State of the Flash & Flex Developer Market for 2009

This is a post I plan to do yearly, every April.  I originally started it (late last year) because at the time, many were attempting to guess the effects of the economy’s slow decline on the Flash & Flex market.  I was hoping it’d help others who were insecure, those who had only been in Flex a short while feel better, or who were just curious what things really were like out there at the time.  I’m not paid by Adobe to do this; I just love the technology and want others to get involved.  Also, I developed a side business, unpaid, where I route recruiters/employers to my network, and my network to them.  I found it interesting to see what people are hiring for, and I feel it helps me keep tabs on what the market it is doing.  Nowadays, you barely ever hear people questioning whether to use Flex or not; rather, it’s mostly on deciding to use it vs. other technologies.  That said, it’s still interesting to me to see how and what the market is doing. 

My main qualitative metric is simple; how many job offers I get in the month of March.  Traditionally, March has been the month where I get the largest amount of job/contract/consulting/startup opportunities.  Therefore, it’s become my metric for the past 5 years or so.  Other qualitative metrics I use is the ratio of employers asking me for candidates vs. the amount of candidates asking me for opportunities.

Last year’s was positive.  This year’s is negative.  This is one of the worst March’s I’ve seen since 2002.  Granted, back then we we’re still reeling from the dot-com-bomb as well as 9/11 and no one knew me back then.  Many of us on Twitter were mocking the “recession” back in December, countering “What recession?” and citing tech blogs that mentioned how the tech sector won’t be as badly affected as other industries as well as the continued influx of work.

Slowly, but surely, I started seeing business slow for people in December.  I still got a trickle of recruiter positions, all on-site.  As January hit, the opposite of what usually happens, happened.  First, I started getting my list of contractors and others emailing me asking for work.  Others who often had a surplus of work no longer had a surplus.  Some have panicked and lowered their rates, hoping to compete on price.  Those who have succeeded to continually get work appear to have strong sales skills, or access to existing client relationships.

Broadly speaking, a lot of contractors/consultants were reporting false starts to projects from December onwards.  My assumption is the fact that a lot of banks (successful & failing) weren’t giving loans to the companies who funded the projects.  In turn, those companies had to extend the start date out of those projects until they could determine the project funding source.  This in turn caused consulting firms and contractors to have to wait longer than normal to start a new gig.  A lot of times the projects would just never happen because of this.  Worse, this happened not just to 1 client in the queue, but all of them.  This in turn lead to firms not making payroll, or contractors just not having work for awhile.

On the flip-side, I’ve seen employers taking advantage of the situation.  Whether searching for lower prices knowing they are out there or seeking top talent from those companies shedding them.

While I typically use February & March as a metric for the year, things have picked up here in April.  The typical percentage, for me personally, on where I get my project offers are (this isn’t indicative of projects I actively do):

  • 60% networking
  • 35% my internet presence
  • 5% recruiters

This has held true even in the bad times.  Twitter, LinkedIn, and my blog have led to more gigs than my actively searching online.  The only difference now compared to last year is that its been more active vs. passive.  Meaning, I’ve actively searched on Twitter, my blog, and LinkedIn including asking my networking contacts for gigs vs. just deciding amongst the stream of offers that was 2006, 2007, and 2008.

For context, things were horrible for me, and my friends, in 2001 & 2002.  Additionally, I do not consider the “global economic recession” as the BBC calls it too huge a deal for white collar jobs because I’ve seen the bad parts of Detroit in a good economic time.  Things are not that bad.  To put it another way, they could be SOO much worse.  Regardless, history repeats itself, and February & March have always been good indicators of the year.

There are plenty of blog postings I’ve seen on AXNA and others that discuss what you can do to weather this recession if you’re in the web technology field.  I agree with some, disagree with others.  What I do know is based on the work I still get:

  • Flash Developers are still in need; knowledge of creating video players and dynamic Flash content from XML a plus
  • Flex Developers who can write custom components or are capable of doing consulting around frameworks (lolz Yakov!) are also still in need.  Many existing software development teams are still transitioning to Flex and need help getting over the humps.
  • if you’re willing to travel and do on-site work, you’ll have a lot of opportunities vs. being strictly remote
  • if you compete on price, people will gladly accept your lower rates (I recommend the opposite)

Like some have predicated, things aren’t great, but they certainly aren’t as bad as they were back in 2002.  If you do Flash or Flex, keep your chin up.  While slow, things are pretty decent all things considered.  Good luck the rest of the year.

10 Replies to “State of the Flash & Flex Developer Market for 2009”

  1. Yeah I’m hearing the same everywhere ;( gasp I’m working W2 right now, the horrors LOL !

  2. God post. How valuable is Linkedin when it comes to getting projects? Just another tool, or more powerful due to your network?

  3. Thanks Jes! This is really helpful. I left freelancing and went W2 when I saw which way the economy was going. April does look to be better month. Here’s hoping I can see 1099s soon! :)

  4. Thanks for taking the time to do your annual SOTFFDM! :)

    I don’t keep track of contacts and such from prospective clients but my general feeling is that it has been a bit slow so far this year. Fortunately for me my existing clients have no shortage of work.

  5. Same with us here in Europe. Clients hesitate to make commitments for middle and long term projects.

    Besides the short projects, surprisingly my company got one month assignment to conduct a Flex training course for one big IT company. I’ve been preparing to make Flex training, but honestly I haven’t expected that training is going to fix this month company’s budget

    Have you done training or got requests for Flex training recently? Does the market in the US demands training, besides consulting services?

    P.S. You can check out the structure of our course –

  6. Yeah man, lots of training requests lately. Despite the recession, Flex is still growing strong. That said, a lot of companies want to utilize their existing staff, hence the training.

  7. I’m a developer working with M$ products for many years but I’m not into any technology wars. I’m about to develop a hopefully big external site and I guess Flex is the only opportunity? Getting Mac/Linux people to install the Silverlight plug-in is hard I guess?

    When I compare the products I realize that there are more 3rd party ui coontrols for Silverlight or am I wrong?

    I’ve been googling to compare the products but I don’t get the answers I want. I’m a rookie in RIA so please help, maybe you have a couple of good links?

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