The Freelancers' Show 093 - The Pros and Cons of Freelancing

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The panelists discuss the pros and cons of freelancing.

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[Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at BlueBox.net.]  [You're fantastic at coding, but do you have an action plan to take it to the next level? The upcoming book, Next Level Freelance will help you optimize your freelance business for happiness. The book is packed with actionable steps to make more money, case studies, tips to find more clients and exercises for you to establish your desired lifestyle. Extras include nine interviews with freelancers who make great money while enjoying great work-life balance, videos on strategies to find quality subcontractors, and videos on making more free time by outsourcing your daily tasks. Check it out today -- nextlevelfreelance.com.]  [This episode is sponsored by Planscope. Planscope is a project management and collaboration app built for freelancers in the way they work with clients. It makes it easy to price up new estimates, and once you're underway, helps answer the question, “Will this get done on time, and under budget?” I've been using Planscope to do my estimates and manage my projects, and I really, really like it. It makes it really easy to keep things in order and understand when things will get done. You can go check it out at planscope.io.] CHUCK : Hey everybody, and welcome to Episode 93 of The Freelancer Show. This week on our panel, we have Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hello! CHUCK: Jim Gay. JIM: Howdy. CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hey. CHUCK: Curtis McHale. CURTIS: Hey! CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv and this week, we are going to be talking about benefits or pros -- and I guess the cons -- of being freelance. So I guess there's a lot to talk about. There's a lot I like about freelancing. What about you, guys? JIM: Do you get benefits with your job? CHUCK: Yeah, I pay for them myself. [Laughter] REUVEN: Right, exactly. CHUCK: Is that a con, I guess? JIM: [Chuckles] Maybe, yeah. REUVEN: My employer is very generous with benefits, so. CHUCK: [Chuckles] CURTIS: Yeah, my employer just got me a new back pack that was very expensive. CHUCK: Oh nice. REUVEN: But the paperwork he puts me through is just killer. CHUCK: Yeah no kidding, right? Yeah, I guess one of the con speaking of benefits is that some countries’ president pushed through a bill that changed the way that insurance works, so now I have to go and actually figure out what I wanna do with my insurance. ERIC: Ah, yes. REUVEN : [Chuckles] CHUCK: Yeah, I have to do it by the 23rd, so that I have coverage on the first of January. Because knowing my luck, if I don’t, something will happen to me [chuckles] on the first of January. ERIC: Yeah for that, we've got a financial advisor that helps us sort of coordinate how we are spending money and how we are getting benefits and stuff. And I have been blissfully unaware of like any of the changes with the way healthcare is setup in the US. And I'm just kind of waiting for the ball to drop, where like I can call and he says to me, “Hey, by the way, the plan you have, you can't have anymore.” But that doesn’t happen. So I honestly have spent zero time thinking about it, and I consider myself very fortunate for that. So I don’t know if he's already got something covered for us and we are going to switch, or if what I have is still good or what. So I can say that that’s one of the benefits of having a good financial adviser who takes care of that stuff for me. I know there are probably companies who are out there… I guess maybe not in our our high tech industry, it may not be that big of a deal, but I know some people, companies are dropping their health insurance or just making major changes. So for me, I can say one of the benefits is I'm currently lucky enough to be set up that I don’t foresee a change. CHUCK: Yeah, it’s kind of a US centric issue, the changes with the healthcare system here in the US. But I think in general, the kind of the pro that you pointed out was that you can have as much control or involvement as you want; you can pay somebody else to do deal with it or you can deal with it yourself. Most of the time, if you’re in an employed situation, you are just kind of stuck with  whatever they have. ERIC: Yeah, though I guess it’s different. So remember when my wife and I are both employed, we would always balance like, “Well, should we each get our own plan or should we just go with your plan?” So there's some benefits there when you have a spouse who’s employed, who also has benefits. But then on the other side, like right now, my wife is not employed -- aside from the work that she does for our company. So that option is just gone. So it’s we have a lot of control, but all the weight is on our shoulders for figuring out the right thing and balancing the monthly cost versus the deductibles, and that kind of stuff. CURTIS: I deal with that in Canada as well. While we have free health care, anything extended like prescriptions or glasses or some other elective things are not covered, and we have to deal with that as well. And we are looking at that for next year because my wife, we used her benefits until this year, and now she is home with the kid full time and just does a few hours a week for me. CHUCK: Yeah, that’s one thing I think is a pro for me is that I'm home all day with my wife [chuckles] and kids. Now I'm usually in my office during the day, but I can go down and be with them. CURTIS: Lunch with the kid, opening the Lego calendar this morning; “Hey daddy, let’s do this.” “Okay, we'll go open the Lego calendar and build it for your advent calendar.”  