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What I Learned In My First Month Being A Contract iOS Developer

tl;dr Present yourself to potential clients as if you have already made it. Don’t be scared, the work it out there. Freelancing FTW!1!

In the first week of December, I got a rather unfortunate (and unexpected) call from the CEO of the company I was working for. The gist of it was “we are reorganizing, and have decided to cut your position. Effective Immediately”. At this point, I was the Director Of Mobile Engineering and was making a very decent salary. While I was planning on leaving to go freelance at some point, I hadn’t dreamed it would be this sudden.

Well, it turns out that CEO did me one of the biggest favors of my life. He forced me to go indie. I probably would have flailed there for at least another year before even considering moving on.

I want to share a few things (good and bad) about what I have learned in the past month and how I will never (willingly) work for a company again.

Panic Sets In

I had been working at the aforementioned company for the past 4 years. In fact, it was my first job out of college. So, you can imagine how scary and stressful it was going from a steady paycheck to nothing in the blink of an eye. What’s ironic about this is, many people I have talked to since going indie have told me that they wish they could do it too, but really like the “security” of their corporate job.

At first, I freaked out a little and took the day off (I was “let go” in the morning). But, the very next day I hit the ground running in search of a contract.

Contracts, Contracts Everywhere

Much to my surprise, there are contracting opportunities everywhere. Again, I had to leave the company so soon, I hadn’t had time to research this myself beforehand. A simple Google search of “[your field] contract work” should reveal plenty (assuming your field is some sort of software. I can’t speak for other industries). I even started applying for salaried jobs as a contractor. You would be surprised how many companies are open to it.

This was immediately comforting.

Talk The Talk

My first few days of looking for a contract were pretty interesting. Being that I had just been let go, I felt this intense pressure to land a contract right away. This definitely came through in how I related to the recruiters and people I spoke with. My good friend Scott Caruso sat down with me and gave me some of the most important advice I would hear for dealing with potential clients.

  1. You are looking for the “right opportunity”. If you are considering freelance, you obviously feel you are an expert (or close to) in your field and that definitely has value. Don’t settle for crappy contracts at crappy rates just because you need the money. You will hate life.

  2. Spam! During my first week, I would contact one or two people and they said they would get back to me. Well, I didn’t want to possibly have to tell them no later, so I would politely not communicate with anyone else until I heard back. That was dumb.
    Finding contracts is like shopping at Goodwill. It’s mostly crap, but if you go through enough of the crap, you will find a gem.

  3. Leverage your existing contacts. This should be obvious. I was holding off on this early on as I didn’t want to sound lame. However, these are the people you can show a little desperation to as they are (or should be) your friends. That being said, someone always knows someone else that needs some work done. If I hadn’t done this, I for sure would have violated #1.

  4. You are a scarce resource (at least present yourself that way): Once I started telling recruiters that I was talking to tons of others and am planning on making a deal this week, I started getting a flood of them calling me back.

The Bad

  1. Everything you do starts to get a price tag. The other day, I asked my wife to make me a sandwichh. She told me to make it myself, and I politely informed her that the 15 minutes spent doing that would cost us $25 so it had better be the best sandwhich I have ever made.
I am not sure if this feeling ever goes away (if you are a veteran freelance, I’d love to hear your thoughts).
  1. It’s a little scary knowing you don’t have a paycheck in X months (X being your current contract length). This was the most frightening thing at first. Now, it seems like an exciting challenge.

  2. Tendency to overwork: Since you now have money++ and can make more just by adding hours, you will be drawn to work more. I have talked to many others who end up leaving freelance because of burnout from working too much. Sure you made $30K in 2 weeks, but you are hating life.

Summary

So far my journey as an independent iOS developer has been incredible. I am loving every minute of it and I encourage anyone interested in it to do the same. I don’t think it’s for the n00b or the non-self starter. This post I found on Hacker News has a brilliant step by step tutorial on moving in this direction.

I hope you have enjoyed yet another post on freelancing.

Thanks for reading!