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Road to software development - Freelancing
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Secret Offline
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Post: #1
Road to software development - Freelancing
Hi guys, I am looking for some advice how to get started as a beginner or some exchange with someone of you in the same boat.

I finished my bachelor in electric engineering (my second career, I m not that young) with an emphasis on software development. Now I have a pretty good foundation in several programming languages (mainly C/C++ but also some web related from html over Javascript to PHP), but mainly from the theoretical side.
The advice of many digital nomad bloggers to skip the university was probably right, but ok that s over now.

I started working in a big company, programming machine controls mainly in C++. I am learning more and more every day in this field, but I am very sure that I don t want to end my life in an office 9 to 5 job.

For sure every experience and every learning has value, but I have my doubts if I am on the most effective road towards location independent freelancing. My time horizont to achieve my goals is 1 - 2, max. 3 years and not 10.

Although I have good (theoretical) knowledge about programming, the problem is when I read through the projects on Upwork and other platforms, I can t find anything where I would say self assured: Yes, I will do this alone. Maybe it s a lack of self assurance or just a lack of positive references, I don t know.

And still having the doubts if my current job will teach me the things I am lacking. Maybe I should also consider another niche, something more web related. Embedded systems and machine control in the big industry is, although in high demand and well paid (with experience) , it seems to be not the best tailored choice for location indpendent freelancing. Anybody here with other experience?

Often you read the stories of someone attending a coding bootcamp for a few months and starting out with freelancing and travelling the world. I have a technical degree and together with internships also more programming experience. So what am I missing? On the other hand you hear many people who say for freelancing you need tons of experience and it s only an option after several years in the corporate world. Who is right? What exactly am I missing? What should I learn and where can I get this? Thanks for any input.
12-16-2017 06:25 PM
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CleanSlate Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
Hate to burst your bubble, but I don’t think programming is a good one-man freelancing job.

I tried to go down the same road and it didn’t work out because you have to learn not only your favorite language, but also X, Y, and Z languages to stay up to date AND to meet your client’s requirements. Scope creep is a big problem here.

And I haven’t even talked about competition from third world coders making pennies on the dollar for doing just as good of a job, if not better. You also get competition from EE coding agencies who have fleets of programmers working on one project, each having a specialized skillset (backend, servers, databases, front end, UI/UX, etc). They can finish a project with 10 people in 10% of the time as opposed to a lone freelancer.

If you insist on self employment in programming, I would suggest working for a company or agency that allows you to be 100% remote. Not sure how common that is since most companies I’ve looked at stubbornly insist on face time.

Not to he a debbie downer here, but just to warn you what you may be up against.
(This post was last modified: 12-17-2017 03:56 AM by CleanSlate.)
12-17-2017 03:55 AM
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Suits Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
Why freelance? The real money in programming is in creating programs for mass consumption and problem solving SaaS solutions.

A word of caution, however:
This is littered with the carcasses of business attempts by people who couldn't tell the difference between genuine demand and their own desire for financial success.
(This post was last modified: 12-17-2017 04:07 AM by Suits.)
12-17-2017 04:06 AM
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Secret Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-17-2017 03:55 AM)CleanSlate Wrote:  Hate to burst your bubble, but I don’t think programming is a good one-man freelancing job.

I tried to go down the same road and it didn’t work out because you have to learn not only your favorite language, but also X, Y, and Z languages to stay up to date AND to meet your client’s requirements. Scope creep is a big problem here.

And I haven’t even talked about competition from third world coders making pennies on the dollar for doing just as good of a job, if not better. You also get competition from EE coding agencies who have fleets of programmers working on one project, each having a specialized skillset (backend, servers, databases, front end, UI/UX, etc). They can finish a project with 10 people in 10% of the time as opposed to a lone freelancer.

If you insist on self employment in programming, I would suggest working for a company or agency that allows you to be 100% remote. Not sure how common that is since most companies I’ve looked at stubbornly insist on face time.

Not to he a debbie downer here, but just to warn you what you may be up against.

