You learn a lot in the first year or two on a job. Looking at it from a hiring position I would never take on an inexperienced dev on a contract (no offence, you may be great). Junior positions are like an apprenticeship; you know you're sinking time into someone but are hoping that over time they'll start providing value. Contractors are generally expected to have experience and, accordingly, they cost more.
If you've spent a bit of time at a job (2 years is a fairly normal time to leave) there are a couple of tricks you could try that worked for me.
A) Tell them you're leaving but you're available for contract work. You're a known quantity, you know their systems/products and can work efficiently when they need the extra resources. They will send you work (and some will just take you back on a contract straight away - that's how I started contracting).
B) If you've worked at an agency, ask to take some of their clients. It might sound insane, but every agency has clients they don't really want. Small clients that have been around for a while that they still need to service. That work is just unprofitable noise as an agency grows bigger. As a one-man-band it's perfect. The client is used to paying agency rates and with you they get personal service from the person who was doing their dev work anyway. I have clients from this arrangement that have been amazing.
Hope that helps in some small way.
The real price of contracting isn't the loss of benefits, but the increased burden of providing those things for yourself (if they were that important to you in the first place). The real reward is: freedom. You can provide any/all/none of those things for yourself as you see fit.
All presuming you have work, of course ;-)
My secret has been to do such a good job that the client finds me indispensable and then leave on my terms, always with another gig lined up. Sometimes I've had to stay with clients for many months when I'd rather move on. Once I was working for a client that had a smell like they were going broke so I had to ruthlessly extract myself before my contract was due to expire, but that proved to be a good decision as a few months later nobody was being paid and were suddenly out of work.
I worked in a permanent role for 6 years before contracting, and I doubt it would be a good idea to do it with no experience. My first contract was acquired through an agency, and probably 50% of my work is through an agency, the rest is word of mouth and doing more work for former clients.
Having said that, there's a general attitude from employers (at least everywhere I've worked) of "I'm paying this person £400 a day, they'd better be good."
I've been on both sides, and from the employers side you're definitely willing to cut staff a lot more slack than contractors (though that may be totally irrational).
I followed option A in my career. I quit, went back to school to finish my degree and worked part time as a contractor for enough money to maintain my mortgage while in school.
Anyway, it is very important to learn to work closely with a team. It is also VERY important that you work with people that are SMARTER than you. IMHO, this is the best way to get proper mentor-ship and motivation to learn. I personally try to surround myself with people that are smarter than me.
Once you think that you know "everything" or that you're the smartest person in the room, it's time to change jobs. Because:
A) People won't like working with you
B) You'll stop learning new things since you already know everything.
update: spacing edits...
Why is this? If enough people follow the "work with people that are SMARTER than you", which I think it's really important and I hope a significant number of people follow, why wouldn't they like working with you?
In other terms, you have cognitive biases, emotional biases, and filters your brain uses as information you process goes from perception to short term memory to long term memory...and lots of things get lost in the process.
If someone isn't smart enough to realize his perception of what he knows is colored and influeneced by things outside his control...he probably hasnt had even close to enough experience to be humbled.
Don't be that guy!
You can of course be super smart at your job and know a TON, but when you start acting cocky and like you know everything it usually doesn't end well.
However in my experience, the majority of people with a know-it-all attitude are simply blowing hot air and trying to cover for the fact that they really aren't nearly as smart or knowledgeable as they would like to be.
Most truly smart and knowledgeable people I've met have been amazingly humble and usually fairly quiet about things. The qualities of quietness and humility lead to learning.
What about having done a few internships? I realise it's not the same but I've at least made some mistakes to learn from already.
I'm starting a job in September, contracting would just be something to fund my personal projects.
In terms of applying for contracts a lot of it (unfortunately) still goes through recruiters. My advice would be to look at the buzz words in the ad and to change your cv to put all of those at the top. Recruiters see that and think you're the perfect candidate. That will normally get you an interview.
Really, any company that's doing project work for other companies. They'll often have long standing clients that they wouldn't mind handing over.
