At the end of a lengthy job search I decided to become a freelancer helping companies onboard onto Elixir, helping them with their development projects and processes, some performance work, pushing Open Source and maybe even a bit of interim CTOing or other consulting. Who knows what the future will hold? Right now I’m on a project until the end of October to help a company realize their first Elixir project, so mostly mentoring and coaching.
As I think that reflection is important (hence Retrospectives are the only constant!) I wanted to write a bit about why I decided to take the freelance route:
I like to take (big) breaks between jobs. I’d also love to get some Open Source funding to do Open source full time. Both are hard while working full time, as you want to stay at your job for a prolonged time. It’s not exactly easy in most jobs to say “Hey can I take a 6 month leave because I got this great Open Source fund?”, especially not if you work in a leadership position. Should I discover freelancing isn’t for me it’s also easier to get back into full time employment than the other way around.
Freelancing gives me some of this flexibility. If I already earned enough money I can decide to take a month or more off (although it seems really expensive to do so). I can apply to Open Source funds – in fact I just did last Saturday and am anxiously awaiting the result as I’d love to push a vital part of the Ruby eco system to 1.0 🤞
It also gives me the flexibility to help people with smaller projects. I get approached semi frequently asking if I know of a freelancer to do X and X might be very interesting. Now I can say that I can do X myself, and in fact I’m already throwing ideas around together with a friend. Which leads me to my next point:
While I engage with communities, run the Ruby User Group Berlin, do open source and give presentations because it’s fun to me and I want these things to exist it has the positive side effect of being well connected. My big hope is that I have to spend less time doing client acquisition and can get either more paid time or free time. I also have a variety of freelancer friends whom I always wanted to work with so also keeping my fingers crossed that I might get to work with some of them 💚
Special Knowledge at Use
I happen to have some relatively specialized knowledge and combination of skills that I’d like to use more. For instance, I love performance optimizations and think there’s a market for bringing in freelancers to make your application faster and teach the team how to do this (especially with big Rails applications 😉 ). Other things I love are elixir and teaching. During my interviews I also heard of so many failed elixir introduction projects that I thought: Hey, people need some help adopting elixir! I like elixir, I like coaching/teaching, I like helping people = perfect match?
In fact, that’s exactly what I’m doing right now!
A good project to kick-start things
I was lucky enough that through my network I already had a standing offer for a 3 month project to help a company build their first elixir project. That’s something I really wanted to do and the people at the company were genuinely nice and excited. So you know – I wanted to do it so let’s try it out! “Worst” case, I do this one project and then get back to full time employment.
Choices, Choices, Choices…
I had a bunch of offers and good interviews for a variety of positions. In the end it was always hard for all of the points I mentioned in my post to come together. The project was great but I had concerns about diversity or diversity was great but I had concerns about the project or things are good but the position wasn’t what I wanted or we couldn’t agree about salary & vacations… you get the picture. I know a 100% fit is hard to achieve but in the end you can’t fault me for trying to achieve it, right?
Sometimes the timing also just didn’t work out – the freelance offer had a set deadline on when the project had to start so I couldn’t even finish interviewing with some promising positions as I decided to do (at least) this project.
Don’t get me wrong – there are really good positions out there and I’m still thinking about doing a follow up blog post highlighting some of the cool companies I interviewed with. For me the prospect of freelancing and potentially doing open source work just seemed more tempting at the time. That said, I already lost a CTO position I really liked because I decided to wait for an open source fund that I didn’t get. Let’s just hope that story doesn’t repeat itself 😉
So will you be freelancing forever now?
Maybe? I don’t know. I like it for now (well, a month in..) and if I manage to get the Open Source funding I’ll be ecstatic as I’ll essentially be paid for my hobby and do something good.
However, there are several things I’ll miss about full time employment, most importantly:
- Building and evolving a team long term & really being part of a team of people you know well
- Building and evolving processes long term
- Seeing the long term impact of work and decisions
- Form a deep understanding of product, processes, market, competitors etc
Of course there are also aspects to freelancing that aren’t ideal, I don’t believe anyone really enjoys doing their taxes, invoicing etc. but that all comes with it. Plus, the risk is all yours – if you can’t find a project you won’t get paid, if you’re sick you’re not getting paid.
For now I enjoy being a freelancer and I’m looking forward to the different projects that’ll hopefully come my way. But for how long? We’ll see 😉
Of course you can help me by hiring or recommending me 🤗