What I Learned About Trying to Double My Rate

Introduction

I made a new years resolution to double my rate this year. If you take a look at the current Flex Consulting Rates, and think double or triple, you’ll have an idea of what I’m trying to do.

In the past 8 months I’ve found three challenges to reaching my goal. First, I had some misperceptions of what level of quality of software businesses want. Second, I have been distracted from the truth by the echo chamber I participate in, specifically the Twitter followers and blogs I read. Finally, and most importantly, while I’m good at marketing, I’ve completely failed in selling the value of my services.  The following lists the failings in detail with my new goals to fix those problems.

Why Double My Rate?

I’ve found there is a glass ceiling with programming rates. I figure if I find a way to break through that ceiling, then I’ll learn. You should always be learning in programming, and thus doubling my rate this allows me to learn.

Programmers Want to Create First and Foremost, Businessmen Want to Make Money First and Foremost

Any programmer who wants to be good is constantly focused on learning and improving their craft. Specifically we focus on anything, and everything that can positively contribute to ensuring we produce better code that’s more enjoyable to work with, reduces project risk, and ensures a good user experience. This includes, but is not limited to, learning new design patterns, languages & runtimes, and processes such as Continuous Integration, Agile/Scrum, and TDD.

When talking to 3 successful businessmen I know, all 3 aren’t focused on improving their craft. They are focused on making more money. My Dad is in sales and sells luxury hardware installations. My Uncle Barry is in luxury retail. My Uncle Flip is a corporate lawyer. All 3 are financially successful.  While they have different educational backgrounds, and different businesses, all 3 corroborate each other. I’ve found that other successful people, whether in their blogs, in company press releases, or public interviews all have the same primary motivation. They’ll quickly follow with others, but making money is ALWAYS #1.

I’ve spent 10 years learning how to make the best software possible. It’s not helping me make more money.

New Goal #1: Learn more about making money.

Good Enough Software

One thing I’ve noticed in my consulting over the years is that a lot of companies have an extremely low expectations for software quality & velocity compared to me and my colleagues. Many would rather purchase software made at Walmart vs. Louis Vuitton. While investing in the R in RIA has a higher return on investment (PDF), many find that simply investing in the ubiquity of Flash Player with its predictable playback is good enough.

Later, a lot of these companies realize their software has usability problems or is hard to sell. This is often where I come in; to make an existing Flex application look hot. This is backwards how you’re supposed to do software. It happens again and again because companies are rewarded through profit for good enough software. While it costs them a lot more later to implement a design, at least they DO eventually recognize the value of it.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had in winning new engagements is educating a potential new client on what the true value of quality is vs. “good enough”, as well as justifying the cost of good design and UX. While iPhone was a game changer, Android sales are surging past it. From a consumer perspective, many would agree iPhone provides a better user experience compared to Android, yet that is not hindering Android sales success enough to prevent it from beating iPhone in total market share. Having multiple operators, multiple device types, and targeting different demographics are all the primary drivers, none of which have to do with good UX. This fact validates the “good enough” point, and makes it even more challenging for me to quantify the value of good design when it’s not a prerequisite for software profitability.

I still believe good design in software is a must IF you believe in quality. It ensures less risk, time & cost savings during development, and an overall better customer experience. This in turn leads to saving a lot of money as well as making more money.

New Goal #2: I need to get better at communicating the benefits good quality software will bring in both quantitative and qualitative ways.  I know what they are, but wrongfully assume my clients do as well.  Educating them with qualitative experience as well as providing hard numbers & associated risk costs should help.

New Goal #3: I need to quantify the savings & benefits of doing design early vs. later since in my experience every client who does design last ends up spending more and having more risk & technical debt.

Selling Value, Not A Price

Clark Howard, a consumer advocate and popular talk radio host recently said:

One good thing about the recession is that it has taught us to be frugal consumers.

He later went on to quote those retailers that did well in Q2 of this year. Unsurprisingly, most were retailers who sold goods as cheap as possible (Walmart, Dollar Tree, etc).  I, however, consider my services top of the line goods because I continually focus on being the best.  Even in the recession, people still buy Porsche’.  This recession certainly has made me focus on what makes a Porsche’ a higher quality choice than a Hyundai, and translating that into how I can sell my software services vs. competitors who compete on price.

