Sorry so late, folks, I usually do this in March or April. Â This year was really strange, so I waited hoping for some context that never came. Â Much is the same as last year.
The following is a broad coverage of the state of the Flash & Flex market for both W2 and 1099 (employee and freelance) with some W9 data (corp to corp, consulting, etc). Â My metrics and data are garnered from:
- my freelance and consulting business
- my network of freelancers and consultants I work with in my makeshift, un-paid recruiting business
- my network on email, blogs, and twitter
- interviews with others who are employed, self-employed, and consulting
- reading high-level economic reports of public companies, federal law summaries, and corroborating between respected economists
I write these yearly to give the community of what I’m seeing from both the trenches, and where I predict technology and employment opportunities going. Â In reading this, you should be able to confirm/deny your current assumptions about the hiring climate, recognize steps you can take to get more opportunities, and gain an understanding of how things are in the Flex & Flash industry from an employment perspective.
Work In General
Much is the same from 2009. Â With Sarbanes/Oxley legislation finally make it’s 2nd round in Congress, banks were afraid to lend earlier in the year. Â With the real-estate market continuing to suffer, and banks both here and abroad failing/merging/acquisitions, loans have dried up. Â With no loans, many larger software initiatives at mid to large companies didn’t move forward. Â Many companies who actually have the money (and yes, there are a lot of corporations sitting on a lot of easy to liquidate cash) Â RFP’s, and other contract jobs never happened. Â The confusion in larger companies of where the budget was going to come from happened only after planning was setup.
This lead to a lot of early year projects that were discussed, and much sales cycles and paperwork were started on, but work never actually commenced. Â This wasted time, was costly for some freelancers & software firms. Â This has increased the lead count (how many people/companies who potentially have work), and thus intimacy with potential clients has sometimes suffered for some firms. Â For those that have the capital, sales cycles have elongated, and existing customers have received extra love. Â For those that don’t, many things have resulted. Â Some have become less choosy in the work they take on, some have broadened the technology niche they serve, and others have just moved technology stacks completely to target what they perceive as a more profitable market.
Rates have continued to decline for some contractors, some even halving their rate if they don’t have an existing client base. Â Recruiters have taken advantage of this 2nd year recession, and are continuing to lower their rates for positions as well. Â Some of this is opportunism, while others are merely companies who are forced to do more with less. Â Sadly, this has not affected the amount of potential, good candidates. Â It’s still hard to find good programmers. Â Some who are already gainfully employed are not swayed away with these lowered rates. Â Those who have them are continuing to ensure they don’t leave. Â While I’m sure they are out there, I’ve seen no evidence of companies abusing their developers because of the recession.
Considering this lack of talent, even the recession hasn’t affected those that charge top tier rates. Â Those companies that want the best, or are in serious trouble and have no choice, seem to have no qualms shelling the cash required.
Opportunity Amount & Location
The amount of opportunities is about the same with 2009: high. Â Their location & telecommute options, however, is drastically different. Â A continuing trend I’m seeing this year is a major lack of talent in New York for both Flash & Flex, as well as San Francisco. Â The financial sector on both coasts seems to be struggling to find both good Flex & Java developers, offering insanely high rates for on-site W2 employment. Â Additionally, the larger consulting firms such as Deloitte and Accenture, are starting to branch our in their hiring vs. training developers in Flex, preferring to get experts for specific gigs.
Strangely, while the amount ofÂ opportunities all over the USAÂ is high, many appear to be on-site with no telecommuting options, including one in Dubai. Â In a day in age when companies wish to save money and struggle to find qualified candidates, it’s quite strange to me why they do not engage in this practice to ensure a broader access to talent at reduced cost.
The Great Divide: Consulting and Freelance
One interesting note this year is the broad divide between freelancers and consultants. Â I’ve had an increase this year in freelancers, mostly Flex, who have a harder time finding gigs. Â On the flip-side, those on-site in San Francisco, New York, Boston, or Chicago seem to have too much work. Â Additionally, those with established consulting firms both big and small continue to have a steady stream of work. Â I don’t know what this means, but for every person negative about the Flash/Flex economy, you’ll find someone who is the complete opposite. Â Again, the pattern is single freelancers seem to have it rough if they don’t have existing clients and/or a large network, whereas those who do are doing just fine, continuing to turn down work.
