), and all the deployment logistics that go along with those things. There are great programmers in this world who can write compilers but who never really groked the web or how to put stuff on it, let alone cool dynamic stuff that works. They may be programmers, but they aren't developers.

- You seem to be able to make it all LOOK good. This is something I still struggle with and, even if all you did was copy something from somewhere else, your site still shows that you care about aesthetics. In this brave new world where geeky toys (read: programs) have become seen in the mainstream as actual "products" (thanks, Apple), people - even geeks - are starting to demand more from their software. They demand that it be friendly, intuitive, and look nice. This is a great advance in our industry. It finally denies us all the permission we've been giving ourselves to produce crappy-looking and crappy-acting software and then hide behind how hard it was to get it working at all. There are great developers in this world who grok the web and apps and all that and still for the life of them can't make something that looks nice. They may be developers, but they aren't designers.

- Your site and HN submission show an aptitude for - or at the least more than a passing awareness of - the necessity, power, and effectiveness of marketing. There are great programmers, developers, and designers in this world whose creations never see the light of day. They may be all those things, but they aren't marketers.

So go back again and take stock of your marketable inventory. You seem to be a:

- Smart

- Programmer

- Who likes to develop "products" as well as cool programs

- Knowing it's important that they look as good as they work

- And realizes that none of it matters unless people know about it

And you don't think you're worth a measly $80-$100/hour?

You know what that is? It's our traditional economic and academic systems infesting your mind with some of its most anachronistic and worthless beliefs. In days gone by, that piece of paper was a requirement to get anyone to even LOOK at you. But now?


You're in the right place already at Hacker News. Here we have people who need good talent. They know it when they see it. They know how much more important a Github and app portfolio are than a "To all whom these presents come greeting..." poster on your wall. In short, they aren't pointy-haired bosses. And you don't want to work for those anyway.

So do me a favor, me: demand what you're worth, and do it before you begin to BELIEVE you're not worth it. Because then you won't be.

My thoughts....

He's just a second year student and the only project I've seen is something that any competent student at my almma matter could produce.

Now look at the marketplace. For $40/hour you can currently get an experienced developer living anywhere that isn't San Francisco or NYC.

$100/hour is $4000 a week and $16,000 a month. Now certainly someone, somewhere can command this price but lets not pretend that it is the natural fit for a student.

If you're willing to pay $16,000 then your rate is comprable to what Google/Facebook pay their summer interns for 3 months whom I assure you have just as much skill and passion as you see here.

What're you suggesting you can get for $40/hour?

You might get an "experienced developer" for $40/hr on a fulltime employed basis where that means "$80k/year". You certainly won't get the same level of talent on a contract or freelance basis at that rate.

For a freelancer, "$100/hr" is much more likely to mean $2000/week than $4000/week. Even consultants at the top consulting firms can't (legitimately) bill 100% of a 40hr week consistently.

I'm inclined to agree with other posters - if this site pitched him as a dedicated freelance web dev, I'd quite likely consider hiring him at a $100/hr rate based on the skill demonstrated in the HN Stats site. As a "please buy me some ramen and help pay my tuition" plea - I'd pass him over completely even if I needed pretty much exactly what he's demoing. Its all about perceptions and implications of trust.

I think we're using different definitions for experienced.

Junior developers are still very much more experienced than a student, and won't be making 80k/year anywhere except DC/NYC/LA.

But I find that salary comparisons quickly go downhill on HN because of the bubble that we live in here, so I'm just going to let this conversation go.

Huh, so you measured his skills by his level of education? Even worse, he's an EE student; so Web Dev is really not his game.

> There are great programmers in this world who can write compilers but who never really groked the web or how to put stuff on it, let alone cool dynamic stuff that works. They may be programmers, but they aren't developers.

So one can be a developer if and only if he does web programming? What about all the other plethora of software products that need to be developed?

I was being terse for the sake of style, but the gist of that was intended to be "programmers who make nicely packaged product-type things", which of course includes app developers as well as other categories.

How is it not feasible? Anything less would be underselling him/herself, which can also devalue others' work.

Feasible? It looks a bit low to me. :)

I agree with csomar! Your pitch seems weak and I would hesitate to give you a project.

It looks like you have some skills - use them to promote yourself! :-)

Nice work!

Although the page clearly demonstrates some specific capabilities, that doesn't count when you are expressing the wrong kind of sentiment. That is pretty amazing.

A quick story regarding your frelance work. When I first moved to Poland, I had the mindset that since I was living in a cheap country, I should price my freelance work low as well. I'll hasten to add that this was my first attempt at freelancing, and for a PHP developer with over 10 years of experience, I was charging between $20 and $30/hour. Absurdly low prices.