Ok, thanks, I got your points. Competition is serious. But what is the alternative? Besides being stuck in an office job with 3 weeks of vacation per year for the rest of my life. Obviously moneywise this is the best choice. But that s not the life I want when I don t have the time and the freedom to spend my money, see the world, and the girls,..

Your advice working for a company with remote option, do you mean being a freelancer but instead of taking over full small projects on sites like Upwork, have a stable contract with 1 or 2 companies and work for them like an employee, just on a freelance contract and the possibility to do it fully or partially remote? Or work for them in a normal office but getting bigger breaks in between the contracts?
12-17-2017 02:13 PM
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worldwidetraveler Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-17-2017 02:13 PM)Secret Wrote:  Ok, thanks, I got your points. Competition is serious. But what is the alternative? Besides being stuck in an office job with 3 weeks of vacation per year for the rest of my life. Obviously moneywise this is the best choice. But that s not the life I want when I don t have the time and the freedom to spend my money, see the world, and the girls,..

Your advice working for a company with remote option, do you mean being a freelancer but instead of taking over full small projects on sites like Upwork, have a stable contract with 1 or 2 companies and work for them like an employee, just on a freelance contract and the possibility to do it fully or partially remote? Or work for them in a normal office but getting bigger breaks in between the contracts?

I believe CleanSlate means work as a permanent employee but remotely. Chances are you will probably have to start out working in the office until they trust you. Then you may start pushing to work remotely after you build up a reputation with your boss.
12-17-2017 02:27 PM
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
I want to point another way to the path you took:
Have you ever think about the other side of programming, Reverse engineering ? Bug Bounty Hunting ? Pen-testing where you can learn a lot more than what you will in your 9-5job ?

Tell them too much, they wouldn't understand; tell them what they know, they would yawn.
They have to move up by responding to challenges, not too easy not too hard, until they paused at what they always think is the end of the road for all time instead of a momentary break in an endless upward spiral
12-17-2017 03:23 PM
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RatInTheWoods Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
Suits is right, the road to riches and location independence is by creating software that sells - either an app or a niche solution etc.

There is no need to be an employee or a freelancer.

The good news is, there are no huge investments or overheads during the phase you build this software, you can do it in your free time, or after work if you have bills to pay.

The bad news is, there is a lot of people trying to do the same thing....
12-17-2017 06:29 PM
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-17-2017 03:55 AM)CleanSlate Wrote:  Hate to burst your bubble, but I don’t think programming is a good one-man freelancing job.

I tried to go down the same road and it didn’t work out because you have to learn not only your favorite language, but also X, Y, and Z languages to stay up to date AND to meet your client’s requirements. Scope creep is a big problem here.

And I haven’t even talked about competition from third world coders making pennies on the dollar for doing just as good of a job, if not better. You also get competition from EE coding agencies who have fleets of programmers working on one project, each having a specialized skillset (backend, servers, databases, front end, UI/UX, etc). They can finish a project with 10 people in 10% of the time as opposed to a lone freelancer.

If you insist on self employment in programming, I would suggest working for a company or agency that allows you to be 100% remote. Not sure how common that is since most companies I’ve looked at stubbornly insist on face time.

Not to he a debbie downer here, but just to warn you what you may be up against.

Agree 100% with CleanSlate, and I'm already in web development.

Working remotely is an option, but it's very hard to do this at the entry level, you could pull it off with less difficulty after 1 to 3 years, the more experience the more likely you can pull it off, but you're confined to places with solid, fast wifi, which is limiting. The hours/schedule can be an issue if you aren't planning on working in the Western Hemisphere. Also, your reward if you get good at web development is more work, so it's not exactly ideal.

A very significant drawback to web development is that you have to constantly invest more time into learning the latest technologies, the scope creep CleanSlate mentioned is real, and it's also endless. Know that you usually aren't paid to do this extra learning, it comes straight out of your free time. An issue with this is that as you acquire more responsibilities to others (wife, kids, older parents), you have less and less free time. So, paradoxically, as you need more and more money, you will be setting yourself up to make less and less money, until you have to either leave the field of web development or sacrifice either what little free time you still have left or the quality/quantity of your relationships with family/loved ones.

