The Ruby Freelancers Show 012 – Getting Starting as a Freelancer

00:00
Download MP3

Panel Charles Max Wood (twitter github Teach Me To Code Rails Summer Camp) Eric Davis (twitter github blog) Evan Light (twitter github blog) Jeff Schoolcraft (twitter github blog) Discussion All you need is a client Business entity Startups for the Rest of Us Business Insurance iamindependent.com LegalZoom Get a Contract Health Insurance Dave Ramsey ELP's Aflac Group policies for companies SERP 401k Find a CPA and talk to them INGDirect Pay Down Debt Get some savings Disability Insurance The Freelancer's Guide to Money Bob Walsh The Total Money Makeover Financial Peace The Richest Man in Babylon Marketing Start a Blog Pay it Forward Don't oversell your abilities Take a reduced rate if you're not experienced Subcontract to someone who is more experienced Chad Fowler Explain that they'll have to pay for you to learn to do the work Contribute to Open Source Experiment with the code StackOverflow rubypair.com Picks Pick an Open Source project, find a feature request, and build it and give it to the project. (Eric) If you don't know about business or marketing, take a day a month learning. (Eric) cells (Evan) proxylocal (Evan) ToDo by Appigo (Evan) Simply Noise + Sound Blocking headphones by Boze (Evan) The Power of Habit (Jeff) If you're not a Ruby person who is a designer, donate some time to an Open Source project. (Jeff) Startup Marketing (Jeff) Remote pairing (Jeff) 48 days podcast (Chuck) Changelog podcast (Chuck) Mixergy (Chuck) Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me (Chuck)

Transcript

JEFF :  Let’s get this show started. What are we doing? CHUCK: “Starting as a freelancer” EVAN: I get the feeling that that might be the  wrong topic for today, because I have a feeling maybe at least two of us today will just say, “Don’t”. CHUCK:** [Chuckles] [This program is brought to you by Harvest. I use them for tracking work and invoicing client. You can get a 30-day trial at getharvest.com. Use the offer code “RR” after your 30-day trial to get 50% off your first month.] CHUCK : Hey everybody, and welcome to the Ruby Freelancers Show. This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. ERIC:** Hello. We also have Evan Light. EVAN:** Hi. CHUCK:** And Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF:** What's up? CHUCK:** I'm Charles Max Wood from teachmetocode.com. This week we are going to be talking about Getting Started as a Freelancer. We actually have two topics in the suggestions that are kind of related to this. One is starting as a freelancer and it just basically says: “I'm interested in becoming a freelancer, but I'm not quite sure how to get started in freelancing, so I'm kind of curious.” And the other one is: “Moving to Ruby freelancing from a non-Ruby full-time job. I'm guessing side projects or open source is part of the solution, but is it enough? I feel nervous jumping into freelance Ruby without any commercial Ruby experience.” So both of those are somewhat related. one is how to get started and the other one is “What do I have to do in order to be effective at it?” Just to get started, I’m going to get the ball rolling here because when I read the “starting as a freelancer”,  first thing that came to mind was something that Eric said in the preshow and that was, “You start a business and you get a client to hire you, and then you are a freelancer!” I know that there are more things that you are probably ought to do to get started, but I mean isn’t that effectively what you have to do to get it done? EVAN : Yes! JEFF: [Chuckles] And no. You don’t just start a business. And Rob talks about this a lot. Again, we’re not lawyers, but I mean he operated for 8 or 9 years just as himself, maybe not even doing business ads. So all the other bus-y work, I mean, getting business cards, building a website, registering a corporation, filing for S-Corp status. I mean I did all that crap, but it’s not making money. You need a client and you need to charge him and they need to pay you and you are a freelancer, basically. ERIC: When I actually started freelancing, like some people know this: you can start a business as sole-proprietorship by basically just saying, “I'm running a new business. It is called “X”.” That's mostly what you have to do in the US. And if you’d make a business (I don’t know the exact thing) but they give is based on your name. Like I started and I said, “I’m starting a business called “Eric Davis Development.”” Started it in like five minutes and started working for a client. My past employer, and basically in a week I was actually making money. I did this in a way to kind of see if I can freelance. So you don’t need like business cards or any of that stuff, and the building a business and the whole business section of your bookstore, a lot of that you can do later, you don’t need to do before you start. CHUCK: Right. So yeah, I think it’s interesting. I mean I did some moonlighting, it’s freelance; it’s not full time for a guy out here. I had a full time job at the same time, and I think of that as freelancing.  All you need is a paying client. And we talked about keeping the pipeline full and finding clients and stuff like that. When you are getting started, what kinds of things should you be doing? I mean we mentioned business entities and stuff. Is that something you guys feel like you really ought to do? Or should you wait until you have been doing it for a little while and you know that that it’s going to be your full time gig for a while? JEFF: Doing it in hind sight, I would have rather waited. Someone could have given me this advice. I mean, give a year before you file taxes (depending on when you start) but you’ve got basically a year. So figure out if six to eight months later, you are still doing it, and it still seems like a viable option, then go ahead and do whatever you have to do there and talk to an accountant or an attorney and figure out if you want LLC or whatever or if you even need all that garbage. It’s also how sensitive you are to risk. If you are dealing with a ---- shop and they just want a simple thing versus dealing with giant financial companies that’s trading on the international market, I mean you’ll want a lot more separation between you or the work product and your customer. If you are dealing with that giant mega corp financial company or medical company, pharmaceutical company that can kill millions of people or whatever, as opposed to working for somebody else that just found you on Craigslist to build the next Twitter… I don’t know. I would say definitely wait. You can work all that stuff out later. You got a bunch of time before you actually have to deal with it. CHUCK: Somebody else was trying to talk the same time as Jeff, somebody else have opinion? EVAN: I just said it’s basically the same thing. I completely agree. We had an LLC originally like three years ago, then I made S-Corp. And it’s just a lot of paper work that I didn't really need for quite a long time. I only now have my first client where I have to get, “Oh my god, business insurance,” as part of the deal of doing business with them. I would obviously would have had it been incorporated with them and