That’s certainly one of the perks for me, and why I wanted to freelance even before we had kids was the intent of being able to do… field trip on Friday. I want to see Santa on Friday as well. REUVEN: I started freelancing before I was married, before I had kids, and so it’s been just a sort of natural for me to be able to spend time with my wife, to be able to spend time with my children on my schedule or however I wanna do it. Even if I work ridiculously hard running my own business and doing my own consulting, the fact that I have that sort of flexibility to decide when I'm going to be with them and when I'm not… I see it’s just an amazing gift. CHUCK: Hm-hm. CURTIS: Yeah, even inside that. Like, I stick to the general 9 to 5 hours, right? It’s generally I'm in the office, I just take a long lunch often. And I usually take Fridays off anyway, so going to the field trip was not a big deal. ERIC: Actually, this is a good point to contrast with what… I don’t know if everybody saw the stuff that Microsoft was pushing and how 37 Signals jumped on top of it, but it’s basically Microsoft did this ad, this sort of like info graphic about where people work. And their whole pitch was, if you use Microsoft products, you can get more done in the day because you can check your work mail or do whatever you got to do while you are brushing your teeth. And if you are out at your kid’s baseball game, then you can stay on top of what is happening at work while you’re off doing that. And when I first saw that, I thought it was a joke. I didn’t think it was actually real. And then 37 Signals came out with their criticism of it, basically saying how this is awful. Like we should be encouraging employees to take their time and go do the things that they love and not be tied to their tablets and their phones and what not. And I think it was just the perfect storm for 37 Signals to promote their Remote book -- which I haven’t read. But being a freelancer and you do have that control, I think it’s a mindset that whether or not you are an employee or you are a freelancer, you have to have a mindset that you’re going to shut off and do the things that are part of regular life. [Chuckles] And sometimes that could be hard, but you could be in a situation where you are an employee somewhere, because you feel pressure to get things done all the time, you find yourself checking email or filling out a spreadsheet, when you should be watching somebody’s karate lesson or something like that. CURTIS: I find that like, you even get that pressure from clients. I had my most recent client was like that on Friday when I was at the fieldtrip and I told them I don’t normally do things on Friday, I had a message by like noon and three emails before noon saying, “Hey, where are you? Are you not working today?” And my answer I wrote back was, “Nope, I was on a field trip. That was more important and that’s all I got till Monday.” We had to establish that with our clients too, right? And that can be one of the drawbacks when you have the expectations; we just get to say ‘no’ if we don’t want. “I could not work with him anymore if I don’t want to.” CHUCK: Yeah, I think you have some of the same flexibility. It’s not as clear that you have that option as an employee, I mean you could quit and go work for somebody else. CURTIS: Like we talked with Dan Miller, right? When client says, “Fine, I'm not working with you,” you go, “Oh, okay.” “I´ll keep working on my other client work.” Whereas when you are an employee and you say, “No, I'm not going to do that,” then they'll say, “Well, you are fired.” So I have no job now. CHUCK: Yeah, the things is that you kind of… it’s kind of implied that you have the flexibility as a freelancer. You can go find another client and it’s kind of expected that you are sort of out there looking while you are working for them. And you know, as an employee, it’s the other way; the expectation is that you are definitely not looking. So I think it’s just the paradigm between the two really, because I guess what I'm trying to say is if you are on the job that you don’t like, you can't quit and you can go find another job. The process is a little bit different, but ultimately, you still have the option. REUVEN: Absolutely. I mean, one of my clients is a big government defense contractor in Israel, and when I first went there I was sort of amazed to see that just like any big government bureaucracy -- or sort of old school place -- they are there from 9 to 5, or 8 to 4 and their exact hours that they are allowed to be there and supposed to be there. And someone told me that basically, they are measured by how many hours they are there -- not buy the quality of work. And there was someone who said, “Well you know, I really wanna spend more time with my kids and one of them is a bit ill and I need to be with them, so can I work maybe 20 hours a week?” And the problem is this guy was a genius. And they said, “No, we really don’t care about your productivity. We care that you are here 40 hours a week.” And so he went off and found a place that was willing to accommodate him. And granted that’s an employee rather than a freelancer, but I think it’s a very healthy attitude to have, that you can and should set your own priorities, and then find work according to that -- whether it’s a full time job or whether it’s a freelancing job. And really my children I think sort of take it for granted that on the one hand, again, I work hard and I spend many hours on my work. On the other hand, I'm spending fewer hours away from them, than I would if I work for some sort of high tech company. And I can spend time with them when they need; whether reading stories to them when they go to sleep or helping them with homework or going to school things. CURTIS: And if you are picking your clients right, they understand that flexibility, right? In the middle of the summer, when my wife was first pregnant, we had a number of complications with the pregnancy and I just was emailing the clients and say, “I'm sorry, I made other priorities this week, and here's why…” And all of my clients said, “That’s fine. I expect you to make those priority changes.” Whereas again, with the government contract where they said, “Forget it. The government job, right?” REUVEN: Right. Absolutely. CHUCK: The flip side though is that if all they care about is that you showed up for so many hours, I mean, sometimes you don’t feel good, you are not with it; I also know some contractors that just don’t do terrific work. And so I mean, if you go out and you just show up at a lot of these jobs, you can skate by. With my clients, it’s just I've seen people skate by for a while and then they fire them and hire me because they want results -- they don’t want somebody who is just skating by. CURTIS: So that’s maybe one of the cons; you can't skate by. You’re judged what you output, right? So even though I charge weekly, I want to provide value. So last week, I just didn’t provide value on one day and I told the client at the end of the day and said, “You know what, I didn’t provide value. You can have an extra on Monday.” And it wasn’t based on hours necessarily; I don’t even look at that. I look at what I really produce that day and how effective I was, and I wasn’t worth the money that day so we extend it to give him a good day of value. REUVEN: He must have been so impressed by that, because I can't remember anyone ever said something like that to me. Sort of whom I hired. Immediately, I wanna work with them more because it just sort of oozes a respect. CURTIS: At a certain level, it is just a good business decision, but I want to provide value. And if I'm not, then you should find someone else who is for you, really. And I may not provide value for some clients just because we are incompatible and I just don’t like working with them, not that they are not bad people but I just don’t like working with them. So I'm not focused, I don’t wanna do it and we should help them find someone else, as we talked about in the bad projects. REUVEN: I´ll just add that my first job after college was at HP, and there we didn’t have vacation time or sick time; we had what’s called ‘flexible time off.’ I don’t know if they still do this because this is twenty years ago. And so you had like 3 weeks of combination vacation and sick time. And people would just drag themselves to work with the most horrible colds, because they didn’t wanna lose vacation time. Whereas nowadays, if I'm not feeling well, I say to my clients, “Okay, I've got to be in bed. I´ll be back when I can.” And they are always very understanding and very respectful of that. CHUCK: So what is ‘flexible time’ as opposed to ‘sick time and vacation time’? REUVEN: Because you had three weeks a year, you could take three weeks’ vacation or be sick for three weeks. It was mutually exclusive. So if you were very sick one year, well, we are sorry but that vacation time is gone. CHUCK: So you just have a pool of time off and it doesn’t matter if you take it if you are sick or vacation. ERIC: Yeah, it’s like PTO and all that or someone passed a crew time or yeah, they'll say they are sick but they are actually taking a longer vacation. They kind of makes it so it’s like, “We don’t care. We just know you are not going to be here for x many weeks, if you are sick or not.” REUVEN :  I think it was Dilbert that said that, “Sick days are just vacation days with sound effects.” CHUCK: [Chuckles] Yeah, that’s definitely nice. And you know, the same goes for like when you are burnt out and things like that. You know, I've done that too where I just need a day. Sometimes it’s, “Hey, I need a day.” And I tell my wife, “Hey, I need a day,” and I just disappear for a day, jut just to go and recharge and find some quiet place somewhere. But you know, you can do that. You can totally do that and it’s so nice. JIM: There is an alternative to that which is because my wife is a full time care giver at home, sometimes she needs a day. And the flexibility for me to say, “Just go take care of yourself; I´ll pick up the slack that you need to leave, I´ll go run the errands, I´ll take care of the kids, go do whatever you got to do,” is awesome. And would be extremely difficult to do if you were employed somewhere and you had that bucket of time off. So the flexibility to say, “You know what, I don’t need the day but my wife does,” is awesome being able to say that. REUVEN: Jim, I think that’s a really, really great point. My wife was doing a contract until recently and left that. And she just got a job offer and basically she said to me, “While I’d love to take this job, but it means that you are going to have to do x and y and z with the kids on the following days.” And I said, “Okay, that’s fine.” And if I had any sort of full time job, that would just be impossible. CURTIS: And I even found like when I was on full time working from home, that that was much harder. Although there's lots of professed flexibility, it certainly did not come down to that. It was more about butts and seats is what it seemed like -- to me anyways. And getting away from the flexibility and the reason I would take a long term freelance contract, but not like an employee style contract is for the freedom. CHUCK: Yeah, I think that’s part of the struggle that I've had with some of the employee style is that you lose some of the flexibility. I mean, I really like projects where… they don’t necessarily have to be projects that are brand new applications, but they have to be interesting, and they can't be like ginormous applications that I have to figure out. I mean if I build the ginormous application is different. But I guess what I'm trying to say is I can pick the contracts to kind of fit me and fit what I want. And it’s so awesome just to be able to go, “Okay. This isn’t a good fit,” and things like that. CURTIS: I was also thinking that back to the sick days and vacation days, the downside to that is you don’t get paid for them right? You have to work extra. I spent the last month working with lots of extra so that I can be off for the baby coming up in January. And that was all time that I had to make as opposed to just getting time off. REUVEN: That’s true. I don’t know if it’s a negative; it’s something that I just sort of gotten used to over the years. But every so often, I do think to myself, “Wow, these people on vacation,” or “These people  have gone off and they are still paid for it by the employer.” But then I actually  have to deal with the employers who are clients and their bureaucracy and rules. And just yesterday, I was fighting with a  client -- a large international corporation who’s initials are ‘H’ and ‘P’ -- about getting paid for something and a friend of mine was over as I was arguing with them and he said, “Think of it this way; you don’t have to deal with them every single day.” CHUCK: [Chuckles] REUVEN: [Chuckles] I was like, “That's a good point. Thank you.” CHUCK: Yeah. CURTIS: And really that’s structuring your business properly than to build in weeks off, right? ERIC: Or month, yeah. CURTIS: Or months, yeah. I'm essentially winding down now till the middle of February. Where I´ll start taking more client work then. CHUCK: One other thing that I've noticed with like Eric, and I think Jim has done a little of this is that you take the time off and you go build a product or something; you go to write a book or you do something like that. The thing that’s interesting to me about that is that you take the time off and then you effectively create a new revenue stream. And then, you can actually take that revenue and offset some of the consulting costs, and then you reduce the risk that you have because people are paying you in other ways for the things. JIM: Yeah, when I said I'm “off”, I actually got one plugin that’s mostly built, one plugin I've got a skeleton for and a course that’s mostly written as well, but I’d love to have done by the end of January before the baby comes. So I am “off”. ERIC: The nice thing about it is if you have products rather streams of income is when you take the sick days, you are still gone away money. That might not be as much as your freelancing, but the last two books, literally the weeks I launched them, my daughter is sick, so I'm kind of thinking every time I launch a product, my daughter is going to get sick from now on. But I was basically watching her full time, kind of on the iPad to check email and that stuff but I was still “making money” because I did all the work, a couple of weeks, a couple of months ahead of time. So it’s a nice thing, especially we have a