You could also make your own web apps, but actually making money off of any of them is much easier said than done. Levels.io is a good guy to read up on if you want to go that route.

CleanSlate and BeyondBorders achieved location independence via copywriting, I believe.

Roosh took the blogging/books/authority site route.

Kyle Trouble took the niche site/books/authority site route, but he's much more into the affiliate marketing side of things, and now he's making products about how to make products, in other words he's affiliate marketing about how to affiliate market.

I took the real estate route, and at a smaller scale this route has the drawback that it isn't as location independent as the other routes. On the other hand, once you get past that smaller scale, you can actually hire someone to manage your assets and not only be fully location independent, but you don't even have to work at all.
Also, because no wifi is required with this route, it also allows you to explore the entire world. You also get appreciation in case you ever wish to cash out, and after a certain amount of time, once each property is paid off, you get an automatic raise. Also there's often improvements you can make to properties which increase their yield.

So there's lots of ways to do it, but freelance web development, while viable, has some serious drawbacks.
(This post was last modified: 12-17-2017 09:16 PM by MongolianAbroad.)
12-17-2017 09:15 PM
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-17-2017 06:29 PM)RatInTheWoods Wrote:  Suits is right, the road to riches and location independence is by creating software that sells - either an app or a niche solution etc.

There is no need to be an employee or a freelancer.

The good news is, there are no huge investments or overheads during the phase you build this software, you can do it in your free time, or after work if you have bills to pay.

The bad news is, there is a lot of people trying to do the same thing....

It's the combined ability to innovate, market and sell that differentiates the winners from the wage slaves.
12-17-2017 09:25 PM
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ivansirko Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
My 2 bits...

You dont need to completely freelance. Lots of companies will hire you and you can work as remote as you wish. Companies like this will pay per diem for travel or will pay for your internet connection to work remotely. You should freelance if you have a valued skill. For instance you could probably freelance as a Database Designer simply because they are harder to come by plus lots of people in the industry who know nothing about the subject treat it like magic.

Also when providing a service just a "coder" is not enough. Have experience in SDLC, Software Engineering, Database Design, Release Management, etc.

In the day having a degree in EE was enough for you to have a career in Computer Science. Nowadays you need to expand your skillset. Practice at something like Mongo or Cassandra. Take a look at interpretive language such as Python. Everyone (to me) can do HTML. Dont just take a look at Javascript, take a look at frameworks such as Angular.js.
12-17-2017 09:35 PM
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Rain97 Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
Just learning programming doesn't guarantee you anything. At this time, there are millions of people that know how to program. If we're being realistic to get a consistent stream of freelance jobs you'll have to be the 1% of knowledge, I'm talking pissing and shitting in code.

The real money, in any industry is adding your own touch to whatever you do, that's what differentiates you from someone that has the exact same skill set as you.
12-20-2017 05:49 PM
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digitalanarchist Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-20-2017 05:49 PM)Rain97 Wrote:  Just learning programming doesn't guarantee you anything. At this time, there are millions of people that know how to program.


There might be millions of people that know how to program but most of them are shite and write shitty code.

I'm a Senior Software Developer for a financial firm here in Toronto earning over $100k. Most of the kids we interview haven't programmed much outside of their assignments from school which means they aren't usually any good.

Going remote is very hard. Usually firms look for a good track record of open-source contributions as that proves you can work remotely.

Even if you do manage to score a gig - a lot of firms want you in the same timezone which limits you to South America for North American firms.
12-21-2017 12:17 AM
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jselysianeagle Offline
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Post: #13
RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(deleted - others have already addressed the points I was trying to make)

Pussy ain't for pussies...
(This post was last modified: 12-23-2017 03:58 AM by jselysianeagle.)
12-23-2017 03:43 AM
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-17-2017 02:13 PM)Secret Wrote:  Ok, thanks, I got your points. Competition is serious. But what is the alternative? Besides being stuck in an office job with 3 weeks of vacation per year for the rest of my life. Obviously moneywise this is the best choice. But that s not the life I want when I don t have the time and the freedom to spend my money, see the world, and the girls,..