There are a ton of expenses working for yourself. People who work at companies as W2/employee’s often have no clue of these expenses, and often respond with sticker shock to some quotes. Some just have no idea of the costs of software. Some are just playing the haggling game until I call their bluff.

I’ve spent years building the Jesse Warden personal brand, trying to cash in on my passion and not bothering to have a resume.  Many of my first time clients have no idea who I am, nor who my company is.  If it’s a referral client, they’ve only gotten a distilled version.  Thus, I have to start from scratch to sell my expertise, my experience, and my company’s value.

Two of the recommendations I received from David Ortinau, Jeff Roberts, and Ed Grasing was to sell value, not price. I don’t compete on price; I ensure I’m the most expensive to associate myself with the quality I deliver. This doesn’t work, though, if you don’t have an established brand the client can already recognize, like Cynergy. You can do this by showcasing past work; not just the project, but the VALUE it provided the previous client of yours.  Additionally, doing the legwork on how much it will cost them if they DON’T hire me/my company helps inspire a CYA (cover yo’ arse) feeling.

I’ve done enough consulting to know projects that should of taken 3 months that took 8. I’ve even bid on projects where I said it’d take 4 months, the client figured 2, and then I later hear from those who won the bid that it took 10. Therefore, it shouldn’t be overly difficult for me to also create a project cost estimate based on what I know will happen when others who compete on price do it instead of me.

New Goal #4: Create case studies from past clients that show the value my skills provided them, and how much money it saved/made them.

New Goal #5: For new projects where I’m putting together a Statement of Work (SOW), also add what the cost will be without hiring me.

Selling Myself as a Purple Cow

Seth Godin has an idea about making a product a Purple Cow; something unique that stands out.  Things that makes me unique in the Flex Community are I know how to implement complex designs in Flex, have a thorough knowledge of the Flash Player from my Design Agency background doing Flash, and have an extensive network to use in hiring/sub-contracting additional help as well as answering questions outside my expertise domain.

Not once have I used those 3 things as a selling point to clients about what value I provide.  However, Universal Mind, three times, has used those traits in selling me to THEIR clients, the now defunct ESRIA once, and Roundarch once.

I’ve also recently joined Web App Solution as a partner.  One of the goals was to further increase my networking value since I now have 3 additional senior Flex/Java/Blaze DS resources as well as their experience.

New Goal #6: Use my unique traits to help sell my value to clients.

Conclusions

My goal this year was to double my rate for the sake of learning, and hopefully making more bling.  I want to break the glass ceiling by years end.  Even if I fail, I’ve learned so much already in trying.  I’ve also gotten really close a few times this year so I know I’m making progress.

Another over all goal that I’ve been pursuing is to seek out mentors in the business field vs. the software development one.  When starting out in software, the #1 thing that helped me the most, quickly, with the least pain was mentors.  Everything from official ones to simply reading their books/blog posts.  I’ve sought out entrepreneurs and others online, cornered ones I found at conferences I attend so I could grill them, and gotten a lot of good book recommendations for business as opposed to software.

The consolidated list of my new goals to help reach my New Years Resolution:

  1. Learn more about making money.
  2. Get better at communicating the benefits good quality software will bring in both quantitative and qualitative ways.
  3. Quantify the savings & benefits of doing visual design early vs. later.
  4. Create case studies from past clients that show the value my skills provided them, and how much money it saved/made them.
  5. For new projects where I’m putting together a Statement of Work (SOW), add what the costs/risks will be without hiring me.
  6. Use my Purple Cow/unique, standout traits (design integration, Flash Player knowledge, network) to help sell my value to clients.

This is a lot harder than I thought.  My Dad just said to double my price and the work would roll in.  I’m not the salesman he is, though.  Either way, I’m making a lot of progress and learning a lot, so I know I’ll get there eventually.

26 Replies to “What I Learned About Trying to Double My Rate”

  1. Interesting post. If you want to make twice as much money, maybe you should consider shifting from a pure freelancer role.

    The problem with freelancing is that it is non-scalable. You can only charge X amount per hour, and you can only work Y hours per week. You can still do very well for yourself, but you will never become CEO rich.

    To get rich in business you need some way of scaling up your income, either:
    a) Build a team of freelancers that you can hire out.
    b) Build some product that you can re-sell multiple times.