slow time. Right now it’s the holidays in the US, so things are slowed down across the board. So if you took some time to make a product, now I can pay you back beginning the next year. CHUCK: Yeah. one other thing I really like about freelancing is I meet a lot of interesting people. It seems like it’s freed me up to be able to travel to conferences; I've been doing the podcasts and I can make time for that because my time is mine. And I really get to just connect with people. And all of it ties back into what I'm doing and what I'm interested in because that is what my business is around. REUVEN: Absolutely. I so enjoy getting to meet new people from different companies, hear their different ideas, their different business ideas. I find it refreshing and challenging. And I think I've mentioned this before, but I like to tell my kids at some point that most grownups go to the same people in the same office every day. And they are amazed by this. But when I think about it, I'm sort of amazed by it because as wonderful the people in your office might be, it’s the same people all the time. In fact, a friend of mine years ago, I remember this when I was in college, he said, “So lawyers… lawyers sit in offices and do a lot of research and yet, they are not considered anti-social. But programmers, who sit in offices and do their work are considered anti-social. How is that possible?” And he said the difference is that most programmers don’t interact with new and different people every day; whereas the assumption is that lawyers are dealing with different clients. And so I feel like I've sort of broken out of that mold to see degree and I'm meeting new people all the time and I'm really enjoying it. CHUCK: Yeah, one other thing that I've taken advantage of with the business is if I want a new toy and  it’s at all related to what I'm doing, I buy it and I get tax right off discount. REUVEN: Yeah, that's very nice. CHUCK: And you can kind of do that if you have a business, like a side business as an employee, but it’s a little bit different game there, I think. ERIC: Yeah, it’s a lot different. You could get that reclassified as a hobby and that then tax and all the past one get undone and you have to pay back taxes penalties and all that. It’s hard to do it part time. CHUCK: Yeah. any other plusses? Things that you like? Things that make you happy? ERIC: Control. Like if I wanna work on Rails, I can pick up a Rails project; if I wanna work on JavaScript, I can look for a JavaScript project. So I can have a lot more control with my career and where I'm going the next five years, what I wanna do -- all that stuff. JIM: Yeah, I can definitely say that I have had better traction living into different areas; and not so much different programing languages, but you know, when I was an employee, I was just a cog in the machine. And it’s much easier to have discussions with clients about the important aspects of their business and show them that you care about more than just pushing code. You care more about their bottom line about their effectiveness, all that kind of stuff. And it’s much easier to say, “You know, I can help you grow your team,” when you are a contractor, rather than when you’re an employee, you could go to your manager and say, “Hey, I can help you grow your team.” And they'll say, “Yeah, we need you to just go back to your desk and continue doing your work.” So it’s a lot easier to take a position where you can help think about different ideas rather than just, “We’ve got to fix this bug or we've got to add this feature.” I found I could get to a broader level of what is important for the organization or what is important for the development of the employees that my clients already have. Some of the projects I've been hired for has been to do specifically that; I´ll look at code and I´ll write code, but I'm helping them grow their team to a place where they need to be. CHUCK: Oh yeah, absolutely. And you have so much more pull, right? Because you are the expert. JIM: Yeah, exactly. Because they are paying you for your opinion and your advice and talks. That they actually will spend the time to listen to what you have to say and consider it. They might still disagree, but at least they give you the option. REUVEN: It’s hard to be on several occasions where I've come in and they’ve asked me for my opinion and one of them will turn around and will say, “Well, that’s what I said.” CHUCK: [Laughs] I'm laughing because that’s what happens to me a lot of time. REUVEN: Right, because as the outside expert, you get additional weight just by nature of being outside the game. And so, they might have been able to reach the same conclusion without you, but well, you got paid for voicing your opinion. CURTIS: I have used that to help out the internal team before. I know there's one I was on and I would ask about the deployment process to the programmer and he's like, “I've been asking them for this…” So I said, “How do you want it set up then?” And he told me and I wrote it down and I sent an email. I said, “Hey, why don’t we have this? This is dumb.” [Chuckles] And because they are paying me, they said, “Oh, yeah we've been thinking about it.” And I said, “Well, we need to do it. That’s the next step in the project. Everything is on hold until we get this done, so it’s easy to deploy.” And he's like, “Oh, okay.” And then I got the email back and I said, “Hey, let’s set this up now.” And we had set it up in like the next days. And he was like, “I've been trying that for months. I have the advantage and I will use it for you.” It help integrate to the team as well. REUVEN: So I´ll say another advantage is people expect you to have these opinions based on knowledge. And so, they expect you to be constantly educating yourself and improving yourself. And so, I love that part of it; I love the fact that in order to succeed at my job, I have to constantly be teaching myself more. I have to be pushing myself. I have to  be learning new things. And so, I happily embrace that. Because I see also some of these companies, people just don’t have the time. They are being asked to do so much, that they’re not given the chance to really learn the skills that they need. ERIC: Yeah and you have to remember to bill that in to your  schedule just like vacation time or sick time to your right time for training as well. CHUCK: Yeah. One other thing that I've really enjoyed about freelancing, with a few exceptions and even while this longer contracts were going on, is that I tend to be able to move from one project to another. And so I get the different challenges that come with the different projects, which is sort of related to the training aspect, except it’s actually I'm getting paid to do something interesting. And when the project is no longer interesting, then