From my Notebook >
I got your name from a friend, a fellow freelancer and a very talented person. He suggested I “try you out” if I have any freelance projects that require a developer. He said you recently lost your job.
I felt bad that you lost your job. It’s a hard time & place to be looking for a job, living in a rural area.
But…that’s odd. Why didn’t my friend just hoard your time and immediately put you to work? He’s got plenty of freelance work to give out, I think. And you have a lot of experience. You’ve been a developer for a long time now. I was impressed by your employment history.
So I called you to talk, but I wrote down some questions beforehand:
My friend told me you worked with PHP. So I was expecting (and hoping) to hear something like this:
“I worked with PHP and MySQL at my last job, and evaluated various frameworks before deciding on X [be that framework or no framework] and here’s why […]. But I’m also interested in learning more about Django and Rails. I used a lot of jQuery because it saved me a ton of time. I prefer work that is challenging, but am open to a broad range of activities. On the side I’ve done some desktop application development and I am really intrigued by mobile devices and mobile apps.”
That would have been a fantastic answer, say, 3-5 years ago. Today it’s a pretty normal answer. I can really use those skills though—they’re still valuable.
Since you did a lot of deep programming, I kept asking about frameworks. I was wondering: How maintainable is your code? You seemed to dodge that line of inquiry, but it’s a phone call; things slip through the cracks. Plus, frameworks don’t write all of the code for you, and I perfectly understand if you decided you could do your own work well enough without one. But I wanted to hear if you even knew that they exist.
You later emailed me more information about your preferred type of website. The way you described it, I didn’t get a good picture of what you meant, or why it was important to you. I wondered if you were trying to defend your own lack of design skills, or really sell me on an extremely small set of features that you felt made a website better.
When I told you what I do, you didn’t seem interested. Well, developers are in high demand, and I don’t need you to be in love with what I’m doing. But if you wanted to work together, I would think you’d at least try to see where our approaches might complement one another.
Finally you told me you were currently freelancing at $30 USD per hour, but were going to be expecting more than that in the future. I should think so. Your hourly pricing sent a strong message to me.
I don’t think I’m some sort of incredibly awesome freelancer. But these things all added up to a strange feeling in my gut.
In the end I went back to my friend and told him that you seemed like a very talented person. I told him your work experience and attitude made me feel like you’d be a good full-time developer for a single company, where you could do deep work over a long period of time. But for freelance work, the requirements are different. Freelancers need a broad range of relatively up-to-date skills. We want to work with people who can communicate, empathize, and remain open to new ideas.
I told my friend all of that.
He said, “that’s what I thought, too.”