such, but before that, no one really gave a damn. So he was totally about liability and taxes. . JEFF: That is an interesting thing: business insurance. I'm in the same boat as Evan; I've not had to get business insurance forever until I picked up this one client. It was a long enough term project. I kind of went through basically an umbrella company that had the insurance and wrap me under it, and they have taken $5-$10 an hour off my rate, but the length of the time of the contract it worked out, so it’s cheaper for me to actually buy the insurance which is $1,200/year something like that. (I don’t know, maybe $600). Maybe it’s around $600 and then it’s like a million or two million, something like that for errors and omissions, general liability and all that stuff. CHUCK: So I worked for a guy and he actually contracted me through a third party company and that company, since I was sub-contracting to them legally anyway, their contract said I needed business insurance and I actually made them take it out of their contract. But it was mainly because it was kind of a handshake deal all around. So they really weren’t putting a whole lot of liability for me because I was dealing directly with the client. That was just a way for him to have money in a bucket that they could pay out to me when they needed to. I want to go back to the business entity thing because one thing that I've found was that, when I first got started, I actually formed an LLC on my own. It cost me like $70 or $80. Then the nice thing there was that immediately then, I had this business entity that I could put business expenses under, and I could limit my liability sum because it was an LLC and things like that. So there's definitely some niceties there. And you can go ahead and go that way. Then when I was actually serious in going, “Okay, I need to set this up,” so that I can have taxes work the way that they need to work and stuff. I talked to Scott and the attorney that he referred me to actually just filed more papers with the state, and just updated the articles of whatever the state needed, so that it functioned or however it was supposed to function with the state, so that it worked out the way that it needed to. So it’s really not a big deal to go and get that done, because it should cost you under a hundred dollars to create an entity. And if it’s not the one that you need, then you can always just talk to your accountant or attorney or whatever and have them help you either change the business structure or just reincorporate under a different business entity. JEFF: The other thing about that, when I started I think 2004 or 2005 something like that before I was my own thing an entity, I went into another umbrella company called “I am Independent”. I don’t even know if they exist anymore. It’s was iamindependent.biz. Basically they gave you everything; they would allow you to participate in group purchased health insurance. They would do your taxes, so basically all the invoicing went through them, they took the money and you basically tell them to write you a check. So I’d say, “Write me a check and count so much of it as business expense and so much of it as salary,” and they would work out all the details. I ended up being an employee of theirs, so it was like I was a separate division, a one-person division of this company. Gave me some business benefits, and I manage all my clients myself and I just had the billing piece go through them. So I mean, that’s another option. I forget, they take like 1% or 2% cut. I forget what it was. But they take some cut off to manage, but I mean that's another option. CHUCK: Yeah there are companies like that out here. One company I worked for actually had all their employees up under a company like that, and so then they managed all the benefits and stuff through them. JEFF: So did you actually file the paper itself or do you go through like a LegalZoom or something? CHUCK: The department of corporations here in Utah, the form was actually really simple. I just went online filled it up, I was done. JEFF: I did the LegalZoom way first. I mean this goes the same way, we all talk about you have a contract, which something most of us are pretty adamant about, but I think I stole my first contract or borrowed it from somebody or just probably blatantly copied it off the web, gave it a sanity check and used it. Same with the corp, I mean started with LegalZoom. It’s all about what you can afford and what your risks tolerances are at the time. CHUCK: I think for the most part, most clients are honest and they are just going to pay you, but there are few out there that if they can screw you, they will. So you definitely do need a contract. If you can afford the iron clad, “My attorney wrote this up for my business specifically, so that it covers all these different cases.” You know, just go borrow one. The one that you are not going to get in trouble borrowing because they are documents and so they are copyrighted just like anything else. So far we've talked about getting a business entity, getting contract, maybe business insurance if you need it, what about some of the other things like health insurance? EVAN: There really shouldn't be any doubt. Just get it. JEFF: I sort of left out on that. My wife is a teacher for the government and I mean they have horrible salaries but awesome benefits for the most part. I've been on her insurance since I've been on my own, so for 7 or 8 years or whatever. I could not survive without it. EVAN: If you can ride your spouse’s insurance, yeah definitely. If you can’t, then it comes back to risk tolerance. If you can tolerate a lot of risk, then you get really cheap insurance, you pay almost nothing. But if you are going to the hospital, actually the hospital is the only thing I think it covers reasonably well then, you get a fairly high deductible. So when you go to the doctor, you are going to end up paying most thing for all the visit probably. And depending on your health, and bear in mind that you are paying for insurance on your own, you might not able to get normal insurance, and so you might need to factor in where you live. Like in Maryland, they have this so called Maryland Health Insurance Plan, which in a lot of states is known as something like insurer of last resort. I think it varies much from state to state, but Maryland isn't that bad, because that’s what I'm on, because I need to exercise more. CHUCK: Yeah, I'm definitely in the similar boat. I have type 2 diabetes and so most of the insurers won’t cover me. They just won’t, period. If I try and get an individual plan, they just go, “Yeah. Well, sorry”. They wouldn’t even offer me like a ludicrously high deductible or a premium. JEFF: I imagine they would. I don’t know how much work you’ve done with this, but if you actually talk to a broker and not go to individual companies then. . . CHUCK: That's what I've done. JEFF: Most of the time, they can find you one. And maybe it depends on who you talk to and how much underrating they are willing to do. So there are couple of other resources that I know of. Most of them are from Dave Ramsey, Zander or something like that. (I have to get the name of it.) CHUCK: Yeah, Zander they do life