  2. @felix Truth. I realize I’m never going to be “rich” doing software unless I focus on product development as opposed to service development. EVERY night I focus on building products, while during the day I do service work to pay the bills.

    The only other alternative to get tich is to have people code for you. No one gets rich working; they get rich getting others working for them.

    However, that was not the focus. Again, I wanted to double my rate in service work, and thus learn, not to get rich. They are 2 totally different goals, with different approaches. Since I’m stuck in service work for awhile, my goal is to find out how to maximize my income potential there, specifically breaking the freelance rate barrier. All evidence I’ve seen shows that you need a company with multiple developers/designers focused on providing value for large clients, not a freelancer focused on staff augmentation. I straddle both right now. Again, goal is to learn.

    I hear you, though, and totally agree about the rich part. Option B, like Double Rainbow, all the way.

  3. I think the one thing that many freelance/contract developers under estimate is the business side of running a business. They make a fatal error in believing because they have coding chops everything will be sunshine and roses and they will be a smashing success. Often they get a very rude awakening and never achieve the success they had planned. They wonder how what appeared to be so easy from the outside can be so difficult once you are in the middle of it.

    Make no mistake, if you are working as a freelancer you are running a business and as such you need to think about way more than just the latest technology trends and best practices. You need to cultivate skills in areas like marketing, client communication, accounting and finance. First and foremost you need to become a competent business person, or at least find mentors who are. Ask many developers in the freelance arena and they are borderline clueless on many of those topics.

  4. Great post Jesse. As always, thanks for sharing your journey through this. We all seem to ask the same questions and face the same challenges as we grow our businesses. And it’s both encouraging and challenging to read your narrative.

    So many great nuggets in here!

    I totally agree, it’s #1 about the money, but for me it’s not MY money. It’s about the client’s money. And it’s not about my value, it’s about what is valuable to the client. By putting those things first, I find that my money and value increases.

    You really nail it regarding showcasing “the VALUE it provided the previous client”. Those “stories” are everything!

    “to seek out mentors in the business field vs. the software development one” YES! I’ve been doing this as well and it’s been eye opening.

    I have an apropos blog post written re: educating clients. I should post that to my site instead of hijacking your blog with it. ;-)

    Keep it coming!

  5. Excellent post. I was going to comment something along the lines of what felix has already said.
    I guess doubling your rate is a great goal to have, and I am looking forward to find out if you can pull it off. Deep down though I feel that you don’t want to be doing this… You say you work on products at night. Well, if products is what you want to be building (I know I do) then you should spend 50% of your core working time on that, whilst still increasing your rate. Then work on products in the evenings too. That way you can pay the bills and build a product, or several. Once products pay the bills, quit working for others.
    I’ve been trying to do something similar for a while and I’m succeeding on a small scale. I have recurring revenue from products I’ve built – but it’s not enough to live on (yet it does pay some major bills), and any project based work sort of comes from that (customers wanting spin-offs etc).
    Ok, I’ve not doubled my rate – maybe I should – and ultimately I do not want to have a rate anymore, I just want to build my own sh*t.
    For me it went like this: First you get fed up with your employer, then you quit and go freelance. Then you get fed up with being a freelancer that looks insignificant against ‘proper’ businesses so you set up a company. Then you get fed up with clients who don’t let you do your job, know everything better and blame you for their mistakes. I’m kind of past that last stage where I don’t want clients, instead I want customers and users to use my products and make a half decent living from it. I think they call it ‘micropreneurship’.

    Rock on Jesse.

  6. Really good post for me as I am learning to present myself as well…especially #3,4,5 for me. Thanks for the share. Very helpful.

  7. Great post @Jesse. Great response @Stefan. I was a bit frustrated when I realized that in order to break the glass ceiling I had to find folks who I trusted enough with my brand to help multiply my hours while they grew their own skillset.

