The Web Developers Wave

February 21, 2017

What is the web developer’s wave?

Any freelance web developer or designer will tell you, that projects come in waves. You could be 2 months without any work, and then get 3 jobs in a day. This is especially likely in the first few years you are working as an independent developer. So, there are a few strategies freelance web developers have to adopt to manage the wave.

1. Be constantly looking for work.

After you make first contact with a potential client (to discuss the basics of a new website or web app,) you will often find that you won’t get the go ahead (and the first payment) for a few months or longer. I’ve seen this process take 6 months or more!

So to account for this, you should be spending at least 5% of your time slowly planting new client seeds. Start putting out feelers by mentioning to friends, family, business acquaintances … even random people you run into on the street, that you are open to new jobs. Constantly be farming for work.

2. Manage your cash.

Unlike employees, freelancers have no idea WHEN they will get paid next. As such, you have to manage your money especially well. That means having a lot of cash saved up in what I call the ‘FU’ stash. You can watch my video on the subject.

3. Work to streamline your workflow.

A good workflow can mean the difference between struggling to pay the bills, and swimming in cash. Once you have a proper workflow, you will be maximizing your time, so you can get a lot done quickly. The more you optimize your workflow, bringing in processes, and/or apps that speed up the time it takes you to get stuff done, the more jobs you can take on, and the more money you can make.

For example, web developers will typically pick a web framework to base all their projects on. In the PHP world, these days people tend to go with Laravel. In the Ruby world, it is Rails. In the Java world, it is largely Spring.

… The point of the framework is to provide a code base and by extension a workflow, that takes care of all the common programming tasks like: database access, authentication, messaging and tasks automation … as examples.

My web development workflow:

When I was an active freelance developer back in the 1990s and early 2000’s, I would take on porjects to align with my workflow, and my own framework. Back then, I didn’t like the frameworks that were out there, so I developed my own Java Pojo based web framework that used the 80/20 rule to manage app development.

Basically, my framework was lightweight and it did not try to do everything. Instead, it took care of the bulk of the work (80%) and so with each new project, I had only the last 20% to build out. This meant I was able to put out projects in 1/5 the time. I would quote very competitively, especially since most developers had crappy workflows and many didn’t use frameworks effectively (if at all!) … and so I could come in cheap but was making great money for my time. I would often have 3-4 projects going at the same time to account for the expected lag in communication with clients.

Theses days we have the luxury of powerful and refined frameworks, so I wouldn’t be rolling out my own. So if you haven’t already, I would strongly suggest you start learning one today.

Thanks for reading!

Stefan Mischook


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