insurance. JEFF: And I think they have resources for health insurance. There's also, as stupid as it sounds, but Aflac, I was at a BNI meeting and I was talking to an Aflac guy in there, they are opening  up to businesses of two employees (I think) can get Aflac. It’s not exactly the same as health insurance. They’ll pay you back for certain medical conditions. I mean it’s something else to look at. And as with you, the way your business is structured, so you have more employees. They wouldn’t work for me because I'm a single employee. And group also is a big deal, so that might be worth putting people on the payroll to do bare minimum. EVAN: Yeah, if you can, group can help – group can definitely help. That's how most of us got insurance when we are full time employees was as a group. CHUCK: Right, because that’s automatic issue, so it doesn’t matter what your pre-existing conditions are. EVAN: It depends on the size of the group. CHUCK: Right. EVAN: If you have like group of two and they get in just because you have a group. CHUCK: Yeah, I know that David Brady, they actually incorporated in such a way he and his wife were both employees or they were officers of the company or employees or something, and so they each had their own policy, and so they got a group plan that way. Because David’s wife has a pre-existing condition as well. What we did is my wife actually has an individual plan with her and the kids on it and then I'm in the Utah Health pool because that's the only way that I can get insurance that doesn’t cost a ton. I recommend that you go talk to somebody that does that kind of brokering. The Dave Ramsey ELP’s is actually how I found that insurance person that I went through. JEFF: That's the same with retirement at some point. You got the SERP and if you wanna do 401K or something like that, you have to put people on the payroll to actually do that. EVAN: Isn’t that when we die? JEFF: Basically. That’s my retirement. CHUCK : Self-employed retirement plan SERP. [Chuckles] JEFF : So that's a decent option for single owner. But then there are all these things, if you add people to the payroll to do stuff like 401K, once you add employees and start offering benefits, you can’t discriminate the benefits, you have to give them every body. So if you try to get group health insurance and/or provide retirement benefits, it has to be freely available to all your employees. So just stacking the payroll with [unintelligible] is not a great idea. CHUCK: Right. I actually looked at hiring a personal assistant instead of using a VA, just so I can get somebody else on the payroll and get the guaranteed issue insurance, but it just turned out it wasn’t worth it. It’s not something that I could afford. And then with all of the risks that come with hiring somebody, where you have to pay unemployment crap like that, it just turned out that I wasn’t ready to take that on. JEFF: Just in case it’s not clear, the bit with the 401K, is that you have to offer it to everybody. It doesn’t sound like a big deal until you do an employee match. Then that’s a big deal. That's that why it’s so important. So if you doing like 10% Corp match to however many investing stuff, then it matters when you offer it to anybody. You are not going to be a jerk and tell your wife she can't have 401K. CHUCK: So what other things should people be doing when they get started with freelancing? I think one thing from our discussion last week is find a CPA and talk to them. EVAN: Yeah, please. Because I wasn’t on the discussion last week, but after being truly freelance for two years now, I am so hurting from not having a CPA. I'm planning to use a catch up from unintentionally filing my taxes wrong, for those two years as an S-Corp. So please, please, please get a CPA. ERIC: You can wait on it. I mean if you started right now in April, I mean some of you are already doing your taxes from last year. But if you start freelancing  right now, you have a few months before you need to hire a CPA. Don’t wait like March the next year before you go looking, but they are not like a blocker to actually start in freelancing. And don’t think like, “I want to start freelancing but I have to do this first.” JEFF: Guess at some rate, a third is safe bet. And get profits, stock it away in like INGDirect that takes 10 days to transfer it to another account, so it stays there. ERIC: Yeah, I still do that. When I first started like 35% of all my net income, so after business expenses, sock that away. And basically every year since I started, I've had extra money and savings after taxes were paid. I guess that’s paid on debts and other things. So 35% is a good estimate. And once you get into it longer, you will be able to refine it and say like 25% might work, of if you are on a high tax state like 45% might work or whatever. JEFF: That's when you need to get a CPA. By the time you file your taxes the first year… because there are rules for every state and probably to every municipality, like whether or not a corp can keep money, carry money over, and how that money carries over and distribution and all that garbage. I mean, if you have money, save it away, so that you don’t get income shocked and can’t pay like a $15,000 or $25,000 tax payment when it’s finally time to pay your taxes. But definitely not a non-starter. CHUCK: Another one that Eric just brought up that I really like is if you can, pay down some debt. Because ultimately, what the game is… And it’s so funny to me because it’s the same game for being full time employed, but what we are talking about here is mitigating risk. When we are saying, “Go talk to a CPA,” it’s because you can mitigate risk that you are going to get audited or not have enough to pay your taxes and then have to pay the penalties or whatever. Similarly, with business entities and business insurance, if you have to have that risk mitigated, then you know, that's what you need to do. So paying down debt is a good way of doing that because then, if you have a slow month, you have to have a much slower month before it really starts to affect you. EVAN: I'm usually the guy bring up the “r” word – risk. And in that regard, one of the things that we haven’t even talked about… because you guys are talking about paying debt. I don’t have any. I've got my house and that's about it. I’ve got credit card, I pay it off every month. It's like cash. That might be a luxury for a lot of people, but I simply choose not to carry debt most of the time because most debt sucks – except for house debt. CHUCK: So then if push comes to shove, all you have to do is pay your utilities, buy food and pay your mortgage. EVAN: Yeah, pretty much. And pay my taxes. CHUCK: [Chuckles] That's a really good idea. Pay your taxes. EVAN: Yeah. Paying taxes is good, and not screwing up is good but that's a different topic. But the other thing is (and I’ve talked about it in another show) is you have a cushion. I don’t want a position where I have to worry about the next check from the customer, and how much of it I need to save for taxes because I have enough socked away, that I could be unemployed for a year and I would really, really hate it but I could do that, and maintain a relatively comfortable