  8. hey Jesse. If your actually interested in doing some qualitative analysis to help sell the value of quality, you might check out Dedoose. It’s a web based qualitative analysis tool. Basically interview some people, add some meta information to them, tag it up, and it’ll generate all kinds of lovely interactive charts. Can be very useful if leverage correctly. I’d be happy to provide you a free account and help setting up a project for you if your interested in providing feedback. It is after all a flex app built on the advice of you and the other flex coders :-D. Either way good luck in breaking through the ceiling!
    ~ JT

  9. Good post Jesse. I applaud your News Years resolution and the rigger about how you are trying to accomplish it. Something I have learned over the years is that while showcasing your work to potential clients is certainly important, what is equally important is helping them understand your development process. Ultimately, I am guessing you are able to produce a quality product because you have a standard process that is repeatable. All clients believe their problem or situation is unique so then need to feel confident that they will get the same great quality you gave the last person you worked for. By showcasing the process you used to deliver that previous great result, you are helping your potential client understand how you can consistently deliver great quality. Just my $.02.

  10. It sounds like an interesting challenge (to double your rates). However, it sounds tricky to fall back to the “old” rate if it doesn’t work out. The way I can see it working out, however, is that you simply do fixed bids. For me, I’ve nearly always come out way ahead on fixed bids. Everyone is happy. The only catch is that you’re investing quite a lot of time (sometimes paid, often not) just establishing the scope of a project (in order to bid on it).

    I’ve kept my rate the same for a very long time. It’s probably due for an increase but it was very much on the high side when I first established it (back in the golden days of the internet). Sure, based solely on hourly–it doesn’t scale. But you can certainly make very big leaps when you do fixed bids. Interestingly, I had an electrician bid on a project–he was like 2x the other bids I got. If I saw some crazy value in him I guess I’d consider hiring him–but the point I want to make is that this guy probably just charges a lot and figures he will just work less… but get paid the same as if he charged a normal rate and worked more. Seems logical to me–but, then again, I didn’t hire him.

    Here’s my tip Jesse: just change your rates. Be prepared to lose certain clients and probably work less for a little while… but also maybe expect to get “better” clients (really, my idea of a good job).

  11. Jesse, at what level do you interact with clients? Are you working with marketing and business execs? IT project managers at end user firms? Or are you a sub for large project development firms?

    In the latter two cases, your work gets marked up and resold. The most lucrative work comes from providing solutions to the business execs. Although I have business that comes from all three directions, I have focused on developing the vocabulary and understanding of non-IT functions so that I can talk their lingo and understand their problems.

    Not long ago I made the CEO of a large company become emotionally involved as I described a solution that would make life easier for his sales force. When you get to that point, cost is secondary.

  12. Nice post BUT you need and we all need to remember that we started programming , Flex programming because we love it . If your purpose is to become rich as a programmer than you are in the wrong field. Doubling your rates? I would not do that. You are going to get almost NO clients(as nobody will be able to afford you) and get a reputation of inapproachable, too expensive. In one of your last post , you did seems to consider $30/H as dirt. Well my friend , there are people out there who are making $8/H and still manage to survive. Before becoming a Flex programmer I use to make $9.50/H as hotel clerk. You can easily live with $25/H and if you are smart you can even save some money. All that to tell you that you need to be more flexible with your rates, we are in recession and increasing your rate to $200/H is not advisable at all. Secondly if I was you , I would change your resume. Your past Flash Designer experience is not appropriate to be mentioned if you are applying for a Flex Developer/Architect position. Why? Well even if it untrue ,we all know that Designers/Flash Designers have the reputations to be poor programmers. Flex Developers mostly come from the development world(java etc..). So I will definitely change your past Flash Developer experience as ‘Actionscript Developer”.
    Regarding your rates? Well you need to learn how to save money, people become rich by saving not by making enormous salaries. If I was you, I would definitely accept rates from $30/H to $150/H. Freelancing? Yes but I will get contracts(on-site) and some freelancing job aside($100 to $200/H). Accept rates from $30 to $100/H during your contracts. Why am I advising you all that? Because I was in the same boat that you are now!. I start programming 3 years ago and I consider myself now as Flex Guru. I have no degree and did learn all the material on my own. I love it!!
    My last contract was at a rate of $90/H and my highest rate was $150/H done for about 6 weeks. Money is NOT what motivates me. What gives me a smile every day is AS3 and mostly Flex. Again you need to come back to reality, be humble and keep learning.

  13. Keep rockin the free world Jesse Warden! Goals that make you stretch and the motivation to shoulder your way through these learning experiences keep things interesting. I look forward to attending your Product session at 360|Flex DC – and be sure you don’t miss the session on Reflex, last day last hour. I think you’ll enjoy this one …

  14. Lisa, with 3 years experience you are not a senior developer. Devs like jesse have over 10 years of experience and are able to charge more because of his experience. and yes there is a big difference between a dev with 3 years and a dev with 10.