I do the best I can for the client, either by helping them find somebody who is interested in it or I´ll keep working on it for a while, while we figure something out. But yeah, I mean I get to move on to something else if I get tired or bored with whatever it is. Now usually, I wind up completing the project before that happens, but I have had one or two where I'm just like, I get a little bit done with it, and so I do the best I can and leave. But I have that option. And a lot of times, I have other contracts at the same time, and so by leaving, I'm not like quitting my one source of income. I have the others to fall back on while I figure things out. REUVEN: Right. We've talked about that a little bit in previous episodes also where having multiple clients, the multiple income streams means that you actually, in many ways, in a stronger position than someone who works for a company. And I like that; the idea of nowadays at least, the idea of having one company responsible for my entire pay check, even the biggest and the most stable companies have mass layoffs on occasion. So I like the fact that I don't have to worry about that as much. CHUCK: Yeah. One other thing that I think is funny is I tease my wife sometimes about going and getting a job, like me going and getting a job now. And she’s always like, “Please don’t.” And when I first went freelance, I got laid off and I was trying to find a job and I was freelancing, she was terrified. And you know, “Please, find a job.” And like yeah, now it’s well, what will I do because if I have to run errands, then I have to take all the kids everywhere. And if I need this or need that, or I need to disappear for an hour, I can't. And it makes a big difference for my family too. It’s not just just perks for me. JIM: That’s so true and I'm really wondering if remote work is going to take off. For years people have been giving employees more opportunity to work from home. At least on a broad scale. I'm sure there are small companies that allow that kind of stuff that happen. But if I was an employee somewhere, and I worked where I could say, “Hey, I'm going to be offline because my wife’s got to run an errand.” And everyone said, “Oh, no problem,” that would be fantastic. But I'm pretty sure that’s rare. And the need that I have, I have a bunch of small kids and they need to go back and forth to school or a doctor or something like that, it would happen pretty often for me that I need to take 45 minutes here or an hour and a half there. And I'm sure, a regular, old employer would gawk at the idea that I would shift my schedule around on a whim like that. So it’s a major benefit being able to be at home and do those things. But I don’t know. I really hope that employees will be able to do that on a broader scale because I think people will just be happier. I think probably the cost of living won't factor in to it as much because if you don’t have to be in someone’s office, you can be far away and still be productive then all the better. But for now, freelancing really definitely wins out on that façade. CURTIS: Yeah, it’s like whenever I'm trying to squeeze appointments for my teeth or something into lunch, right? Then missing lunch at the same time and basically running all day to get it done and now I just, I guess, I'm taking the morning after we get my teeth cleaned because I'm just not going to bother rushing around instead. JIM: Definitely. In fact, I have been working out regularly for the last maybe four months or so. I lost weight, I put on muscles, I'm much more in shape -- and that was always so hard for me. We had young kids and I was going to client sites and commuting into different places, and that tends to be just the nature of like what have I negotiated, have I gotten the flexibility to be at home? But there are times when I'm at home, I'm just so much happier and more productive, but when I have to sit on a bus or train or something to get somewhere, then my health deteriorates and I'm going to be less effective of doing what I need to do. And maybe I'm not going to be happy because I´ll miss things or I´ll rush home to make dinner. It’s just so much better. [Chuckles] CHUCK: Yeah. The thing is that there's also the flipside to that -- and this is something for me lately -- is that it haven’t been able to go workout. I haven’t been able to go and do a lot of the things that I want to and it’s because I overbooked myself. And that’s pretty easy to do as a freelancer is kind of get sucked in to that ‘working too much’ trap or just working too much, period; and not taking care of the things really are important. ERIC: Definitely. So it sounds like everyone here has a bunch of clients at once. I tend to try to get just one client. I used to juggle multiple clients and I found that I was pretty bad at that, at least at that time;  I haven’t tried it in a while, but I like to find clients who will give me work for almost a full week, and for several months at a time and then I'm good. So, I tend to avoid overworking myself just by putting all my eggs in one basket for a short time. CHUCK: I can see different ways of mitigating that risk. And  I could be okay with that, but yeah, for me it’s kind of nice to have different things that i can switch off to. But yeah, you do then have to play the game of, “Am I doing the right things? Am I doing the right thing right now?” CURTIS: I always found when I juggle multiple larger projects at a time that I ended up… often, whatever client was more annoyed, that’s the one that I was working on at that exact minute, to get them not annoyed. And now I do weekly, and take basically one project at a time, I don’t do that. And when I have a client that has a small fix that’s just a couple of hours, I tell them, “I can do it this week and I can only usually one of those a week.” And so, it’s a much calmer and saner pace than booking out for three or four or five weeks at a time now on my weekly schedules. CHUCK: Yeah, well all have the flexibly though to work things out the way it works for us. CURTIS: Yeah. And one of the hardest things probably, I mean I've done a few episodes on this is learning to say ‘no,’ though, right? When you don’t learn to say ‘no’, you get stuck in this “I have way too many things to do.” And I've totally been stuck there. I'm sure I´ll be stuck there again, because I will think, “Oh, I can totally do this one little extra thing,” and then it will be months later and I´ll be stressed out . REUVEN: But it also means you have the flexibility when you want to try. So I've never really tried the whole weekly thing. And I've thought to myself, “You know, maybe I´ll try that at some point. I’ll just set up some week and I´ll work in a project for someone for a week and I´ll see how it is. And if it is