I only did it because I worked as a developer on the side for the 4 years of my CS studies.
Make some of your work public, have your blog
Network between people, assuming you are in the us, make yourself member of the chamber of commerce of your area, participate not only in tech forums, but in business forums too.
Be nice, be competent, be helpful, all this publically.
Clients are a side effect of this
(One of my first contracts came as a result of an HN thread, and because I have my contact info in my profile.)
I mean, I would never just post this link to my CV to get everyone to look at it: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byk8zRX0L3yPYzMtQW1oMDBTcms...
- The blue text looks like a link, when it's not (in the Experience)
- The github/linkedin/etc could be links! While this won't benefit anyone with the printed version, it does improve the experience for the online reader. I definitely tried to click them.
- You could use github, linkedin and twitter logos instead of the generic link chain. Same with nationality, I'd include a world globe instead of the upload to the cloud one.
- The first line of each experience part looks a bit overloaded. Maybe put the title (Software Engineer, etc) on the left, the date just under it, and leave the rest as it is? Something like this:
Software Engineer | Curtis...
Aug 2014-Sept 2014 | Worked in a team...
(Aside, I'm also a big fan of the graphical design! What was used to make this? Any inspiration?)
I'd suggest avoiding sending anybody your CV that shows you haven't touched it for 6 months. Change the date or remove it.
If you're keeping it, make sure it's current whenever you're sending it to somebody - it will at least look like you've considered the company/person you're sending it to.
2 things I'd change layout wise: remove your home address. It's probably not a great idea to share it with the world. Also, job title in bold, company in blue and the description in regular text, I just find it hard to focus on reading it. Maybe make the company name regular or both bold?
Also, nobody cares about your address, really. (And your interests)
Then start going to networking events for entrepreneurs and meet people - you will get quite a few offers, mostly crappy, to build the next Facebook. Politely say no to these. Eventually, you'll find someone who needs something simple enough that you can deliver it and make him happy. Take this job even if the pay isn't so hot (but do get paid - a portion up front). Ideally, it would be a 6 week-ish project - enough to be significant, but not enough for you or your your client to get in over your heads.
Keep doing that until the referrals start to come in. Make sure every single client is happy - contracting is a referral business. If I had a dollar for every client who came to me because their developer flaked out, I wouldn't need work.
You can also do this at local small business groups (not the tech entrepreneurs, but the the plumbers, accountants, and store owners) - just go and start introducing yourself. You won't get any cool work like this - mostly just Wordpress sites - but it's easier work to come by, and can pay just as well if you're smart about it. This might even be a better way to start because you get more, smaller, clients who can start your referral network. More clients = more referrals.
I know, I know, it's not ethical but there is a saying in China "the first pan of gold is dirty".
So end-the-end both methods worked for me. My clients came, some much later that I wanted but came. It took months and some worked in 2-year cycles and and would not use me again for 2 years but they'd come back.
Good luck to you.
It gets easier after the first few. They wind up referring you to new clients. That part is great.
1. Any chimney might or might not need sweeping. Any random person might or might not have a chimney. This means that just telling the people you meet that you are available as a chimney sweep might result in work.
2. There aren't chimneys in hobo camps. Wealthy people tend to hire trades workers. This means that efforts marketing should be targeted at people who hire chimney sweeps.
That's consulting. It's preparing the ground to increase the odds of being lucky enough to find a job and then being saavy enough to land it and capable enough to complete it. Then you're back at square one.
Developing a backlog of consulting work takes a really long time, a track record, and more luck. The image of "picking up" consulting gigs is not helpful. It's picks and hammers and salt mines and most of the veins you hit when you are lucky enough to hit one, run dry quickly. Any consultant who hits the mother load was lucky and probably built the mother load theirself.
The easiest way to get started in consulting is to work for another consultant. The industry is famous for hiring free-lance talent to balance work load. Which hits the final point: There is no planning to do consulting. Until the contract is signed there is no consulting to be done. Even after the contract is signed, there often is no consulting to be done, or less consulting than the contract might suggest or less payment than one might be entitled to.