Not sure what to make of that.
Startups: Not As Strong As 2006
My preferred gigs are startups. Â While I’ve heard both the Valley and China are on a investment binge, it seems they are hiring locally, or getting young/cheap talent. Â Recessions are a wonderful time to start a business, so it’s disappointing not to see an uptick in this type of work with all the investment going on. Â I have been keeping up with a few people starting smaller businesses, some around mobile, some around TV related initiatives, but most seem to be flying under the radar, or are Angel funded with smaller budgets.
The 3 startups I’ve heard of this year are doing exciting work, but seem to be getting burned by the outsourcing trend, asking local developers to fix/inherit, which results in much re-work. Â That, or they only have budgets for short time periods vs. the traditional 4 to 8 months. Â While unfortunate theÂ breadthÂ of startup knowledge for free on the internet doesn’t seem to be taken advantage of, it’s wonderful to see a new breed, both young and old from 2 non-tech disciplines (record producing business & investment banking) are diving in head first. Â That is a great sign. Â If 2011 really is just an extension of the 2008-2010 recession, then startups will continue to attempt to launch on shoe string budgets. Â If you’ve ever wanted to moonlight in a startup, this may be an opportunity to do so since finding qualified talent to launch will be tough for these companies. Â That, or you can be a consultant and attempt to fix this products when they launch in late 2011/2012 for those that weren’t written by professional software developers.
Advice & findings are about the same as 2009.
- Flash work continues in large supply. Â For the freelancers, it’s mostly short, 5 day to 2 month micro-site, or mini-applications. Â Most involve video or 3D.
- Design Agencies continue to have churn, and actively seek, qualified Flash Developers. Â They are apparently still in short supply. Â One trait I’ve seen a lot of Agencies look for is hybrids who can do web stuff as well. Â They’re fine using Flash CS5 one moment, and busting out jQuery and CSS the next.
- FDT & FlashDevelop continue to make in-roads in Design Agencies as theÂ preferredÂ method development IDE.
- More and more agency projects seem to be ActionScript-only projects.
- There are a lot of Flex projects where they need someone to “skin” a Flex project. Â As it’s not that simple, these projects can turn into longer term consulting engagements.
- Many clients working on Flex continue to utilize the 3.x SDK with later builds vs. 4, even with new projects.
- There is a ton of Flex work if you’re willing to join a consulting firm and do some on-site/travel, both freelance and employee.
- There continues to be Flex consulting engagements where large teams run into GUI or scalability problems since they are Java developers first, and were trained to be Flex developers on the job. Â I’ve seen 3 this year myself.
- Flash video continues to be a strong niche, and finding qualified developers, whether they use OSMF or not, continues to be a problem.
- LiveCycle and BlazeDS, continue to be desired technologies in the north and north east beyond the standard Spring/Hibernate stack for hybrid Flex/Java developers.
- Good designers who know how to design Flash & Flex content are continually hard to find.
- Information Architects and others in the UX field for use in our work continue to be hard to find.
Continue to network (Twitter, Email, blogs, conferences), continue to learn, and blog/tweet about what you learned. Â I haven’t seen any Android/iOS/AIR/TV work yet, although have heard about 2 companies here in Atlanta. Â I still believe there is a lot of lucrative work to be had here, specifically for employees/freelancers building applications for other companies vs. marketing to consumers directly.
Sadly, Catalyst & Flex 4 continue to make slow headway. Â There are a few gigs, yes, but clearly people are still figuring out their workflows and technology.
I’d say the worst thing about our industry right now is everyone continues to do things differently. Â Agencies all have their own workflows that change with those they employ. Â The same goes for Flex Developers of all company/firm sizes. Â Thus, it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with as many IDE’s, frameworks, and workflows as possible.
Good luck and keep your head up! Â Flash & Flex are still strong even if the economy is not. Â It’s not glorious like 2006, but seem to have hit rock bottom already and appears on the way up, albeit slowly.