state of living for me and my wife. So, you need to just understand what risks are and plan accordingly. In my case, admittedly mine is really fairly low for someone who is a freelancer. JEFF: If you are 24, out of college, in an apartment, no girlfriend, and no family, whatever. EVAN: No risk. JEFF: Exactly, no risk. Still health insurance risk. I mean, carpal tunnel or you lose your hand or whatever. Now you can’t type. And Dragon dictate probably sucks to code with. CHUCK: [Chuckles] So do you guys have any disability insurance? Long term or short term. EVAN: I don’t. JEFF: I don’t know. Maybe through my wife, but I don’t have anything on my own. ERIC: No. Mine is called “the savings account.” JEFF : Yeah, do what we say. EVAN: I wanna go back to what Chuck is saying about paying on debt, because I actually operate opposite of Evan. We have a house mortgage, we have debt on our car, we have credit debt but we pay it off every month  like Evan. But the debt that we have, I mean, I actually got student loan interest. All of the debt, the interest and rate is so low it’s like almost free money. So what we do is we have debt and we carry debt, but we have such a high amount of savings, that if shit hits the fan, we can actually use our savings to pay off our debt in like a day. So the idea is like having cash on hand, we can use that like leverage. Say huge business opportunity comes up and I need to fly at Rails Conf or something. I can do that. I have the cash, I can fly there close an insanely lucrative business or whatever. So I’m kind of thinking, one thing you might wanna do before you start freelancing, is actually pick up a couple of personal finance books, figure out what they are about. If you don’t know personal finance and just kind of understand how it works. Because unlike Fortune 500 businesses, if you are freelancing, your business finance and your personal finance have a really good relationship. You shouldn't mix funds, but if you are doing great in business or shitty in business, that's going to affect your personal life a lot. EVAN: So is there a personal finance book for a freelancer yet? ERIC: There's one I haven’t read it, it’s like “The Freelancer’s Guide to Money” or something. I’ll look it up. JEFF: I think Bob Walsh is writing one. The go to ones that I would recommend would be Dave Ramsey’s whatever his book is. CHUCK: “The Total Money Makeover?” JEFF: Yeah. The Total Money Makeover, and Ramit’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich. You don’t have to do everything in it, but I mean it’s pretty sound money advice. I would say the one must-have thing going freelance is just an account to put business money in and you can get that for free INGdirect or something, so it’s not a big deal then. ERIC: I've read it probably a dozen times, it’s called “The Richest Man in Babylon”. If you hate finance and you hate business books, this is a good book. It’s thin, it’s kind of in a way of a story, and it teaches you like the very basic financial management stuff of like put 10% of your money away, or put 10% to pay off debt, those basic ideas. Like Chuck said, you don’t have to do all of these things, but you need to be aware of them and you need to make a choice of, “I'm not going to do this” because of this reason. That's kind of a good foundation. You can build your own business on a lot of that stuff too. CHUCK: Are there any other things that we should be doing or thinking about moving into freelancing? ERIC: Marketing. Like it’s hard to get started, but you got to market like crazy. EVAN: We’ve already gone over that one a lot. For people who are listening to this now, if you haven’t, listen to the episode one and two. We talked about marketing, marketing, and marketing. If you have one client now, or if you have two clients right now that you are getting started with, they are not going to be with you forever. They might be with you for a long time, you'll never know. I've had clients hire me for like few weeks, and usually for several months if they like me for whatever reason. But you are going to need something to do after that to pay the bills, unless you plan on having a really long vacation. So, yeah marketing. CHUCK: I have had several people talk to me, “I'm thinking about going freelancing.” I look at them and, “Okay, if you are thinking about it, you are probably a few months away from doing it. And so what you need to be doing right now is start writing a blog. . .” I mean I give them  4 or 5 ideas of things that they can do to start getting their name out there, getting people to know who they are. And it really kind of gets them into that place where then hopefully, they’ll have a little bit of a following so when they decide that they are going to go freelance, they can just say, “Hey look, I'm available for hire.” EVAN: The TL;DR version is, “Do something you love that you do well. Do it publicly, share it with people.” And that is paying it forward. That is the short, short version. Otherwise, listen to episodes 1 and 2. ERIC: Yeah. Like me, I like writing so I blog more. If you like talking, like video stuff, record two minute YouTube videos or screencast of your things. That’s how Ryan Bates got started with Rails things. If you just like talking but don’t like visual, make a podcast, or just record audio things and put it on your blog. It’s the point you need to be out there and people need to notice that you are there. CHUCK: Yeah. But it’s one thing to have some sort of social proof out there, and it’s another thing to be going around and begging for work. So you definitely need to be paying attention to that, and making sure that you have that platform out there before you really start depending on it for your livelihood. EVAN: You don’t have to. CHUCK: Yeah, that’s true. EVAN: And again, it's that risk tolerance thing. What’s your risk profile? Are you a young kid with nothing to lose or do you have a family and you don’t have anything in the bank? CHUCK: Yeah, funny thing, my kids like to eat. [Chuckles] EVAN: Yeah, my wife kind of needs to have a roof over her head. CHUCK: Yeah, that kind of pays too. I think we are all in a place where the risk tolerance is maybe a little lower than somebody in a position where it’s just them or they are on a lifestyle that they feel like they have to maintain. EVAN: Well, we can all fix that. We can get a divorce or run away from our families. CHUCK: Yeah, because that doesn’t cost you more problems right? [Chuckles] EVAN: Right, sorry. So you have to go to a different country, where they don’t respect marriage and divorce laws and other stuff. Okay that's supposed to be sort of tongue in the cheek, but I'm not pulling it off today. ERIC: Evan, I just wanna say I love how you keep saying “twenty somethings” because I'm a twenty something. EVAN: Yeah, I know you are twenty something. CHUCK: Oh I thought you are older than that Eric. ERIC: No, I think I’m like 28 or something. EVAN: You are not that old? I thought you are like twenty one. ERIC: No. EVAN: I'm just trolling. CHUCK: He thinks he’s like twenty eight. When he figures it out, maybe he’ll let us know. ERIC: I'm actually a 67-year old tortoise. CHUCK: Oh, there you go. So, I just want to kind of sum things up really quickly, and then well get into the picks. I think basically what we've said is if you are going to get started with freelancing, then… oh, there was another question that we need to get to, but let me sum this up and then we get into that other question really fast. So basically what we are said is if you have a paying client and you are a freelancer, you probably want to at least be looking into finding a CPA, getting a contract together. And then a lot of these other things that we talked about like having insurance, health insurance is something that you should be figuring out but having like disability insurance, business insurance, getting out of death, a lot of these things are about mitigating the risk if you get hurt or can’t find work and things like that. EVAN: [unintelligible] contract frankly. The contract is there for when things go badly.  