There aren't people just standing around waiting to hire consultants. It's sales with the leads and prospects and closings and collections that come with that process.
1. Talk to people, be nice, sincere, helpful and polite. Give and get contact info (cards or details). (But don't let them milk you for too many freebies, at some point you need to charge for your time. Be clear and upfront about what you're willing and not willing to give away. Beware the "friend" psuedoclient that wants to pick your brain at all hours, at random without golden-rule consideration.)
2. Follow up and don't forget to follow up
2) Submit to jobsites knowing rates you should get.
3) Wait about 2 hours. Pick up phone.
-- Agent will identify you are 'new' and will try and offer lower rates.
-- Ensure Agent only submits CV to companies you agree.
4) Go to interviews
5) Accept job. Register company and bank account.
6) Accept agent is making money off you but pays you almost immediately.
If you are looking for more freelance work, then I suggest you attend various meetups and tech events and get your name out there. I would also strongly suggest you consider using elance to 'farm out' work that you could do yourself at a cheaper rate and then you can 'audit' the work. Never farm out work you could not have completed yourself. You will get let down. You will have to get your hands dirty.
Face to face connections are very strong and it worked really well for me.
These days I'd probably post on the freelancer HN page and look around on Craigslist... I actually ended up as a subcontractor to NASA writing code to contribute to an Eclipse project via Craigslist last year (YMMV).
It's tempting to see the contracting rates and just think of the $$ but a lot of the time it'll be cleaning up awful codebases.
Any idea what rate I can charge as a masters graduate?
Networking in person--by attending meetups and conferences in your potential customers' market (don't waste your time on tech meetups if you're just looking for work)--is slower and emotionally harder, but has a much, much higher yield.
It takes effort either way. I personally like the in person approach. I feel I do better in person than on paper. People get to see my enthusiasm, whereas trying to write enthusiasm into things often comes off as just fake.
Go to where your customers are. My wife has given up advertising her sci-fi novel online. We now go to book fairs. Bam--pre-filtered group of customers looking to buy now. I don't advertise my services online anymore, I now stick to meeting people at conferences. Best set of contacts I got from a conference was one at which I had spoke on a discussion panel.
Spend the small amount of money on a booth. Setup a few demos of your work. It's a lot easier than you think, and it doesn't have to be perfect; some people like the "I'm just starting out and don't know much about these booth things yet" story.
I've never gotten anything but run-around and bad deals out of recruiters.
Then, job scenario permitting, take a contract. Complete it, and take another one, ideally at a better rate, or that is more challenging, or both!
Continue to network. If it were me, I would make sure sales people and that process is part of your network. Tech people often don't enjoy sales, and that's perfectly understandable. Do it anyway. Do it because contractors / consultants do much better when they've got a good understanding of the sales process and the "science" behind it. When you approach sales in a technical way, identifying value, helping others to understand it and being able to ask them for the business means more frequent and better gigs. All of that reduces your risk and improves your income.
At some point, you will understand how you can make it on your own and then you can leave the job and go do that.
...by "network", I mean meeting people and talking about stuff as well as using the Internet, blog, social media, etc... to establish your personal brand and value.
1. Hustle. Network. Cold call. However you want to describe it. Reach out to your friends and acquaintances, tell them quickly and succinctly what you want to do.
2 (this should perhaps be 0). Pick something. You are young and can afford to pick the wrong or less optimal thing, but pick something you must: If you don't, no one will know what you do, no one will want you.
3. When you talk to people, always get something. Best case, a job offer. Worst case, the phone number for someone they know who might have a job offer.
4. Call, introduce yourself briefly, explain how you got their number, ask if you can meet face to face. If they say no, ask for someone else's phone number ("I understand, thanks for your time. Do you know of anyone else who might need this kind of work?" or words to that effect).
5. Meet. Let people get to know you. Force nothing. Get comfortable with this stage, it is key, vital, fundamental to freelancing, contracting.