The alternative is to do what the vast majority of guys anywhere do (on or off this forum): either make the most of the vacation time you get (easiest), move somewhere so you're closer to your ideal location (harder), or start a business and become location independent (hardest).

(12-17-2017 02:13 PM)Secret Wrote:  Your advice working for a company with remote option, do you mean being a freelancer but instead of taking over full small projects on sites like Upwork, have a stable contract with 1 or 2 companies and work for them like an employee, just on a freelance contract and the possibility to do it fully or partially remote? Or work for them in a normal office but getting bigger breaks in between the contracts?

No, there are companies that will bring you on as a full time employee and still let you work 100% from your own home. It's not a contract - you will work for them just like a regular employee, except remotely. Such roles are becoming increasingly common these days, but on the whole they still make up just a fraction of available IT jobs.

Pussy ain't for pussies...
12-23-2017 03:56 AM
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lazy Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
I've been a freelance software engineer for a few years and have an exclusive relationship with a couple of long term clients. 100% remote. My pay rate isn't as high as I'd like, but it's within my grasp to increase it if I put in the work. Honestly, it's a great way to make a living. I love it. You can absolutely do it despite the problems that other posters in this thread have alluded to. I'll address some of the issues that have been raised here.

Experience:

My background, as well as most of my colleague's, is a few good years of on site experience in companies and then gradually moving on to remote freelance work. Can you go straight to remote? Probably, but it's not very common. I'd advise you to stick for a while with regular jobs as long as you're learning something from them. Learn everything you can, soak up the knowledge like a sponge, then move on to another job. When you get to the point where you can go through Upwork's listings and think to yourself "yeah, I could do this" to most of them, then you're ready to go remote.

Skill set:

All successful remote engineers are GOOD. Mediocre programmers won't cut it. Working remotely requires discipline, maturity and independent thinking. People who need supervision and hand holding don't do well in that environment.

Regarding specific skills, generally remote engineers are either laser-focused experts or uber generalists. There's a market for both. Sometimes you need a guy who lives and breathes in Go. Sometimes you need a guy who can navigate through your obscene multi-language codebase without blinking an eye. However, there are some abilities that are always desirable. For example, you should be very comfortable with SQL databases, no matter what your field is. If you work with software stacks that are typically deployed to Unix servers, you should be familiar with the CLI and server administration.

Web development is the most common field for remote engineers. And it's absolutely huge. Check out this web developer roadmap to have an idea of how much work you have ahead of you if you decide to go on that route. I assure you it's possible to get good at most of that in a couple of years, but it requires dedication. It absolutely pays off, though.

Competition:

The key to competing against second and third worlders is NOT competing against them. Just don't position yourself as someone who's competing against those guys. They're on a race to the bottom, you're not. Approach your prospects as someone who can speak English fluently, who's culturally close to them, who's professional, who's experienced, who cares about quality and results. Have phone calls and video conferences with them. Suddenly your client is not talking to an abstract coding machine that's cheap and unpredictable, but to a professional who's almost guaranteed to deliver the work.

It's funny that I'm saying this because I'm a third worlder myself, but I've managed to overcome that problem rather easily by watching the online freelance markets and taking note of what works and what doesn't.

Getting hired:

I'd say there are three common ways to getting hired in this market.

1. Networking and contacts. The easiest if you know people.
2. Brute force. You convince your client to hire you with your CV, interview performance, sample code, etc. The hardest and less likely to succeed, but that's how I started out, so it's definitely possible.
3. Open source. By far the most fruitful. If you have some nice OSS projects and at least one of them have traction, you don't have to do anything, people will contact you out of the blue offering you work.

Invest as much as you can in 3. I did that very little and it's a blocker for me. When I mentioned getting myself a raise in the beginning of the post, that's what I was talking about. If I finish and publish a few OSS projects that I started and abandoned, I'm pretty sure I could either get a new client who will pay me more or pressure my current clients into raising my rate. Software engineers are a bit like artists or musicians: if they have projects that people are talking about, if they have some public reputation, that raises their pay rate tremendously. And if you have a really popular repo under your username you're pretty much guaranteed to find work whenever you need it.