When things are going well, you don’t even need to worry about contract it’s just if you don’t have one at the beginning your customers are probably not going to not want to sign one later. JEFF: And it’s not magic anyways, I mean contract just gives you the ability to go to court and sue. I mean, it doesn’t make anybody behave better. EVAN: Right. Its only there for when the *** hits the fan. And I'm going to get a bleep now. CHUCK: [Chuckles] Yeah, I'm starting to bleep on my podcast but anyway. . . EVAN: [Chuckles] Yeah. Or I'm going to get quacked or whatever it was your assistant used the last time. CHUCK: So, that's kind of it. Just go find some work and get started. Now the other question was, “I'm not in Ruby full time, so how do I get going into Ruby freelancing if I'm not doing Ruby full time?” I think just reading this really quickly, it seems like they are just worried about being able to sell their clients on having them do Ruby work. And I think this really just goes back to the same marketing questions. ERIC: Here is something that I want to prefix this with, because I've talked about this a while back a couple of years ago, but if you are doing freelance or consulting, the client is coming to you because they think you are an expert in it. If you have never done Ruby and you are selling yourself as Ruby expert, that is dishonest. If you tell the client “I have not done Ruby before. I want to learn. I've worked on these things on the side on my own time,”  that is fine. That is something that you have to be really upfront to them about, like don’t oversell or over position yourself. EVAN: Just sell yourself honestly. ERIC: Yeah, exactly. I mean. . . EVAN: That's kind of contradictory if you think about it. “Sell yourself honestly.” CHUCK : [Chuckles] ERIC: Not really. EVAN: It’s not contradictory, but let’s see, “Sell my soul, but I’ll do it honestly.” But I don’t believe in the soul, so we are not going to get down to this topic please. ERIC: That's one thing you need to be careful of. If you don’t have the experience, be upfront about it and make sure the client understands it. Don’t just tell them once and think they heard you. Make sure they really understand it. I mean, I got started doing some Ruby things, but some my first kind of bootstrapping contracts were PHP. I told them, “Yeah I know PHP, I did it years ago. I do mostly Ruby stuff now, I’d be happy to do PHP for you because I'm kind of slow right now.” And I actually gave them a reduced rate for it and I explained it to them. Like, “I don’t know how to do WordPress plugins. I'm going to have and take a few hours of your time to learn how to do it,” And they were fine with that. It still works on their budget. EVAN : That’s another strategy for people to say is be willing to take a reduced rate if you are new at something. JEFF: I mean that is sort of the classic Chad Fowler story, right? Like he wanted to go from Java to Ruby and you hear stories where he took like minimum wage rates (I don’t know what it was) but I mean that's the story and I don’t even know if the story was true. But the other version of that I just to sub to somebody. Understand you are going to get a lower rate. Sub to them at a lower rate than you think you are worth then hopefully they will be there to help you learn as you make some money too.  That would be my suggestion. ERIC: The better thing about subbing too, is if you sub under someone that has experience, they can review you for really bad scripts. Like if you go off and do Rails for someone even on a low rate, you would be exposing ton of security vulnerabilities or whatever. But if you are subbing for someone, I'm going to assume they are going to probably do a review and flag things you might not have the experience of knowing like, “Hey, here is the SQL injection in the model,” and stuff like that. Actually most of my stuff when I got started was subbing, and that’s a valid way and it’s easier to get started because your customers are developers, and so your marketing can be very developer-centric and it’s easy to do if you are not used to marketing. JEFF: And depending on the prime who is taking you on as the sub, I mean it can be a great deal for everybody around, because I mean everybody has a their opinions -- and I've got more than a lot of people – but I mean you need to mold somebody. So if you are coming up, you know development but you don’t know Ruby, then we can mold you into the type of developer that I want.  Not necessarily have to untrain a bunch of bad habits from other code. So I mean it can work for both parties; and it’s definitely a valid reason. I mean, and some of that stuff you can’t get anywhere else without I mean without tons and tons of time on your own. Because when I’m doing objective-C stuff, I would love to sub to somebody doing Obejctive-C, to pair with them to do some stuff, just to sort of insight to how the big boys are doing it and the Objective C world. You just don’t have that when you are doing it on your own so much. ERIC: Another idea, if you have no experience in Ruby but you know PHP pretty well, you could try to work with other Rubyists but build apps in PHP. Say there is a big Ruby site, but they need like an emailing backend solution. You can write that in PHP, and try to figure out what the Ruby guys are doing and review their code and pick up stuff that way. It doesn’t work that great with Ruby and PHP because most people are just not liking PHP, but if you are looking out one of the other languages that out there, like, (I don’t know what they are anymore) but the up and comers, like Clojure or something, that might be a valid way especially as larger companies are going from one language to multiple languages. CHUCK: So I guess I made the assumption that this person, even though they are working maybe in a .NET shop or something, they’ve put in considerable time on the side learning Ruby and learning how to do the code in Rails and stuff. And really, if your ability is there, then a lot of times what it really comes down to is whether or not you can convince your client that you can do the job and that you can do well. In other words, that you are the expert that they are looking for. EVAN: In this day and age and in this economy, that probably won’t be very hard. You don’t even have to become