    30-80 an hour for someone of jesses’s caliber is a joke, insulting and bad for our industry. suggesting him to accept rates from 30-150 is very inconsistent and borderline thievery. How is it fair from a client perspective if client a pays 30 and blient b pays 150? just doesn’t make any sense.

  15. @Jesse, @Stefan similar path for me however I’ve taken the route of employing others to code for (or rather, with) me instead of focusing on products (so far). For me progress is slow, steady but controlled (somewhat) and can see my business growing and evolving. However, the alternative path of striving for a successful product suductively tempts with it’s potential higher reward and easy-money (eventually) but in a much less controlled manner and an indeterminable time-scale. Could chew the cud on this subject for hours, some day at some conference will have to make it happen.

    Keep battling Jesse, I can’t wait for the blog post where you’ve cracked this and share with us all the exact answer we’re all looking for ;)

  16. Perhaps a more scalable model would be to get more work for yourself at the standard rate (by marketing yourself) and trying to put a team together to accomplish the work load… The challenge here will not be getting more work but putting a good team at a reasonable price!

  17. David,

    I understand what you are saying but you did not get my message. I might have 3 years in Flex but I have been programming since commodore was out. And yes I am a Senior Talented Flex Developer. My friend let me ask you this question. How long Flex has been out? 1o years? I don’t think so. Jess has been into programming for 10 years! but he has not been a Flex Developer for 10 years got the nuance?:). Great I have been since 1981. I use AS since the early version. We are in the WORST recession ever! Now if Jess wants to keep his rate at $200/H great for him! and if you think it is a decent idea great for you! What I am trying to say is that you have to be flexible to survive in this current economy. Again you can easily live on $25/H rate. For example let’s take the case of Amazon. Do you believe their products rate is constantly at the maximum? Of course not often you have bestseller at 10 to 40% off that is the REASON why customers are going back , trying to find deals. Developers have NO business mind and David you are the perfect example of that. Jess if you want to sit home considering yourself as the APPLE company(analogy) with the best product and services and REFUSE to adapt and get flexible with your rates then fine! But what you will get is just a few clients for ONLY a few hours works. I know a GURU from an old programming language who change $120/H and only accept freelancing deals well this is the guy that is called ONLY when a company has an issue(code). He gets only a few hours per month of work NOT more. Jess be that guy! But for me I rather get more flexibility and I end up with MORE money than you at the end of day!

    “30-80 an hour for someone of jesses’s caliber is a joke, insulting and bad for our industry. suggesting him to accept rates from 30-150 is very inconsistent and borderline thievery” David really need to come back to earth!:) Dave Do you consider yourself an Aristocrat Flex Developer to turn your back to $30/h???
    You guys are COMPLETELY disconnected from the original reason why you are Flex Developers! Your first reason is because you LOVE Flex and programming , if money comes great but if you turn your back at Flex because you are a pretentious developer accepting ONLY a wage of $200/H then you will vanish especially in this economy. David obviously you got into programing and Flex programming for money issues that’s the problem! You will NEVER get satisfied no matter how people are paying you. That’s sad and I feel sorry for you David. David don’t consider my answer as an insult or rude but there are tons of programmers out there like you , they got into programming for money, they don’t love to program and have no vocation at all.
    And those programmers are usually untalented, refusing to work on site because of their obvious lack of understanding of the material therefore rather accept freelance deal to hide their weaknesses. I have met so many like that so your speech David about “Insulting the industry” made me laugh, you are yourself an insult to our community.
    Lisa.

  18. @rtinfow I don’t get direct access like you do. For the larger clients, I’m starting to realize I need to devote a significant amount of time to sale, whereas in the past, if it didn’t happen in 5 business days, it didn’t happen. However, it’s certainly taking me a long time to learn this skill. I’ll probably be ok in 5 years… I currently feel like I’m where I was at with programming in 2001.

    @AJ I already do that. Just not well.

    @Lisa I’m must be mis-communicating.

    I’m not trying to be rich, I’m trying to double my rate to see what happens and learn. If I wanted to be rich, I wouldn’t be programming; I’d be getting others to program for me.

