Webvisions Notes: The Independent Software Developer - Peat Bakke


The Independent Software Developer
... or how I learned to stop worrying and started my own business
Peat Bakke
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  • My goal is to do things I Really Care About
  • I’m not particularly good at being a 9-5 employee, because there are too many things I like to do.
    • like this, traveling, having a kid, contributing to open source
  • The Problems
    • I need more time.
    • I need full ownership.
    • I need to pay the bills.
  • The Solution
    • Freelancing!
  • More Time
    • If you are working full-time for an employer, then you have to work overtime in your personal life to do cool projects.
    • Would You Rather...
      • Convince your boss to pay you to do personal projects for 25% of your time at work?
      • Would you like to spend your evenings and weekends working on personal projects in addition to your work day? (this was great in my 20s...)
      • Spend October, November, and December working on personal projects, without having to worry about going broke?
        • maybe in Mexico?
        • On the beach?
    • Freelancing = Flexible Schedule
      • You have the ability to choose when you are working for a client vs. working for yourself.
      • The downside: “You get to pick which 60 hours a week you work.”
        • This comes and goes, and it is possible to set limits.
  • Ownership
    • Don’t Cross the Streams
      • Personal work and client work
      • It would be bad
    • If you are getting paid to write code, you most likely don’t have the copyright to that code.
      • If you don’t have the copyright, you can’t legally contribute it to an open source project.
  • Freelancing = Flexible Ownership
  • Paying the Bills
    • How much do I need to charge? How much do I need to work to pay my expenses?
    • Your base rate: Expenses x (1 + Tax Rate) / Working Hours / Billing Ratio
      • Expenses: Everything you need to spend to be happy
      • Tax Rate:  (30% is a safe estimate.)
      • A standard full working year is about 2,000 hours a year.
      • Billing Ratio: What percentage of your hours will be billable? Some of your time is spent finding clients, arguing with clients, etc.
    • e.g. $50K in expenses * 1.3 tax rate / 1500 hours / 70% billing ratio = $61.90 base rate.
  • Focus on Your Expertise
    • Do not write your own contracts.
    • Do not prepare your own taxes.
    • Do not run your own payroll.
    • You can spend an entire career trying to develop the expertise trying to do this stuff.
    • He spends $3,000 on this stuff.
    • What would be the opportunity cost? How much time would it take to learn and master all of that?
    • Or he can raise his base rate by $2.19 and pay for it all.
  • Freelancing = Flexible Finances
  • My Goal is to Do Things I Really Care About
    • Freelancing is the model he’s found that really works.
    • It’s one of many models.
  • Questions
    • Q: What if you are not good at getting clients?
      • Software is in high demand. Your skills are in demand.
      • Most people don’t even show up. The first thing you need to do is to show up. Send an email, make a phone call. Buy someone coffee. 
    • Q: What if you have friends with a non-profit and they can’t afford your regular rates?
      • I take those hours out of my personal time. I have them set aside, and I can use them for anything I want.
      • Plus non-profits are a really good way to promote yourself.
    • Q: Did you make this transition gradually or abruptly?
      • I did it eleven years ago, during the dot com crash.
      • I had to learn this stuff from scratch.
      • There are no books about being a freelance software developer.
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