an expert. You just have to say, “Hey, I know Rails.” and they’ll say, “Hired.” CHUCK: In fact, most of them don’t look at GitHub or anything else. I mean like some of them have looked at podcast or looked at the videos or something because that stuff is something that they understand a little bit better. But for the most part, my clients is like, somebody said you were good at Ruby, so I want you. JEFF: Another part of that, if you have any Ruby experience and you wanna start Ruby freelancing even though it’s not your full time job already, the easiest way to that other than subbing is probably to contribute to an open source project. I mean regardless of how much time you have, there is a project that needs your help. I don’t think we’ve talked about this. Eric can talk about it way more than I can, but it’s easy to demonstrate your skill in the area, and be able to point to help build this feature out  and help or I did whatever… I support ChiliProject or whatever. EVAN: As a freelancer, you don’t necessarily have a lot of opportunities to learn from other people. So if you are working with open source, then ideally you are looking on a good code. Ideally, you pick the project that is challenging for you. And if there are at least more people working on, then when you submit a piece of code, then you probably will get some decent useful criticisms back that will ultimately make you better too. JEFF: Good or bad feedback. I mean you still have a conversation with somebody other than just by my lone commits going to GitHub all by myself or whatever. ERIC: Right. Or your mom is the only watcher of the repo. EVAN : Don’t do that when I'm drinking something. CHUCK : [Chuckles] ERIC : I've wrote about it on my blog a while back but basically, if you are trying to get in to this, and you don’t know the development language, (I mean, this isn’t Ruby specific) you just got to get better at it. There's always techniques and like tactics people talk about, but the strategy I found that works for me is you need to read more code in that language and you need to write more code in that language. I mean open source helps you with both of that, but I it’s like, you just start doing that and you'll get better. And if you don’t, you probably aren’t, because you are no enjoying it or it’s not something you really are passionate about. And that's a clear sign that maybe doing Ruby isn’t for you and maybe you should try something else. CHUCK: One other thing that I wanna add to that is while you are reading the code or working with the code in one of these open source projects or whatever, ask questions. A lot of the other guys, they recognize the value of somebody who wants to contribute to the project. So if you are asking questions even if they are pretty basic things, they have the best interest in bringing you up to speed. And so they can usually answer a lot of these question. “Why did you do this this way? Wouldn’t it make sense to use this design pattern or do things this other way?” EVAN : Oh, no, no. You should never ask questions. Because if you do, you are revealing you don’t know something, and that makes you look stupider. You never ever should do that! You really should do that all the time. ERIC : I'm going to slightly disagree with asking questions. As a maintainer I get overwhelmed with questions and a lot of these questions can be solved by RTFM or whatever. And instead of asking questions, ask questions to yourself. If you want to put a to do thing or whatever especially with Ruby, especially with open source. If you have a question like, “I don’t understand why we are using an inject in this method,” try to write a test and try to break it and poke at it and do a whole bunch of stuff or throw Pry or debugger in there and just play with the code like that. Try to answer the question yourself. If you can’t do that, then you can go to the developer and say look, “I don’t understand why we used an inject. Here is a test I did. Here is another one. Here is some debugging stuff.” They’ll see you put time into it and they’ll actually wanna help you then, instead of it being just a drive by request. EVAN: Having had people work with and for me before, nothing drives me crazier than people who don’t take anytime to figure something out. As soon as they get something they don’t know, they ask questions. So really stop and ask yourself, “What do I know about this?” “Do I think I can resolve this on my own?” “What is the next step?”. If you can at least try to crack in that a little bit first before you asking any question, you don’t look like a fool. CHUCK: Yeah. The other thing that you can do and this is probably also a terrific idea if you are talking about this is put it up on StackOverflow or something, and see if you can get an answer there. The nice thing about. . . JEFF: Oh, you'll get an answer. You'll get an answer. [Laughter] CHUCK: Yeah. But the nice thing there too is that then you can explore it, and as you explore it, you can add notes to it. But the final thing that you get out of it is that then you can just point people to that. “I need to answer  can you give me one?” “Here’s where it is.” And then  when somebody else has that question, then it’s out there in the wide world and so people can learn that. JEFF: I wanna say two things and then you can do whatever you want, Chuck. So the first one, by asking questions, I mean I don’t have the same experience that Eric does maintaining projects, but just from the community, follow a pull request with questions, you’ll get a lot more interest from the maintainer. I think early on, maintainers will bend over backwards to help you get ready to submit code, but I think on the older projects, there is a lot of, “Oh, I hope, I hope, I hope and I've done everything I can. All you have do is to send me some code.” And nobody sends codes. So I mean taking one step, even if it's “I couldn’t figure this out so I made a bit of documentation, here is my pull request.” And then Eric or whoever is going to be more likely to fix it, and merge it in and explain to you how to fix it so it gets merged in. By  taking action, it probably makes a big difference. And then to counter Evan’s comment about as soon as you don’t figure something out, or as soon as you can’t figure something out, then ask. The flip side of that is what you see with people that are afraid to let people know that they are stupid or that they don’t know something. I mean that’s the people that will spend 4 hours digging after something, falling some rabbit hole, when it could be a 2 minute conversation on Skype and it’s like, “Look, this is how you do it.” And you are done. If you are subbing to me, don’t spend 4 hours digging in some rabbit hole; talk to me like 5 or 10 minutes. EVAN: Well it’s different when it's billable time and if it’s not, right? I mean if I'm working with somebody whether I'm working for them or they are working for me, and they are chasing down some rabbit and I have the answer, I’d rather if they were getting frustrated, and stuck on something  that they pop up going, “Hey, do you know anything about this?” If it’s on your own spare time, the action can be educational and it often is not always -- sometimes