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…

How To Launch A Product, Lose A Contest, And End Up A Winner Anyway

It was only Day 2 of the Gumroad Small Product Lab when I decided not to bother participating.

No, it was late on Day 2, even!  After signing up on Day 1, I hadn’t really decided to launch a product; signing up was driven more by curiosity than anything else. My hope was that  Gumroad would be offering some secret marketing info that I could use to promote my podcast. I had no idea how close that hope would be to what actually transpired.

Chatting with friends on Day 2, I deliberated over whether or not to do this, and what kind of a product I could do. In typical form, I had a hard time thinking truly small – a hallmark of my career is my tendency to over-engineer everything I do. Usually, this works in my favor; on a 10-day time-span, over-engineering would yield the same result as not starting at all; a no-finish. Keep Reading…

How I Accidentally Launched On Product Hunt

When I launched my new podcasting book recently, I had a halfway-decent promotional plan mapped out. My mailing list would be the centerpiece, my Twitter account would dribble enticing podcasting quotes, hashtagged to capture attention from interested folk, my friends would RT me or post promotional tweets of their own, and I’d pop in to forums & try to helpfully answer questions about things that could be found in my book.  None of this is super-advanced in terms of marketing, just a dedication to executing on some basics – which is good, because my marketing skills are basic!

What was NOT a part of my initial plan was for the book to be launched on Product Hunt.

All things being equal, I wanted to get listed, but I honestly knew very little about it. I had an account on PH but had never used it. I had heard many stories about creators and founders posting their product to PH and seeing it promptly disappear. Reading the rules regarding who is allowed to post comments and who isn’t, and how it’s all determined, I got the vague sense that being launched on Product Hunt was like ordering from the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld – one mistake, and you’re outta here! Man oh man, did that turn out to be wrong, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Keep Reading…