great, then, terrific, I´ll continue. Then if not, then it was the experiment.” But I have that power to try it out and not forced it in any one box. CHUCK: Yeah, so what about the cons? We've talked about some of them. Are there things about freelancing that just make you crazy? REUVEN :  Clients. [Laughter] CHUCK: Can't live with them, can't shoo them. JIM: I was going to say there was actually some like having that amount flexibility -- at least for me, I've got four kids, my youngest is one and a half, and the oldest is going to be seven soon -- and having the flexibility can sometimes lead to more interruptions than really make a lot of sense for the business. So it’s really easy to say, “Oh well, you are home, so I have to go do this thing.” Or “I've scheduled it during this period.” So I definitely have to balance figuring out what my home schedule is and what the needs are there with my work schedule. So if somebody asks me, “Hey, can you do a conference call on Tuesday at 3 o’clock?” I have to think a lot about, “Okay, well what do I have at home?” You know, I'm not just going to a job and checking out and doing my stuff for the day and then coming home. And so it actually made scheduling a little bit more tricky. It’s great because it’s flexible, but I also have to do a lot more thinking about what are the needs of my family and that type of thing. And that’s actually sort of a downside. CURTIS: Yeah and for us, when my wife was pregnant with our first, I remember for the third day, she was off for maternity leave, she came in my office again and I turned around and I handed her $20 to leave. Like, “Just leave. You cannot come in here every fifteen minutes… [Laughter] I have to work still.” And she looked at me, “Oh, okay.” And since then, like you know, she was just initially home at first, right? And we worked it out over the next couple of weeks, how it would work and with the new baby as well. I think any of the good things that we said we could take the time, taking too much time means you don’t have any money. So for me to be dedicated and disciplined as well, which can be hard. Even my daughter now, I´ll suddenly hear something through my headphones and I´ll look and there's a picture sliding under the door -- which is really cute -- but when I got like 6 pictures, “What am I supposed to do? I'm trying to work.” [Laughter] How do you explain to a three year old, “Daddy doesn't like your pictures.” “Oh great, I'm going to cry.” [Chuckles] CHUCK: Yeah, my six year old daughter will do that; she'll come in here and she'll put a picture in here. And yeah, I've got clutter all over my desk and some of it is mine, and some of them is my wife’s and some of them is stuff my kids have left for me. And you know, there's no custodial crew that comes in here, so when it gets bad, I'm the one that has to clean it up. REUVEN: Yeah my home office have just become the house junkyard. It’s like, “Oh, we don’t know what to do with this. Why don’t we just put it in the office?” CHUCK: Yeah, that’s my bedroom. REUVEN: [Laughs] CHUCK: Same problem, different couch. CURTIS: And the other con that you have to deal with is when you get into a project and the client doesn’t pay, you have to chase that down and decide. I don’t work with lawyers anymore, because I've had to and as soon as the project didn’t go exactly how they felt like it because… one, it was a technical limitation, I was like, “We can't do it. There is no way.” They are like, “Okay, well I'm going to sue you unless you give me all my money back.” And it wasn’t very much really, but it was enough. And I can't fight them on that, right? It’s like if someone is trying to fight us on programing, I can just program, that’s fine, but I have to pay someone to do that and I had to pay a lawyer. And so that was certainly in my business, two times and I just say, “Okay, I can't work for lawyers anymore.” CHUCK: So what did you do? I'm kind of curious now. CURTIS: Honestly, it was $1,000, which was certainly, at the time it was a lot. I remember looking at it and looking at Cynthia who is my wife and saying, “I can get this money out of my bank account but we are going to be pretty tight.” And she said, “Well, can we be sued? Nope.” And I just said, “Forget it.” And luckily, I have the personality, once I've just made the decision to just let it go and it stopped  stressing me out and I sent them $1,000 and said, “Fine, take it.” And then they asked me for a bunch of other stuff and I said, “No, you said you don’t wanna work with me anymore. I gave you all the cod e; you have all the passwords, so.: I know when I talked to other lawyers, they were like, “Well I think that they are using their position and they can't probably be this far,” but I don’t have the time and the patience. And on top of costing me money, think about like the satisfaction in life it would cause me. So I just said, forget it. And the same thing with the second lawyer, they said, “You are dragging your feet all the time. Why is this?” And like, “You change scope every other day,” and like “No, we are going to see you I think.” And I said, “Well, great.” CHUCK: Yeah, the collection issue is something that I'm a little worried I'm going to have to deal with the client that we talked about a couple of weeks ago that wasn’t very happy.  And that for me it’s just, “Are they going to pay me?” CURTIS: Yeah, I mean that’s one of the other things I've loved about weekly is that I don’t have to worry about that as much. Theoretically, my weekly rate which currently is $3,000/week. So it’s still $3,000 is way more that $1,000 I was sweating before, but it’s only one chunk, right? But if it is not paid on like Monday of the next week, then I'm just not working for the clients anymore until they’ve paid. CHUCK: So that's definitely a downer; [chuckles] you have to deal with collecting or not being able to collect. Or if they are international, they are harder to collect. REUVEN: Yeah, that's definitely a problem that I've encountered where my clients were not in Israel…  Well I mean, it can also be hard to collect from clients locally in Israel, but at least it’s less difficult. But even the best contract that states also the things about international and where the jurisdiction is, I mean, you are basically not going to be able to go after them in any serious way. CURTIS : And for me, like 80% of my clients are in the US. I think actually if I look at 90% of my income came from the US. In the last quarter, I guess like 1% of my income was from Canadian clients, which is another weekly has been great because I can just say, “I'm not working for you anymore. I'm only at that one chunk,” as opposed to 3 or 4 weeks or 50% of a $10,000 or $20,000 project. ERIC: I think one of the biggest cons -- and it’s not just on freelancing; it’s any