Answering freelance fears from experience

I usually write technical notes on my blog but, in this case, I want to write some literature about my experience of being freelance, focusing on my initial fears and how they got defeated.

I’ve been working in a freelance basis since 2009, when I created “Relational” which is my freelance firm. At the beginning it was a tough decision for me, mainly for three reasons. Firstly because, since that moment, I’d always been working at large companies inside big IT teams, where everybody had specific roles and you could get some help from each other. I didn’t know if I’d be able to face new projects all by myself. Secondly, I thought I could get stuck at what I already knew, since freelance doesn’t have a formation plan as I had as an employee. And finally, I was waiting for the birth of my first child and I didn’t know if I would earn enough money and have time enough to face our family’s new situation.

Seven years later, I can answer those fears from my experience. First surprise was receiving so many contacts at social networks after updating my profile as freelance.  I had to choose between different projects and I started working at two important companies simultaneously at the very first month I began as freelance. As I started working I realized my first fear vanished all alone: I was working inside existing teams but in a freelance basis. It’s also true that later on I faced some projects alone but that were strange situations for small needs. I’d like to emphasize when you are freelance you meet other freelance and you can help each other if you’re open to collaborate. Even more, as a freelance you don’t have that kind of working competition some consulting companies promote among their own employees.

About the formation fear, it’s all about which projects are you willing to take. Someone wrote “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea” and that’s so true in my experience! My area of expertize at that time was Oracle APEX (a PL/SQL rapid application development tool with a web frontend) and taking new challenges made me learn, not only  other technologies (like SQL Server, SSIS, T-SQL, Talend, MicroStrategy, AJAX, jQuery, Java, Yii, etc.) but also other areas like Business Intelligence, DataWarehousing, Project Management, Customer Management, etc. In my experience I had only to say “yes” to some attractive projects and the rest was just a matter of answering that call. It’s true I had to study and I had to learn by myself but it’s easier when you have the proper motivation.

As you can imagine, my final fear also disappeared alone. When I was an employee I had to accept all projects, I had to travel, sometimes I had to work 10h-12h per day at certain clients… that was not having time for anything. Right now I accept only projects which let me have time for my family. It’s true that sometimes you have a peak workload, however I can spend the afternoon with my children, put them to sleep, and work afterwards. I don’t have to be around at the office so that the boss can see you’re working hard.  The thing that matters now is the quality of the job I deliver and this is what gives confidence to my customers. Finally, about the money, it’s not as constant as an employee, and unfortunately sometimes you have to struggle to get paid (more since the crisis) but I’ve always been paid eventually, and I earn clearly more than when I was an employee.

Recently I’ve been contacted from Predrag Gajic (Toptal) who is looking for elite engineers all around the world. I hadn’t heard about Toptal (to tell you the truth) and after searching on the internet I really got excited about how they work (since is quite the same I’ve been doing all this time, but someone recruits best freelancers and best projects for you). I don’t know if I’ll pass their testing process but I’m really glad they thought of me. If I finally pass, I’m willing to create Oracle APEX Toptal community, because I’d tried to apply for this technology and the platform lead me to “Toptal Apex Developers Community”  whichi is about “APEX Salesforce” instead of “Oracle APEX”, that’s a quite common mistake between those two technologies.

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