Anyway, this was meant to be temporary, and I got a job for a year, before deciding to return to freelancing. This time, however, I figured that I had little to lose by attempting to charge what I wanted to get paid. I also switched to charging on a per-day basis.

What happened? In terms of work available, very little - there's lots of work out there. I found that I was able to spend longer on the initial discussion phase, as the cost of doing so was minimal compared to my overall day rate, and it led to happier clients - everyone wins.

My rates have continued to rise ever since, and I'm on the verge of hiring other programmers to take some of the load off me alone. I could go on and on about the charge-by-the-day option, and how everyone wins with it: clients don't worry about whether having a conversation with me will be charged - of course it won't! - and it gives me the freedom to create huge amounts of client satisfaction if I do a ten-minute fix for free.

So, charge good rates, in daily increments, and do so happy in the knowledge that you're charging a fair rate for valuable skills.

@nhoss2 Slightly offtopic:

Love the honesty on your http://labs.im/ page. But you might be underselling yourself. You are saying you are willing to work cheaply because you are young and a risk.

You are capable of using node.js, you use phantomJS, you seem to have good product and ux thinking and you are able to use github. Just the last one alone puts you on the upper 50% of the worldwide freelance market. Not to speak of the first three things i mentioned.

As somebody living in UK i appreciate your modesty and i wish you all the best for your jobhunt. Projects like this are genius thing to do, continue until you find something :)

You're absolutely right, but I think you're understating the issue. DavidChouinard and csomar also have good points.

There are clients who want to hire good developers for a lot of money and those who want to hire good developers at university who don't know how much they're worth yet for peanuts. That's not always bad, I've had at least one great client in that category, but it's not lucrative—granted you may have to take what you can get.

Nonetheless, OP: I urge you to aim higher than "work for cheap" and please please please reword your acquisition letter to sound more like "I'm a good developer but I didn't have a portfolio so I made these things," rather than, "it will be a big risk taking me on"—maybe to them it will seem like a risk, but you know better!

As somebody living in Argentina and born in the US, I should have no appreciation whatever for your modesty :P but I do, since I think my first cold emails to potential clients went something like yours: honest, but embarrassingly modest. But I soon learned that toning down the modesty is a great way to get more clients and charge them more (seriously, you'd be surprised how high your rate can get, even as a relatively untried uni kid).

Also, don't forget the monthly HN freelancing threads if you aren't already aware of them. Here's Aug 2012's: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4323612

I agree, this is top-notch work. I would drop the beatup negative attitude, it's a big turnoff. You could easily get a remote part-time job in the Valley for 100+$/hour — think of it, that's only 40 hours of work to pay off your tuition.

Really? Easily? I've yet to see anyone willing to hire someone to do off site work with a US company, in the Valley or elsewhere. At least not development work, or anything in the range of 100 USD/hour.

I've always found that a bit strange, but maybe you know something I don't?

For the record I'm based in Norway, and English is my second, not first language -- but even if it was just to recommend friends and acquaintances that are in a similar position as op -- I would really like to hear how you would suggest going about looking for such work?

$100/hour is indeed very doable.

Stop and think. Suppose that you have have a $120k full-time dev. (This is by no means the top of the dev market.) Once you get through benefits, office space, HR, etc, at a typical company you cost 2x your salary, so that dev is costing you $240k/year. If that person works 50 weeks a year, 5 days a week, 6 hours a day (just because a person is present 8 hours does not mean that they worked 8 hours) the cost of that full-time dev is $160/hour. Day in. Day out.

Contractors avoid many of those costs in return for higher direct pay. And you only hire that contractor when there is a good fit between what you need and what that contractor can do. A smart contractor who knows what to ask for is therefore able to get surprisingly good rates.

And step #1 is knowing what you are worth. Step #2 is knowing how to negotiate. There are a lot of good books you can pick up on the topic. I personally picked up Start With No and Bargaining For Advantage a few years back. A 2 digit investment in materials, and a 2 digit expenditure in hours has easily been worth over 6 figures to my bank account. I expect it to have paid off 7 figures before I retire. Can you think of anything else with an equivalent ROI?

This is exactly why I've thought it was so strange so few companies seemed interested in this kind of collaboration, in practice.

But just a brief look at the August HN hiring thread makes me a little more hopeful :-)

Really? Easily? I've yet to see anyone willing to hire someone to do off site work with a US company, in the Valley or elsewhere. At least not development work, or anything in the range of 100 USD/hour.

I won't discuss my rates in public, but I have clients in the States and UK. I'm a British guy based in Poland, and only one of those clients has been via a direct contact. All others have come to my. As briefly touched on in another comment, I'm also not a cheap option.

The work's definitely out there - just look in the HN "who's hiring" threads. I've also had some enquiries via my various SaaS apps, which double as a nice side income and an advertisement of sorts.