    You might not wish to double your rate, but I’m not afraid, so am.

    I’m not sure if you’ve done Enterprise Software development, or worked with large design agencies. They pay extremely high rates, higher than are discussed here, for Flash Developers & Flex Developers. This is fact, I’ve been on multiple jobs. The key here, though, is I don’t pull those rates. Each party involved gets a cut. The company who got us the lead gets their 52% per hour, the hiring firm (Universal Mind, Roundarch, etc.) takes their cut (20% or more), and finally you get your portion. So, you are incorrect, there are tons of clients that can afford me and my company. In fact, we’re cheap in comparison.

    I don’t have that reputation, “consultants” do. It’s called qualifying leads. If companies hear the word consultant and run, good for them; clearly we weren’t a match to begin with, or they couldn’t afford me and/or my team. Or perhaps they just had a negative experience, and would have a good one with me. However, there are clients who don’t have this aversion, thus I stick to working with them.

    Maybe you can easily live on $25/hr, but that’s unacceptable me. I realize there are people in the world who make $100 a month. I don’t. End of story. I’m not lowering my standards of what I know I, and others are worth simply because I feel bad I make more than a gas station cleark. My competition sure doesn’t, why should I? I don’t see your reasoning here.

    Recessions are the best time to start a business. Recessions are the time to buy. Just because we’re in a recession doesn’t mean business just stops. Apple, who sells top of the line hardware, is doing extremely well. Go into an Apple store and ask yourself if we’re really in a recession. Porche got voted top car of the year, and is having an extremely good year. Jesse Warden isn’t Walmart, and I will never compete on price. If consumers want a deal, they can go elsewhere. Those who appreciate quality, competence, and assurance things will get done come to me, and thus I charge appropriately for that. I’ve seen my competition, and a lot who charge less… should.

    Regarding my resume, 70% of the Flex gigs I get are specifically tailored to my past Flash & Design experience. Flex Developers are rare. Most companies employ Java/.NET/PHP developers and teach them Flex. Most of these comp sci grads do not have a design background, no multimedia experience, and don’t have an appreciation for UX/Design. This isn’t true of all, but it isn’t a stereotype either; it’s fact. Many of my Flex gigs are me coming in and handling the GUI portion specifically because of this past experience. Clients who need design implementations in Flex recognize a lot of their in house talent often doesn’t have these skills, thus they bring people like me on. So, no, I’m not changing my resume because that’s currently what gets me gigs that take advantage of my talents.

    Regarding architecture, not sure what to tell you. I know that + design. I’m not changing my resume to focus specifically on that. I’ve gigs which needed help in both areas, and in those cases, I’ll often just hire/bring on my team members to help in design areas while I focus on architecture. For the smaller budget projects, I just do both.

    Not sure I agree with the Flash Programmers. I’ve seen a lot of Flash programmers who can out code some Flex programmers, especially the game ones. I get what you’re saying, though, about the negative connotation. However, if I put Java on my resume vs. removing Flash, that’d have a major, more positive impact. Removing Flash at this point would just hurt me.

    People don’t become rich by saving. There are 3 ways to make more money:

    Increase your rate
    Reduce your overhead
    Increase your output

    In software, people get rich by successful products, or by making others work for them. You need to spend money to make money, not save it. Invest? Sure, but not save.

    $30 is an insult; I could go to Costco, get a wonderful position with a great company with benefits, and make that. I choose to program, not work in retail.

    I’m in reality, not sure what you mean. That was the whole point of this blog post; to show others the reality.

    Years in programming mean jack. I’ve seen some programmers who’ve programmed for 6 who are worthless compared to some who’ve been doing it for 2. It’s like measuring productivity via lines of code; it’s a worthless measurement.

    You do not have to be flexible to survive in this economy. You have to sell clients on your value. Not everyone shops at Walmart for deals; some go to Target. Some go to Louis Vuitton.

    Saying I’ll only get a few clients for a few hours is incorrect. I’m getting clients for months/years long projects doing Flex. Again, I don’t think you’ve worked with Enterprise Flex clients; the prices & lengths we’re talking here are small compared to what they’ll pay. If you get more money than me, great, please blog and tell me how. Right now, I can’t increase my output, I can’t reduce my overhead, so the only thing to do is increase my price.