business --  is you don’t really have anyone to tell you what to do. Like say you have clients who don’t know how to get clients, you don't have bosses that tells you go on social media or go write a blog post. Like you actually have to be a self-starter and go and do stuff and try stuff yourself. And for some people that works great, for others, it doesn’t. And from what I understand, that’s probably like one of the top reasons where people start freelancing and then stop, that's not having the ability to kind of come up with an idea and chase it down. It’s kind of like the big thing. REUVEN: Right. I can't remember exactly how someone phrased it recently, but if you are working for a hi-tech company, so you are in charge of doing your thing and whether that is programing or marketing or managing or whatever, that’s the thing you are in charge of doing. But obviously when you are freelancing, you’ve got to do it all and you’ve got to do it well enough to support yourself -- and that can be a lot to do. And it’s certainly a lot to learn quickly as you are starting up -- especially at the beginning. JIM: Yeah. Most of the work that I do is pretty much separated from my wife. She helps with the business, but she doesn’t tend to get involved in the day to day stuff. And sometimes when times are particularly stressful, or if we happen to need a lot of my help at home and I can't devote time to work, that really weighs on me. And so periodically, I have to like just sort of go to my wife and give her an update like, “You know, I'm really stressed out. This kind of stuff is happening.” And with four young kids, that’s hard to come by. Those moments are rare, [chuckles] so I have to go out of my way and make an effort and be like, “Hey, by the way, the last three days have been really, really crazy and I need your help.” So there a balance there. CHUCK: Yeah, I've done that a few times with my wife too. I'm just like, she doesn’t usually get involved hardly at all, and we don’t even talk much about the business unless there's some kind of problem, but yeah, it’s nice to be able to just go and talk to her. But the flip side is that sometimes, it is nice to have somebody else that you work with that you can identify with, because they are on the same boat. They work on the same team, they deal with the same jerk boss, or the same good boss, and the same jerk somebody else. CURTIS: Yeah, that’s certainly a detriment, right? Not having a team around, that’s one of the things that I miss regularly. And there's one we actually started like a chat room for Wordpress freelancers, so I have kind of a group of other people to chat with about clients and then everything else throughout the day. And even our podcast Skype room, we often chat back and forth throughout the day about things which helps kind of give you the impression that you do have a team to rely on or other people around. REUVEN: Right, absolutely. It’s definitely much easier nowadays with all these different chat rooms and possibilities and groups to be a part of online from working from home. Back when I started freelancing, we didn’t have such things and it definitely felt a little lonely. JIM: Do you still have your tablet chisel for sending messages? [Laughter] CHUCK: All right, well I don’t know if I have other questions or anything else to add. Do you guys have any other pros or cons that you wanna bring up? CURTIS: Yeah, I think I was also thinking keeping your expenses under control is all up to you, right? Like if you end up spending tons of money on software, it’s you. If you are not setting budgets, then you are not doing all of those things and that’s easy to overspend. I think last year, I've spent $4,000 on coffee basically, coffee and lunch -- which is a tremendous amount. ERIC: Wait, that was one cup of coffee? CURTIS: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s that super fancy cat poop coffee. CHUCK: Oh, there we go. REUVEN: They threw in a free mug. CURTIS: Yeah. So this year, I was active about how I did it; loading up the Starbucks card specifically every month because I count that kind of as my office rent, since I don’t rent an office, and manage to cut to like $1000 -- which is still expensive but way cheaper than renting an office. It would just barely cover a month of rental office out here. REUVEN: Yeah, I guess if you are looking for other cons,  we’re heaving on these many, many positive aspects. And truth be told, as opposed to you guys, I tend to be out of the office a lot or tend to be out on client’s offices quite a bit; let’s say at least two days a week. But there was a year when I did rent an office on a house and there was a very nice sense of separation. It was much easier to make that separation between home and work because when I left that office then I was much, much, much less in the work sense of things. Whereas now, when I'm at home… anytime could really be work time with me setting the boundaries. CURTIS: I've heard that same… I have a few friends who used to have an upstairs office, or like an attic office and they built a garage and put an office off the top of the garage instead and so then literally walked between two buildings, right? It’s only 20 ft. or something, but they still found that that separation between a building made a difference in how they felt when they got home, they could just much more easily forget about it as opposed to thinking, “Oh, my office is just upstairs,” it was a building away. REUVEN: I don’t know. I mean, I know that there are people who have said that and have done that, and when I first sorted freelancing, I made sure to have -- and this is when I was single -- I made sure to have a without bedroom apartment; one was my bedroom, one was my office and I could close the door and be done with the night. But I just don’t think I'm disciplined enough. I think that’s where it comes down to not necessarily having that separation. If I had an office that was only a few feet away, even if I have to go to another building, I can easily imagine it will be like my current home office. CHUCK: all right, well we are going to go ahead and head us in to the picks. Eric, do you wanna start us off? ERIC: Sure. So I got one today, it’s called Button Optimizer. It’s basically a little JavaScript application that you can pick different colors, button, text, icon, all that and it makes a button. You can either get a CSS button or a PNG button and its free and all that. So it’s pretty neat. If you are making buttons for your application or if you are trying to do product stuff and you need like a buy button or whatever. CHUCK: Nice. Reuven, what are your picks? REUVEN: So I've got a few picks for today -- nothing too serious. So first of all, I recently got a copy of a new book, Ruby Under a Microscope and I've