6. Always get something, a name, a number, another meeting. Bears repeating.
7. As you do this, you will notice trends and patterns, subjects areas or people who come up again and again. Pay attention to this.
8. Based on #7, your best informed guesses, and your gut, narrow that list of people or subjects down to 1 or 2.
9. Roll the dice on those. Pursue them with your every waking moment.
A. When you have a job, spend part of looking for the next one - but temper your forwardness, your obviousness about this to the culture in which you work. Some will think nothing of this, find it perfectly normal; others will want discretion. Pay attention to this.
Alternatively, look at job ads, find one that interests you, start the interview process, and "hedge" as you get closer: "It's an interesting position, but I don't think it is what I am looking for long term. Would you consider hiring on a contract basis?"
ADDED: You are under no obligation to reveal everything. Be friendly, be collegial, but be professional. Get good at answering with non-specific sentences: "What are your career goals?" "Long term, my interests are in X, Y, and Z. Short term, I want to work independently to gain first hand business experience." Say it with conviction, that will close avenues of questioning. I write this because some will attempt to derail you, try to slot you into their boxes. You have to be firm but polite about staying on your own path.
Then, when they have another thorn, they'll think "That contractor worked great before; lets use them again". Raise your rate 10%. Repeat.
The "Maatschap" has several sales people that try to find jobs. Jobs are then proposed to "Maten" (freelancers working for the "Maatschap") and the can choose to take the job or not. Of course, the freelancer will pay a certain percentage of his wage to "The Maatschap".
Then there are companies like ComputerFutures and Qualogy that provide more or less the same options and I think both companies operate internationally. I've been placed at my current job through ComputerFutures, while still being a freelancer.
I work in Magento. I hung out in #magento, and #magento-jobs, and a few other more general PHP/HTML freelance channels (#startups can help you find channel names for freelancing). I answered questions in #magento for a month or so, got a little bit of rep, then started responding to requests for work. Eventually I got work. Some of it turned into reoccurring work.
If you use a recruiter then under UK law you have to sign up with an umbrella agency or run your own limited company as they aren't allowed to work with sole proprietors.
You'll know you're ready when they start coming to you ;)
When I decided to take on a new consulting client I researched the local businesses and created a list of around 10 that could potentially need programming work and matched my area of programming background. I then did email contacts to arrange an in-person meeting. (face-to-face is very important)
I was lucky and found a small company (just two guys) right away that were changing their focus from print/radio/tv healthcare messaging to internet and mobile. It started out as a normal hourly rate, but I eventually negotiated to a revenue sharing model and then later I negotiated to own 13% of the company + revenue sharing. This happened over the course of about 10 years and it's still going strong. (I started with my high normal consulting rate and then later cut that in half as part of the revenue sharing agreement, then much later when I took ownership of the company I now no longer charge hourly and am paid entirely through the revenue sharing)
I've also used other people I've worked with in the past to help me in my consulting projects. So if you have friends or professional contacts that you've worked well with in the past it works to contact them. Word of mouth goes a long way in this business. And I've also met potential clients at local meet ups, but those have yet to pan out but I think if I really pushed it I could get some work out of them.
Also, if you have a tech incubator in your area try to meet up with the startups in the incubator. I've done that in two cities (one in CA, one in Europe) and it's worked well.
Also, be aware of scummy people and any decisions that you make that can affect your future career. I lived near the 'other' valley where most porn is produced and received unsolicited contacts from small porn companies. I didn't take on any of those projects which is good because later I did consulting in Defense and NSA projects and also worked for a major San Jose based tech company for a couple of years.
Given recent events, I would consider government contracting far more of a black mark than anything in industry.
If you work in the adult film industry, you can't work for the government/get security clearances?
If this line applies to the issue, you're OK: "The behavior no longer serves as a basis for coercion, exploitation, or duress."
Also, my boss at adobe would not either.
A gambling or porn background reduces your career options.
Just do a quick search on Mormons and nsa, cia, fbi. They are over represented. Perhaps you didn't even know? And it's no secret that Air Force command is extremely religious.