Career:

Yes, the software engineering world is constantly flooded by new technologies and you need to learn or read about all of them if you want to stay on top of your game. If you don't enjoy doing so, you won't succeed, unless you find a specific niche that's more or less static but still in demand (think COBOL devs). Personally, I don't think that's such a major problem. You just have to like what you're doing. I read nerdy shit about programming languages and frameworks all the time because I actually find it interesting.

Remote devs don't really have a career progression. Generally your "career" is increasing your hourly or daily rate. So you have to factor savings, investments, retirement, etc, all in your rate.

Ageism is a real problem in tech. It gets way harder to find work in your 40s. That's something you need to have in mind. Most guys as they age either move to management or find a little niche that doesn't change much and doesn't have a lot of people working on it. My goal is to launch my own product and avoid this problem altogether.

--

Post is getting long and there's a lot to say about this topic, so let me know if you have specific questions and feel free to PM in any case.
12-23-2017 01:40 PM
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roid Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
I did freelance programming before, many years ago. Not remotely. Back then I was doing Java/J2EE when the language was just starting to be cool. I could earn good money since the language was new and in demand ALSO not many people were mastering it. After a while, more people learnt about making good money in Java and started to offer the same service as mine. Rates started dropping like crazy till it didn't make sense for me to get up and work. The same thing is gonna happen with Go language developers or any fancy language developers. Commoditization will occur and you will be lucky if you make 120k annually. My suggestion is instead of mastering a language that is in demand, you should focus on the business domain knowledge. For example, you are a Go developer who specializes in payment processing. Hence, it doesn't matter what the next hot language is. You will always be in demand since that domain is always in need of good people.
(This post was last modified: 12-24-2017 10:31 AM by roid.)
12-24-2017 10:31 AM
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-17-2017 03:55 AM)CleanSlate Wrote:  And I haven’t even talked about competition from third world coders making pennies on the dollar for doing just as good of a job, if not better.

Turd world programmers do not do a good job period (I've hired many before on all the main freelancing sites).

Very low average IQs for those countries maybe explains why the work and the work ethic is so poor. There's more to it of course (bad culture, etc.)

More people are cottoning on to the fact that, when you pay peanuts, you truly get monkeys. And if a prospective employer can see you're white, present yourself professionally and can show examples of similar projects / tasks, you will be in like Flynn and in hot demand.

I see many reports of freelancers being contacted by someone who employed one of these morons for peanuts and now needs the job done properly. If you are a freelancer in this position, please brutally negotiate on price (you know they're desperate and they should be taught a lesson).
(This post was last modified: 12-24-2017 04:27 PM by Theodosius.)
12-24-2017 04:24 PM
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-24-2017 04:24 PM)Theodosius Wrote:  
(12-17-2017 03:55 AM)CleanSlate Wrote:  And I haven’t even talked about competition from third world coders making pennies on the dollar for doing just as good of a job, if not better.

Turd world programmers do not do a good job period (I've hired many before on all the main freelancing sites).

Very low average IQs for those countries maybe explains why the work and the work ethic is so poor. There's more to it of course (bad culture, etc.)

More people are cottoning on to the fact that, when you pay peanuts, you truly get monkeys. And if a prospective employer can see you're white, present yourself professionally and can show examples of similar projects / tasks, you will be in like Flynn and in hot demand.

I see many reports of freelancers being contacted by someone who employed one of these morons for peanuts and now needs the job done properly. If you are a freelancer in this position, please brutally negotiate on price (you know they're desperate and they should be taught a lesson).

There are plenty of non-white and "turd world" programmers contributing code to libraries, applications and websites you use every day. Freelancing websites are flooded by shitty programmers because the barriers to entry are very low, but you can still find top talent from developing countries who will charge less than first worlders due to lower living costs.
12-24-2017 04:54 PM
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
It's almost impossible to be a newbie and make decent money as a freelancer. Writing code takes a lot of time and effort. There are a lot of companies who have a code base and can do things much faster than you. And as mentioned in many comments. There are also developers all over the world in India, China, and Eastern Europe who will do everything for cheaper. I will add that they're companies in the USA, that have a staff of freelancers that they contract if they need extra work. So it is possible.