just been super, super enjoying it. I've managed to skip out of the programing language’s class in college, and so I'm really enjoying through it and learning how Ruby works. It’s very detailed and so I'm sure I'm only absorbing like 20% or 30% of it. But even that 20 or 30% has been really fascinating. I've also been using twitter quite a bit sort of with my visitation and playing around with it. And so I just discovered in the last few days a few twitter feeds where they send out useful technical tidbits. And my favorite of these is something called CL Magic for Unix Command Line Magic. And if you though you knew the Unix command line before – and I certainly did – boy, oh boy, I don’t know who is running this thing, but they are pretty amazing. And on a lighter note, (as if you can get lighter than Unix command line magic) [Chuckles] I heard about this from my wife. It’s a YouTube series called Convos With My 2-Year-Old. And it’s done by this guy who wrote down conversations he had with his two year old daughter and he recreates them on YouTube. Except that instead of his two year old daughter, it’s like 40 year old unshaved men acting out those parts. And it’s really quite hysterically funny -- especially to anyone who has young children. I know we all do. So those are my picks for this week. CHUCK: Awesome. Curtis, what are your picks? CURTIS: I'm going to pick The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun, which is about his time with Automattic -- which runs wordpress.com and that was one of his things when he they are talking about working there he said, “I want to write a book about my experience. That’s part of my contract.” And they said, “Okay.” And so it’s on how Automattic does it and how the companies run and just kind of remote working in general. CHUCK: Nice. A friend of mine just got hired over at Automattic. He's a technical support kind of person. CURTIS: Yeah, they make up their own titles. It’s like ‘happiness engineer’ or something, right? CHUCK: Yeah, cool company. Jim, what are your picks? JIM: I'm sure I'm picking something that everybody’s seen clientsfromhell.net, I think. But I've always seen stories that people post online either in forums or sites like this. It’s basically is a site where people leave their stories about just ridiculous comments from clients. Like you make a red website and they ask you if you  can make it a little more blue and then you add blue and then they are like, “Why is the blue there?” You know, some pointless thing like that. You can't communicate with the client well. Anyway, so I look at that stuff and I haven’t in a  really long time and I came across it recently. I haven’t seen it yet, but they have some freelancing guide or something like that. So I signed up to see if  I can get it. But anyway, I started looking at it recently because I realized that there's a lot more going on there that is important in terms of how I communicate with my clients. And so I'm looking at those stories and thinking what would I do in a situation like this? Like, how my communication break down so badly that I couldn’t describe to a person that blue is not red or something like that. So I'm starting to look at the stuff from  a different perspective, like how would I solve this problem? What would I say to this person? Anyway, rather than just reading it and enjoying, and laughing to myself and, “What an idiot!” “Those clients are so terrible.” If it weren’t for clients, freelancing would be great. So there's that. And then I don’t know if anybody has ever picked this before. Even if I have. But lately I've been using Coffitivity. It’s a website that you can go to and it just plays sounds of coffee shop. I think they link to some stuff on there, like studies that have shown that some ambient noise can help you be more productive. Anyway, they had an app that was free some time ago -- maybe it is still free -- that I just have on my computer now. So when I start work, I go to the coffee shop, I just turn that on, they have a couple different sounds and that I have found actually really does help me focus. Like I´ll notice I´ll get stuff done and I just kind of just move through the day and not realize what time it is. So check them out. CHUCK: Awesome. All right, I've just got one pick and well, i guess it’s two picks…. what the heck, I´ll even make it to three picks. So I really like the show Shark Tank. I'm not sure if you guys all watch it. But basically the premise is there are five self-made entrepreneur millionaire, billionaire people that invest in businesses and people come in and basically pitch theirs ideas to them. Some of the things that people come in with, you are just like, “Oh, my gosh.” And some of the things they come in with, they are really cool, and then they just don’t have a great presentation. That’s kind of fun to watch too. And some of them are just amazing and they come in and they sell it well, and then they get a deal. And so I really, really enjoy the show. And so I'm going to pick the show. I don’t remember if it’s on ABC or whatever, but I´ll put a link to it in the show notes. There's a podcast that I listen to called Shark Tank Fan Podcast. It's done by Pierce Marrs and I forget the other guy’s name, but they talk about each episode of the show. And they’ve interviewed several people that come in and have pitched to the sharks. (The sharks are the investors.) And so it’s been really, really interesting to listen to them talk about some of the stuff. And Pierce is actually a sales coach, so he usually has some interesting insight into what they could have done differently in selling their company. And then the last one is that the sharks, they had somebody write a book for them, and it’s The Shark Tank Jump Start Your Business. And I got it for free on Audible, so I've been listening to that. And most of the stuff, if you’ve paid any attention to things like lean startup or you’ve been listening to or reading books by people who have started and run successful businesses, most of the stuff isn’t going to be that groundbreaking, but there have been a few things that really have its like, “Oh, I really should do that!” And so I've been making a note of it in OmniFocus and trying to get that done. So anyway, I've been enjoying the book. It’s nice to have kind of a light overview of a lot of these business concepts. I'm going to pick and I´ll put a link to it in Audible and in Amazon, so that you can find it. And those are my picks. I guess that gets us to the place where we are… JIM: We made it! CHUCK: Yeah. REUVEN: And you all made it with us. CHUCK: That’s right. REUVEN: [Chuckles] CURTIS: Is there a badge for that? CHUCK: There should be. Darn it. All right, we'll catch you all next week!

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