it’s just a big waste of time. JEFF: I said I agree. You can stop. EVAN: Okay fine. [Chuckles] CHUCK: Alright. Well let’s get into the picks. Eric what are your picks? ERIC: So I am going to do two pieces of advice. One, kind of related to what we finished about moving to Ruby and getting professional experience. Take an open source project, (it doesn’t matter what) find a feature request -- not a bug, but a feature request -- on whatever issue tracker they use, and talk to the person that is asking for the feature, try to figure out what they are wanting, what they are going to use it for, what their use case is and then build it, and then get it to the project. Because that process is exactly the same when you are going to do freelancing; you are going to talk to a client, you are going to ask what the client wants, you are going to build it for them, you are going to deliver it, and you are going to make sure it’s good. You can take as much time as you want coding it; you can take months to do it. And the person request in the future because they are not paying for anything, they should be relatively happy that it got done. So that's one of my picks’ advice. Another pick that I've done I guess when I got started is, if you don’t know about business or marketing, take at least one day a month, and use that day just learning. Try to learn what marketing is. Try to learn how to talk to people; try to learn what taxes are involved with. You might not get like a lot of hard results out of it, but the fact that you are constantly learning, you are going to pick up things. And I mean it’s basically like taking a Saturday and hacking on code, but you are hacking in your business instead. CHUCK: Evan, what are your picks? EVAN: I was sending a tweet to someone. There was a post on Hacker News lately about, “How do I get people to accept my open source contributions.” and Eric’s response I thought was the perfect response essentially. So I just sent that person a tweet saying, “Hey listen to the Ruby Freelancers next week. Listen for Eric’s pick.” Okay, so my picks. Let’s see. So the first pick is a gem that I learned on my newest client project it’s called “Cells” for Rails. It essentially lets you have sub controllers and sub views, as opposed to just having partials that only have whatever contacts you injected to them. I haven’t tried benchmarking them yet. I heard one person claim that they can run a little slow, but basically they operate almost exactly the same as controllers and views typically and just well that you delegate to. They are really kind of cool, and they are making this code base nicer, so I’m liking them. I’m recommending them. I’ll put a link on the show notes. Another thing, remote pairing session. I did earlier this week, someone introduced me to a gem “proxylocal” which uses a web app. Basically proxy local will let you proxy a webserver and let it run it on your machine through this website to anyone on the internet. So what I have been doing is I have port forwarding setup on the router to a particular ports including, not port 3000 but some random ports for HTTP when I have an app running. But this is nicer because you can just throw it on and you can even provide your own sub-domain. So as long as you pick something unusual, then you are probably always going to be able to get it. So that is pretty cool for remote pairing if you wanna share web app. Two other ones are productivity based. I've very much at Getting Things Done addict, but I'm very unhappy with the most of the tools that I use. I use “Things” (from Cultured Code) for quite a while but it just didn't quite fit the bill. And recently, I've discovered an app simply called by “ToDo” by a company called “AppiGo”. They have an iPad app which is how I first found them. The iPad app is exceptional. They also have a matching iPhone app, and an OS X app. Together all three of them costs about $25. One of the sweetest things is there are at least 3 different ways you can synchronize them: you can synchronize by iCloud, you can synchronize with Dropbox (which is what I use), you can synchronize over Wi-Fi. And I think there were some other options. I think Dropbox is a piece of cake. It’s wonderful. And it provides just enough functionality such that… Funny spelling. Jeff wrote something in the chat, it distracted me. JEFF: That is not how they spell it? EVAN: No. It’s T-O-D-O, ToDo. JEFF: There's another app that spell. . . EVAN: There are a TON of apps called “ToDo” If you go to the AppStore that's why we probably have to have a link for the AppStore, but it’s literally just “ToDo” by Appigo. It just a little bit more functional than Cultured Code’s “Things”,  but just enough extra functionality that I'm finding it pretty much perfect for me. So I highly recommend that. Also as far as productivity, few weeks ago David Brady recommended to me while I was at Utah before flying home, that I get some Bose sound blocking headphones. Those are not cheap at all, but the perfect complement to them that I just recently discovered is (and there are a lot of apps like this) but there is an app called simply “Simply Noise”. Simply Noise is a web app you can use it for free. There’s a 99c iOS app that works pretty well as well (it’s on Android also, I believe). All it does is generates white noise and it can also have that white noise oscillate if you want. No, sorry three noises; white noise, pink noise or brown noise. I was sitting in the … yesterday wearing my sound blocking headphones and blaring out brown noise. The next table with three kids screaming at the top of their lungs. I couldn’t hear a thing. It was wonderful. So if you’re in a noisy environment and you need to be productive, I love this app, I couldn’t recommend it enough. It’s so cheap and it's free if you are using the web app. Just use it or something like it. ERIC: I wanna say real quick, it’s interesting because I don’t have a Bose, but a different noise cancelling headphones. And the way they works is when they are on, they cancel most background noise, but voices are specifically going to go through. Some surprise you didn’t hear the kids screaming. EVAN: No, the headphones are allowing the kids in. The headphones are blocking out a lot of ambient noise but it weren’t blocking out their voices, it was the brown noise that was blocking out the voice. So they complement one another, the headphone are blocking out a lot of ambient noise, the brown noise blocks out the rest of it. Then basically, I just end up with this nice, almost beach-like sound because I had oscillating brown noise which sounds a lot like waves on the beach. CHUCK: Cool. That sounds really cool. EVAN: Yeah, it was great. So I'm going to be using that a lot more when I work out in public if I just need to get out and it’s noisy. CHUCK: Jeff what are your picks? JEFF: The power of habit, I think I talked about it last time, but I finally finished reading the book, really, really good book. Basically it talks about the habit cycle: the trigger, the cue, the behavior and the reward. And what's interesting about this book as opposed to a lot of books on habits is it explains how to track your habit, and how to figure out what the cue