“Can you create a clone of YouTube in PHP? How long will it take you to do it and how much do you charge?”
“I am forming a company that would compete with Company X, but I need volunteer programmers with topnotch skills like yours. I can’t afford to pay you right now, but I do promise to give you a portion of the profit when we become successful. Care to join us on board?”
As a freelance programmer, you have probably been offered impressive-sounding or other downright stupid projects like the ones above. Over the years, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that not all projects and clients are worth investing my time. Here is my take on why you should avoid the trap.
Deal Or No Deal
I’m not addicted to TV Shows, but on occasions I have my eyes on Deal or No Deal, it’s easy to get hooked especially when the show is about to reach its climax. “Deal or No Deal?”, Kris Aquino would ask. The answer is neither right nor wrong, but it comes with consequences that continue until the next morning and become part of the family’s breakfast meal. I would venture to say that the player’s answer is influenced by three factors: greed, faith and commonsense.
Dealing with clients and choosing your software projects is about the same. Should you go with the one the promises big bucks? Would you entertain a static website worth $100? Sometimes the best deal is having no deal. I’ve learned that from experience – albeit, painfully. Learning to say “No” gracefully can save you at least three important resources: your time, your energy, and your sanity.
Choose Your Projects Carefully
For most of us cowboy programmers, it is very tempting to participate in Mission Impossible projects. We struggle to code late at night — which happens to be considered as free time — and keep pounding the keyboard until our fingers bleed. We want to build a better mousetrap, introduce unique features or provide better solutions to a problem that doesn’t even exist.
Back-off, cowboy, it’s time to wake up! If can’t afford to respect yourself, then at least have a little respect for your time. Realize that the time you spend coding for Tom Cruise is also the very same time you snatch from your kids. How much will you get from that project? How much is your kid? Sometimes it all boils down to priorities.
At the other extreme, there are projects that are plainly difficult to shallow. You know, the kind that you are hesitant to place on your resume or show to your friends for fear of burning yourself in shame. It may promise some big bucks, but if you can’t be proud of it, it really amounts to nothing.
Choose a project on the basis of pride, monetary rewards and the time spent in order to get those. There is no point in doing a project you can’t be proud of. Also, you have to earn something for your efforts; the higher your commulative earnings, the better for you. And time — you have to spend it wisely when doing the project.
Choose Your Clients Carefully
There are clients who can afford to pay and there are those who can’t. You can spot which one is which by the way the client reacts when you mention the price. There are clients who will pay and there are clients who won’t pay. Now that’s a little tricky to detect. The more exposure you have in dealing with clients, the better equipped you will be in differentiating the bluffer from the serious ones. Your goal should to be work ONLY on serious clients who can afford to pay you and who will be happy to pay you in return for your products or services. The bluffers will only rob you out of the three important resources I mentioned above.
I am assuming, of course, that the prospective client is interested in your products or services. In other words, it is useless to offer your wares to uninterested prospects.
The Power of No
As a freelance programmer, you are in the race of saving three important resources of time, energy and sanity. Learning how to say “No” will put things into their proper place where you end up happier and fulfilled as a freelancer.
So the next time a freelance programmer will say, “May the power of No be with you,” let your response be: “And also with you!”