Edit: I'm willing to concede that this isn't easy per se; I'm highly competent at what I do, and I'm also happy to do lots of chatting over Skype or via email first. Without my talent or willingness to chat, I'm not sure that this would be as successful as it is for me.

Let me clarify what I meant with "At least not development work, or anything in the range of 100 USD/hour".

I didn't want to imply that was a high rate, but rather that I wasn't aware of any serious US offers for serious work to telecommuters/off site workers.

I've seen what appeared to be serious companies looking for on-site full time employees, and I've seen companies wanting grunt workers that are off site -- but I hadn't seen anyone actually willing to accept working with someone off site in any kind of interesting/core role before.

I'm happy to see at least the workers wanted posts here on HN appear more reasonable and in line with what I would expect. I've been worrying that the entire outsourcing marked was dominated by short sighted dumping (both from buyers and sellers) -- and poor management founded on the myth of man hours/months as a way to scale/accelerate development.

(On a side note, 100 USD/hour is lower than what I charge my customers for freelance work. And, as others have mentioned, short term project pay, with a lot of risk, is different from employee with benefits, reduced risk and a predictable yearly income).

The kid demonstrates a specific valuable set of capabilities in living color - but the decision still has to do with "turnoff," as if this were a hookup and not a rational assessment of capability.

Moral: hiring is more like a hookup than a rational assessment of capability.

You're a great designer. You could get a job just as a designer.

Then you know D3. You can sell yourself as a package that can create beautiful visualizations.

Then you made it to the top of HN. This is no coincidence. You got here on purpose. You studied previous post and knew exactly what to make that would interest this crowd.

All that makes you a smart person, way above average. Go charge a lot of money.

Having said that, you're not too much of a marketer.

You should put the hire me call to action further up the page!

Yep. You deserve it !


A bit off topic:

I think I'm pretty much in the same situation as Nafis. I'm majoring in Electronics and have a passion for computers.

Only difference is, tuition is quite cheap here in India (around $5000 for 4 years). So, small freelancing projects help me sustain.

Though the quality of education here is questionable. One year into college, all I have learnt is * Stuff as much portions you can during the term * Write the exact things from the textbook on your exam * Forget or vaguely remember it in the holidays

That's not really what I hoped for. Hopefully, it gets better over the years...

Your education is in your hands. Identify the resources which are available to you in college for improving your skills. Don't just coast along in your classes and complain about how they aren't doing a great job, that is normal. Put in extra time outside of your coursework or you will not have an education to match your degree. Keep doing it for 4 years and you will have a great education no matter what kind of backwater you are in.

Also, be sure to pursue internships and if you have opportunities to network/get connected in areas that relate to your professional specialty, take them.

Unfortunately this thread shows very clearly that whether you get good grades or bad, and whether you learn a lot or a little, your actual (even vividly demonstrated!) capabilities are comparatively much less important than the emotional tone and images you use to market yourself. So start also to think about those things.

I'm doing all of that probably more than most of my peers but that makes me question the core values of a college education.

Low Cost, Connections, Visa stuff are a few reasons I'm still sticking on to it. All of them are not core to college. I think this is something that needs to be fixed before people lose faith.

At times, I feel I'm wasting time on coursework (around 9 hours a day) but I somehow convince myself that I'm not experienced enough to judge.

It will feel like less of a waste, and be less of a waste, when you are doing more of the steering and putting in your creative energies rather than floating along. But it is natural to float along more at the beginning. And if you don't know what you are doing then it is still better to follow the rails than to just drift for years.

Please do question what you are told are the 'core values' because they are probably nothing but marketing. Just let those ideals be questionable and plan for yourself, it's no use being upset about it.

However, college does provide a specific set of goods, even if they aren't the purported ones. Here is one way to think about your level of engagement with your education:

Level 1: They make you go somewhere, decide what to study, then give a basic schedule and incentives so you will actually do something. Meet a few friendly people, even if you have little in common. At the end you have social proof that you have a brain and did not only just smoke pot for years, know a few things, can conform, are in a certain social class. All you have to do is reliably show up and work.

Level 2: academic and social context to spark your interests and make it easier to develop them. You have to find the interesting parts and put in a little extra work above assignments to cultivate those interests and learn more. When you leave you'll find this context missing. It gets harder to start in a new field and not so effortless to meet people.

Level 3: facilities like a good library, labs, subject matter experts actively engaged in their fields, maybe some smart peers. You can make yourself what you need to be by directly engaging with the subject matter. Having access to a good adviser who believes in what you are doing is very helpful. But you have to know what you need to be and have strong motivation. You don't have to be a genius in school in order to make yourself a good emulation of one down the line.