  19. @ Lisa – There’s a difference between getting into Actionscript programming “for the money”, and trying to create a situation where your life and the lives of your family are relaxed and comfortable.

    Maybe in your world it’s possible to live off of $30/hr, but what if you have a family? A mortgage? It’s not always so simple.

    @ Jesse – I wouldn’t say years coding is worthless at all. Maybe in terms of raw code quality, it’s not very useful (although, I’ve seen very few bad-ass developers with only 2 years experience in my career). But, ignoring code quality, there are many other qualities that can only come with experience, time/project management, communication, pro-active problem solving, dedication/work ethic.

    None of these are exclusive to an experienced developer, but the overall maturity level _tends_ to be much better with developers who have 5-10 yrs experience.

  20. Jesse,

    First of all, you have written a very well-thought out, well focused article. I’m not sure I agree with the majority of the comments here which tend to argue about the wage that you can be earning. In one of your comments you mentioned that years of programming are an absolute worthless measurement, and I agree with that as well. Obviously someone who has 2-3 months of experience versus someone who has a couple of years may perform a little bit slower, but, for those of us who have natural talents, these measurements are meaningless.

    Let me say that I’m only 25 years old, and I would argue that I’ve hit the middle of your rate-matrix as a full-time employee for a company. Not only that, but I get 6-weeks paid time off per year, benefits, have other programmers working under me, etc. So, as I see it – what you’re trying to accomplish is definitely something that can be done. The work I do is mostly in ColdFusion, Flex, Flash, and jQuery. I also love design so I’m constantly obsessing about stuff that doesn’t look “web 2.0”. I don’t tend to go far from these items. I did go to college to get the Computer Science degree and everything, but I don’t really use that as a selling point — it’s more or less something that I did to blend in with the rest of the sheep. Besides that, my college experiences weren’t all that useful, since I’ve been “programming” since I was about 10 years old starting with C++, lol.

    I digress. What you need to do is come up with a value strategy for yourself. Don’t sell dollars, sell applications and results. Enterprise clients can pay a good developer $200+ per hour if they so choose. Many of these companies have lackluster developers who either a) aren’t worth their salt, b) don’t have analytical skills so they spend hours in meetings for a simple project, or c) don’t have the core skills required to complete the task at hand. These same companies pay these people $85,90,100k per year to sit around in meetings and maybe deliver a couple of good products during that said year. These companies would rather have an innovator; a programmer who is quick and can solve the complex industry problems without needing to have everything explicitly written out for them.

    Sadly though, many developers lack these analytical and innovation skills – which doesn’t necessarily make them bad developers, it just puts them into that lackluster “robot” category, where they need everything spelled out for them before they start working on a task.

    When you start delivering products that can reduce the bottom line of a company’s IT budget, then you really begin to offer an interesting value proposition. The proposition goes: “Well, we could pay 3 slow developers $200/hour combined or we could pay you $140-160 and get the same results at a faster speed.”

    This is all attainable, but you need to prove those results. Judging by your writing and past posts, I’m sure you have the experience and intellect required to figure out the missing part of this equation. Once you begin lowering corporation’s budgets (and no, I’m not talking about outsourcing — that’s a whole different issue), your earning potential is limitless. You can do it! It’s all about attitude :)

    I look forward to hearing from you. Let me know if you have any questions.

  21. I believe that motivation is the key to success. If your motivation, your scope in this case, is to make more money, you’re not focusing on delivering a better service and therefore you don’t get to the money.

    The other option that I see is to try to deliver a way better service, and just charge directly proportional with the amount of clients that request your services. Make sure you don’t work more than 8 hours a day. Charge as much as needed to cover exactly the 8 hours a day period, not more, not less. (You can set a smaller period like 6 hours/day, but less would not help evolution)

    THIS IS A CORECT WAY OF DOING BUSINESS. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BECOME A PRICK TO MAKE MORE MONEY, YOU DON’T HAVE TO FOOL PEOPLE.

    In addition to the 8 hour program, if you fail to achieve that, you still have to work 8 hours a day to keep it up with the technology. I suggest that in the remaining time do stuff that you can deliver for free, don’t charge for something you do in your free time. It will come back to you later and will allow you to both improve your rate and fill your 8 hour working time with quality projects.

    On the other side, if you want to make money more than you want to code, than the right choice is to step out and try making just business.

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