[Baypiggies] Thoughts on starting a career as a consultant?

Alex Clark aclark at aclark.net
Tue Jul 6 04:37:41 CEST 2010

Hi Steve and all, (just lurking from across the country)

(And re-sending this after properly joining the list)

On 6/22/10 1:35 PM, in article
AANLkTinnKXIaZPM-6Vzg5mNvM3oJ9NWEcWFt-IG5ZpTD at mail.gmail.com, "Stephen Lacy"
<slacy at slacy.com> wrote:

> Hey all,
> I've been a software engineer for well over 10 years, mainly C++, but Python
> for about the last year, and I'm really enjoying it. 
> I'm getting more and more interested in transitioning from a full-timer at a
> large company to being a Python+Django freelance consultant.  My background is
> mainly in engineering, not design, but of course I'm fully versed in HTML+CSS,
> I'm just not the best person to be designing interfaces from scratch or doing
> complex visual design & graphics.
> Has anyone here made this transition before?  How did it go? 
Yes, I¹m five years into being a full time Plone consultant. Still going.
> My biggest fears are:
> * How am I going to attract clients? (Although this list, and sites like
> djanggigs.com <http://djanggigs.com>  seem like pretty good sources to start.)

One great way is to contribute to the project you plan to consult on. E.g. I
do things like ³run the machines²: http://admins.plone.org/.

Another great way is to organize a user group. I¹ve gotten a ton of work
simply by organizing monthly meetings for local Python people
(http://zpugdc.org). In fact, I got my first gig through a user group friend
(the one that inspired me to quit my day job).

> * Am I good at managing client relationships?  How hard will this be? 
> (billing, scope creep, missed deadlines, etc.)

It¹s probably one of the hardest things I¹ve ever done ‹ I tend to obsess
about a single task and spend my time lost in it (at times to the detriment
of other work). The best advice I can give is to communicate communicate
communicate. People are usually fine if you tell them what is going on.
Usually, but not always ;-)

> * What about the graphics/visual design side of things?  What do you usually
> do for this, or has the client already outsourced a design and they just need
> implementation?

I don¹t worry about it. It would be great to have an in-house designer, but
I can sub or use the client¹s designer. I focus on being an expert in the
things I care about (developing and deploying Python web apps and having

> * Maybe I just want to get a FT position with a web design&build firm
> instead?  What are the pros/cons of that approach vs. freelancing?

The biggest pro to freelancing is you make your own schedule. The biggest
con to freelancing is you make your own schedule. At first the freedom is
exhilarating, and to this day it¹s still very enjoyable and preferable to a
day job. But the pressures can be enormous. I end up working 24/7 a lot of
the time.
> Any thoughts or experiences from people who have done this transition would be
> great.  Thanks!
Do it! You will not regret the satisfaction you get from working for
yourself. It has been hard at times, but I¹d never go back!

Actually, that¹s not true, I would consider a full time work from home job
with somebody like Mozilla, at this point. cough

But unlike with day jobs, there is no cap on the amount of money you can
make as a freelancer. Contrarily, there is no one giving you work and the
well can run dry at any moment. This can very stressful to some people, so
it is definitely not for everyone.

Hope this helps!


> Steve
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Alex Clark · http://aclark.net
Author ‹ Plone 3.3 Site Administration · http://aclark.net/admin

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