This week I’m launching a new ebook called 30 Days to Become a Freelancer. As part of its launch, I wrote about my path to becoming a freelance developer and the missteps I made along the way.
After a year of spinning my wheels and working in an area I didn’t plan to do, I finally got back into my expertise. I picked up a few projects at first but they were all over the map.
Then I noticed that a community I was involved in had rapidly growing businesses who needed custom development. The tool, Redmine, worked for them but it wasn’t a 100% perfect fit. Since it was open source they decided it would be better to customize Redmine than to go looking for a new tool.
Since I’ve already been customizing my own Redmine and some clients installs, I offered to help them.
One thing led to another and those couple of clients bloomed into a few more and then more and more.
Each project increased my knowledge and expertise which would prompt more clients to come to me.
That’s when I decided to become really focused with my services and I stopped accepting general Rails project in favor of Redmine projects.
This focus drove even more clients as I became the “Redmine guy”, the consultant that everyone with a Redmine system wanted to work with.
Even to this day I still have potential clients coming to me, even though I discontinued my Redmine services in 2012. The marketing machine I built up kept on working, long past when I stopped working it.
I attribute a lot of this success to the focus and clarity I had.
My first year I had neither and it showed in the projects I was winning. I was all over the map. I was unfocused.
But then I focused on Redmine, even to the extent that I turned down significant Rails projects from well known companies. I was focused.
It wasn’t easy. I still remember the back-and-forth and worry I had when I was considering what to do. Restricting myself and my services felt like it would handicap me.
And the advice I was getting didn’t help either. One side would say to focus. One side would say to be a generalist. One side would say to walk the dog (or maybe that was just my dog speaking).
It’s difficult to make a decision with so many different opinions and advice.
But it goes to show you that there isn’t just one path. Freelancers have made it work by focusing. They’ve also made it work by being a generalist.
That’s the important lesson: you have to choose a path that looks good to you and follow it.
Not all paths are created equal. Some are flat out wrong and aren’t based on reality. Some have gaps and don’t cover big things that could happen. But most important of all, some paths aren’t a good fit for you.
The path I followed is one path. It worked for me. Similar paths have worked for other freelancers.
I’ve collected my knowledge of the path I took and put it into a training called 30 Days to Become a Freelancer. Not only is it how to get started but it’s also how I wish I got started.