Now at the same time, there is a massive demand for tech people in the US. But this is only for experienced developers and engineers. There are plenty of people already available for entry-level jobs. Most companies don't want entry level people for two reasons. One: senior people can do things much faster and without help. Two: many companies are too afraid that they're training people to leave for greener pastures. A consulting company I know in the startup space actually tells people to not hire anyone with 1- 3 experience. Not good enough to code like a senior dev, and too smart to look somewhere else.

Also, other than the few genius guys that work at Facebook and Google, I honestly have not met anyone yet who is a great at design, great at javascript and is a great back-end developer. I think its preferable to do something you're good at and then try to turn that into a remote opportunity.

I am speaking a pretty new person in the industry and this is what i've seen(I mean like i didnt know css 1 year and half ago)
(This post was last modified: 12-24-2017 06:32 PM by godzilla.)
12-24-2017 06:30 PM
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-24-2017 04:54 PM)lazy Wrote:  There are plenty of non-white and "turd world" programmers contributing code to libraries, applications and websites you use every day.

I don't want to get into a debate about this because this sort of thing is really obvious. But be careful of using exceptions to disprove a rule. It is a womanish behaviour (hence NAWALT).
12-24-2017 06:42 PM
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lazy Offline
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Post: #21
RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-24-2017 06:42 PM)Theodosius Wrote:  I don't want to get into a debate about this because this sort of thing is really obvious. But be careful of using exceptions to disprove a rule. It is a womanish behaviour (hence NAWALT).

What's the rule here, exactly?

If you don't want to get into a debate, you should probably avoid race baiting in a random thread about software engineering.
12-24-2017 06:56 PM
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Blaster Offline
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Post: #22
RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
Pretty sure the biggest reason for the apparent racial disparity (whatever the statistical biases actually are) is simply a matter of selection bias. I suspect that shit-tier western programmers tend to give up and quit the industry a lot faster than Indian/Eastern European ones.

Also, I think lazy's point is about a very large segment of middle tier of programmers, not the odd exception.

The only point I'd make is that if you're interested in software development try not to be discouraged by the competition. It's still a valuable skill.
12-24-2017 08:37 PM
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MongolianAbroad Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-23-2017 01:40 PM)lazy Wrote:  Yes, the software engineering world is constantly flooded by new technologies and you need to learn or read about all of them if you want to stay on top of your game. If you don't enjoy doing so, you won't succeed, unless you find a specific niche that's more or less static but still in demand (think COBOL devs). Personally, I don't think that's such a major problem. You just have to like what you're doing. I read nerdy shit about programming languages and frameworks all the time because I actually find it interesting.

When you factor in the hours you spend on this, are you still making a good hourly rate?

Or, how many hours a week would you say you devote to this?
12-24-2017 08:41 PM
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Post: #24
RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-24-2017 08:41 PM)Spaniard88 Wrote:  When you factor in the hours you spend on this, are you still making a good hourly rate?

Or, how many hours a week would you say you devote to this?

Between 5 and 10 hours per week. It's part of my daily routine to go on Hackernews and lobste.rs and read some interesting articles. If I subtract these hours from my monthly invoice I'll still be making a decent rate (for my country anyway), but I definitely see your point.
12-25-2017 05:54 AM
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roid Offline
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RE: Road to software development - Freelancing
(12-25-2017 05:54 AM)lazy Wrote:  
(12-24-2017 08:41 PM)Spaniard88 Wrote:  When you factor in the hours you spend on this, are you still making a good hourly rate?

Or, how many hours a week would you say you devote to this?

Between 5 and 10 hours per week. It's part of my daily routine to go on Hackernews and lobste.rs and read some interesting articles. If I subtract these hours from my monthly invoice I'll still be making a decent rate (for my country anyway), but I definitely see your point.

HackerNews and lobste.rs are more like news sites, I think you should not count it as work. However, I am interested to know how much time you devote to learn new language in case the current language you're working on is fading away.
12-26-2017 04:12 AM
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