is and what the reward is, so you can actually try to deal with it. So I thought that was interesting. They also relate it to business; so it’s just not personal habits. So that’s some interesting case that I use it. It's definitely worth a read. It’s like $10 or something on Kindle. EVAN: “The Power of Habit”? JEFF: Yup. By Charles. . . I don’t know his last name. CHUCK: Well, from that first name he sounds like an intelligent guy. ERIC: Lame. JEFF: [Chuckles] Yes, it was lame. So this is sort of an advice pick, I guess to steal Eric’s thing. If you are not a Ruby person listening to this podcast and you happen to be designer, and I haven’t pissed you off and you are still l listening, donate some time to an open source project, and you'll have more clients than you will ever know what to do with. If you look at a couple perfect example of some really well-done open source project, ActiveAdmin, Serv at getserv.com, it’s just a simple web server that serves up all HAML and everything, and Bundler, well done design, well done like sales pagey even type websites before GitHub. And if you are a designer and contribute something like that to any project, you’re going to have a ton of people who would wanna work with you. That's the open source thing. So the second pick is Start-up Marketing, How To Earn Customers Without Paying From Them. So the Rand Finshkin, the guy from SEOmoz, did a Hacker News Meet up Talk in London, it’s an hour long recording. Apparently that first half of it is some repeated material he’s done for other Hacker News Meetups. But it’s basically all about inbound marketing. So, Chuck talked about get a podcast or get a website, and Eric talked about get a video podcast, just producing content, you need to understand what to do with the content. It’s an hour; it doesn’t go into a ton of tactics but, it’s really entertaining, and worthwhile watch. So that will be my second one. And the third and final (I guess fourth and final if you count the advice) is remote pairing. Evan mentioned he did it. Also said, we don’t get to work a lot with other people, depends on how you freelance, but I’m pretty much all by myself coding 90% of the time. I love to pair with people. So if you wanna pair, hit me up and we’ll find something to pair on. EVAN: Yeah, don’t talk to me about pairing because I don’t remote pair with people in my spare time. I remote pair with people in my spare time. JEFF: Yeah, and there are a few projects that I try to pair people up, so you can actually do remote pair programming. I love it I mean whatever it takes. Sometimes it’s about the code, you learn interesting trick but it’s more to me about process, and sort of I love to see what are people using or what tools they have, like how their desktop is set up or how their editor is set up. I love that stuff. If you wanna pair then hit me up. We’ll pair. CHUCK: Cool. EVAN: So, I guess this is not exactly advertising because it’s just a free app but you sign in at GitHub and now there's a feature that has been added, where when you sign in, you can mark yourself as available or unavailable, and when you mark yourself up as available, you show up in the list of people who are available to pair. You don’t even have to mark yourself out as unavailable just two hours and the mark expires. I need to add some more features around it, but basically it’s just a way of saying, “Hey, I'm here and I'm ready to go right now. Just ping me.” And there's absolutely no one available right now. But at least it’s there. It's probably because there is an instruction how to use it. So started pairing again with people. I’m working on a Ruby Pair, it’s kind of default I don’t know what I wanna pair on, so I'm just going to work on more features for Ruby Pair or cleaning up old features. Because unfortunately right now, when you search for people, you can’t tell if that person is available or not. So that is another feature that I need to work on. So anyway rubypair.com, it’s free, no reason not to use it. CHUCK: I guess it’s my turn. I had somebody ask me on Twitter for some suggestions on podcast to listen to, and there were just kind of in general ones where I thought was interesting. So I'm just going to list few of my favorite podcasts. The first one is the “48 Days Podcast” and that's Dan Miller who wrote the “48 Days to the Work You Love” and he talks a lot about going into business on your own, but he also gets into other areas of just running a business and things like that. He has a lot of good advice. Sometimes he plays some cheesy music and this or that on it, but most of the time, it’s pretty good advice. And people just call or email in with their questions and he just answers them for what he says is 48 minutes, but it’s usually like 50 minutes. Another one that I really like is the “Changelog Podcast” and that is done by Wynn Netherland and Adam Stacoviak. They interview people who are working in open source, but they tend to lean more toward Ruby stuff because I think they are both Ruby developers. So they usually get people on from Ruby companies or people who are working on open source projects related to Ruby. So they’ve talked to the guy that does Vagrant and a bunch of these projects. Another one that I really like is “Mixergy.“ And if you want some good interesting interviews with business people, Mixergy is a great way to go. They come up pretty frequently, so it’s kind of hard to stay up on all of them, but I've listened to some of those; they've talked to these guys about how they started up and they are now making millions of dollar businesses. And there’s usually a ton of good stuff in there that you can apply to your own business, and your own processes. So that's one that I would recommend. And then just a funny one out of the blue it’s “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me”. It’s an NPR show, and it’s really funny, it’s a news quiz but it’s a comedy so they have a panel and they sit there and they crack jokes about whatever it is they come up with. I think my favorite segment is either the Limericks. So the guy that does the voice (I can’t remember his name) Carl Kasell, he’ll read a limerick and they’ll have to guess the last word. And then they talk about the funkier, crazy new story there. And they have another one where each panelists reads like an explanation of a new story. Of course they’ve doctored it so that it’s kind of funny to listen to, and then the listener contestant has to guess which one is the real story. And they are always like these off the wall stories that are just kind of crazy. Anyway, if you want something that is amusing and mildly interesting, then that is a terrific way to go. And so those are my picks. Alright, let’s wrap this up. I don’t know if I mentioned this last week, but we are now in Stitcher; Stitcher SmartRadio it’s an app in Android or iPhone, so it’s a great way to go. So anyway I have a few people requesting that I get the shows into there, so I did. Other than that, I don’t know that we have any announcements, so well just wrap this up and we’ll catch you next week!

Sign up for the Newsletter

Join our newsletter and get updates in your inbox. We won’t spam you and we respect your privacy.