Do You Need to Be a Really Good Programmer to Make a Living Freelancing?

It’s a valid question – how good do your programming skills need to be (and how much does that matter) in the world of freelancing?

The Question:

Do you need to be a really good programmer to make a living freelancing?
How advanced does a programmer need to be in order to make a living as a freelancer taking jobs from freelancing sites like Odesk or Elance? What kind of technical skills need to accomplish beforehand?

The Answer:

When it comes to raw coding ability, everyone will argue as to what “really good” means, so I’ll say this: you should be at least at the “Consciously Incompetence” stage on the Four Stages Of Programming Competence scale. It is here that you have some fundamentals down, but your eyes and your mind are open to what you don’t know. In this stage, you are actively working toward improvement and understand the necessary elements of doing so. This, I think, is the absolute minimum price of entry into programming for money. Keep Reading…

A Client Did Not Pay Me For Software Work. What Should I Do?

It’s a hazard of the profession – sometimes a client will try to weasel out of payment.

The Question

A client did not pay me for software work. What should I do?
I created a tax website for a client of mine recently. He used my server for all his customers work but after tax season he refused to pay me my commission. I still have his customers data on my server. Shall I email them and let them know that their accountant is a scum bag? Can I be sued for that?

My Answer

Sorry to hear you’re in a bind with this client. I’ve been there and I know it feels awful.

I’m curious about this:

after tax season he refused to pay me my commission

Your question began with “a client did not pay me”, but…did the client ever explicitly agree to pay your commission in the first place? If not by an actual contract, then even by text or e-mail? If so, you *might* have a contract that is enforceable, depending on the law where you live. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, but it’s worth looking into. Keep Reading…

How To Turn Down Freelance Work Gracefully

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: freelancing and consulting work are like sunlight; there’s enough for all of us to get a tan.

That said, in the coin flip of life, some days don’t feel like you’re operating in a world of abundance. This freelancing game can be brutal.  Sometimes things look bleak, and you wonder if you’re going to make it.

The minute you start radiating struggle or desperation, a predatory (at worst) or clueless (at best) potential client will appear, sensing your weakness and enticing you with a fat – or so they say – check, if only you can accommodate their abusiveness, idiocy, or micro-managing.

You begin to wonder how critical is it that you close this job? Ask yourself if you’re willing to be married to a client who is throwing up red flags before you’ve even done any business together?  Can you tolerate their behavior once there are stakes?  Sometimes you’ll decide that things just aren’t bad enough to willingly subject yourself to frustration.

The other side of the coin flip of life is that sometimes things are going like gangbusters.  Sometimes the freelancing game opens up and gives you the goodies you’ve been working so hard to acquire. Keep Reading…

Burning Consulting Questions: How To Get Clients?

I talk to a good number of freelancers/consultants, and I hear this same burning consulting question from a lot of people, both new and established:

I understand you run a successful consulting business and was wondering if you have any “tips” regarding how to get clients?

OK, here comes a “Constulants hate him” moment: I haven’t had to work all that hard to keep my business busy. I’ve been reasonably fortunate in two ways regarding client acquisition:

  1. 80% of my firms’ work comes from word-of-mouth referrals, and
  2. The other 20% comes from people just phoning in after finding my company on Google.

The majority of my business revenue comes from selling new projects to existing clients, far more so than by selling new projects to new clients.  My experience has been that the best answer to “how to get clients” is “sell to the clients you already have”.

That said, at the moment I do find myself looking to fan the flames of marketing a bit. I recently devised a new strategy for marketing my business locally, and I’m not 100% certain it’s going to work. Keep Reading…

12 Things I Learned in 12 Years of Freelancing

So, it turns out that Cogeian Systems turns 12 years old this month. I’ve decided to share some of my experience from these 12 years. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn’t…but I hope it does.

1) Sometimes turning down work is a good idea.

I am a firm believer that freelance and consulting work is like sunlight; there’s enough for all of us to get a tan. But sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Sometimes you’re up against a mortgage payment and the sales funnel is covered in dust. In these moments, a nightmare client will *always* appear, sensing your weakness and desperation, enticing you with a big fat check (but not as fat as it would be if you weren’t desperate), if only you can accommodate their abusiveness, idiocy, or micro-managing.

What do you do? Keep Reading…