Almost any college makes all of these possible. I think the differences are in that 'level 2'.

At a relatively bad school, you will not be very encouraged by the context, you will constantly realize that the coursework is a joke and your peers don't care, the school may take an active interest in pounding students down into conformity and just making them slog through. so most will only engage at level 1 without ever realizing there is more, and many will quit since it seems pointless. While level 3 types will make themselves excellent using available tools others do not use, regardless of what the school prescribes. And won't necessarily be noticed because they are focused on ideas.

At a GREAT school ideas become fashionable and fun; it will do the opposite of pounding you down into conformity. you will come in with a feeling of esprit de corps, everyone will push you and encourage you, your workload will terrify you, you will be actively interested in things you never thought about, you will develop cutting-edge interests related to what your peers and favorite teachers are interested in (even if they are just dumb humanities stuff), etc. And you might come out smelling like a rose. But you are still ultimately carried along by the current. At level 3, where you are already tightly focused on subject matter, you may not derive that much more advantage from a good school, except that you will not have to prove as much.

Really excellent specialized people have to engage at that higher level at some point, whether they went to a bad community college or a top engineering school.

With this "level 3" concept I am not talking about HN's 1% A-player software architect rockstars - who often enough are just guys with industry experience and connections and nice looking blogs and interests in new tools. I am talking about the few people you will meet in your entire life who are so good they define a field, like Einstein or John Carmack or something. Those people get there by being totally focused on subject matter and efficiently improving their abilities and being absolutely dedicated.

Even if you choose something smaller, if you know what you want and work toward it single-mindedly out of your own drive then you will get a real education. And otherwise you will get a sort of crap education.

If it makes you feel better, year 1 and 2 of my Computer Engineering degree in the US was all "memorize what the textbook says" and Calculus which is effectively the same thing. And I spent $40k per year on my education.

That being said, it did indeed get way bettery.

If you want your d3 graphs to work in IE8 you might want to use https://github.com/shawnbot/aight

Why is activity so much lower on a Friday? Is it because everyone has lots of work to catch up on and no time for HN, or is it because people are leaving work earlier on a Friday?

Hey there, Great showcase of your skills. It shows great UX, presentation, some fu with git and getting stuff out in the wild. Shows some great initiatives!

I would create a CV on http://labs.im rather than a text story about your situation. You should use your knowledge to create a kickass CV page.

I agree the other comments that you are going to be peppered with low paying freelance offers, you might as well register on odesk.com or similar. But I believe that your software skills are much better than that.

By the way, Some of the cities (Brisbane, Sydney & Melbourne) in Australia have a thriving startup scene, you should hit them up.

A guy with nice skills like you shouldn't have '<div id="sorrow">' in his source code. Although it is funny.

I hope you get the money you need to continue your education, you are very talented.

Just a bug I found: your svg "data_pointer" only points "straight" to the topmost listed week on the page, and if you select any other option, it points to the bottom of the div element of the week. Reading that, you might want to try using the <date> tag instead of divs there, just to make it more html5-ey :P

It looks like it falls here:

  offset: $(this).offset().top - $('svg#data_pointer').offset().top + 18
I don't know exactly why the offsets are off for all except the topmost element of the list, but they seem to be off. I don't use firebug much so I don't know how to live edit the code to figure out the problem, but I just wanted to let you know!

Note: I am in a vbox of Arch running Firefox Aurora 16, so I also don't know if it is a browser bug.

Very nice, but missing one thing that I think would be more meaningful: averages across weeks.

What is this for? Or is it just a cool way to try new technologies without any real purpose?

EDIT: I didn't mean it in a bad way. Trying new stuff is a perfectly fine reason for doing things and this looks quite beautiful. I was just looking for an answer like "this helps you see whether more karma is given on weekdays or weekends". Statistics and visualization should answer meaningful questions, I think.

Even if it is just a way to try new technologies...it's a huge mistake to think that aggregation/visualization/analysis, even at this relatively simple level, is "without any real purpose." Such big picture views can be as valuable as the datapoints used to compose them.

This confirms my suspicion that the best time to post the articles I find is on Monday.

Oh, no! You're feeding the bias! ;-)

I'm wondering if you could ever discover daily commenting user count or even maybe monthly active user count somehow and share with us. That would be awesome.

Now I know why my post on Sunday totally tanked without generating any karma. I should be posting on Tuesdays/Fridays instead :).

What could have been interesting is to know when to post on HN to maximize the chance to be in the top 10 or some insights.

I think this is what you're looking for: http://hnpickup.appspot.com/

Would be cool to see it index further back.... I'd love to see how my best ranked post compares to others :)

I am curious where is the data behind these tables being stored inside DOM?

Looks like it's being pulled from separate JSON files.

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