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EXECUTION Software freelancing to freedom in 3 months

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xy2_

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Mar 26, 2020
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I'm Hugo. I'm 19, French, and I want to become a software engineer and data scientist.
I wish to use the skills I gain along the way to help people & businesses and add value.
For the next three months, I'll be freelancing doing software.

Why?
Recently, I was accepted to an software engineering school. The issue is that it's far away, so I'll have to relocate and pay for an apartment. The other issue is that I had 0€ to my name just a year ago. After a year of saving up and reselling on eBay, making many mistakes along the way which helped me learn, I've got about 2.5k, which is not enough to cover my stay for a year and all one-time expenses.

After some calculations, my living expenses will be around 400€/mo in the worst case, and I'll stay for 10 months, coming back home during the summer. So my goal would be to earn 4000€ to cover my expenses.

I talked about this with my mom, who suggested that I get a job as a cashier during this summer and the next two, in order to cover the rent for next year and not have to work during the school year. Now I love my mom, but working as a cashier for the next three months, in a job where I learn nothing sounds like a lot of BS .

So, instead I've taken it into my own hands to earn 4000€ during the next three months. My deadline is September 1, because that's when the school year starts.

How?
I've learned providing value is a nice way to earn money. Looking inwards, what can I offer that can add value to someone else?

I could start my eBay reselling business again. The problem is that it's low value - I'm not creating anything, just arbitraging prices and making money off the margins. It's also a very easy business, so profits are low.

I needed something more immediate, so I turned to my own skills. For the last two years I've worked both in and outside of school to acquire software engineering skills.
I decided to put them to use: doing freelancing as a short-term strategy, for the next three months. Afterwards, I'll assess my situation and adjust accordingly.

In the worst case, I execute everyday, learn many lessons, and get a sizable portfolio and skills that can be reused later down the road.
In the best case, I have strong earning potential and can pivot somewhere else, while knowing I can fallback on my skills when capital is tight.

What?
Right now, I'll be freelancing on Upwork. I'll stick to one very specific niche: data visualization with d3.js. The barrier to entry is high, because d3 is hard, and data visualization is tricky in general. I also know React, and the MERN stack, from a full stack course. I've done one data visualization for Upwork before in d3+React, which I'll be leveraging, and then build up my portfolio further to gain trust.

I have an remote internship that's required to complete my current school until June 26. During that time I will be working during the week after my internship, and fully during the weekend. After the internship, I'll have unbounded time to freelance.


I'll keep this thread updated during this time and share both my failures and successes. Feel free to comment as I progress.
 

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Kid

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It seems that you have pretty solid world view.

If you'll show your mother hard cold cash (from freelancing) she will probably look more favorable on your other future plans.

Good luck!
 
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xy2_

xy2_

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 26, 2020
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What? That course is both great and free?

EDIT: And it's not from Coursera or edX or Youtube. Those sites are great.
It's a great course which is up to date and helped me learn very quickly. They also have a object-oriented programming course with Java.
It seems that you have pretty solid world view.

If you'll show your mother hard cold cash (from freelancing) she will probably look more favorable on your other future plans.

Good luck!
Thank you for your comment. I'll make my vision a reality.

Catching up
I'm making this post now, but I started last Friday. Where do I stand?

Value bomb
My first order of business is finding clients and providing value for them.
The issue: I have only one $20 job on Upwork, no real experience in the niche, and one portfolio project. How can I make it out? How can I create long-term relationships with clients?

I've adopted a simple strategy: provide as much value up-front as possible: that's about all I have anyways. By doing so, I hope to find my first clients and help them as much as I can.

This means:
  1. Find clients with specific needs in my niche.
  2. Craft a custom-made proposal, offering a demo from their needs in the listing. Figure out obstacles along the way.
  3. Get the job and continue to deliver.
I gravitate towards listing where I can add high value (usually high-paying with complicated requirements). I aim for fixed-price value projects only, and send a demo to the client that satisfies what they described in the listing.

Why spend so much time on making a demo? Even if I fail, I get to add a well-made project to my portfolio. I figure adding portfolio entries from clients with real needs is half as good as getting the job and doing the thing.

My first listing 33319
After finding out about the starmap library, made in d3.js, I thought this would be a good opportunity. I set out to work, made a demo and submitted it on Saturday. I got an answer and interviewed. The client inquired if a few features were possible, and we spoke about price. Since I'm not very skilled with woocommerce, I offered to do only the front-end and PDF generator at a reduced price.

Since my demo was pretty bare-bones, I worked on it for the rest of the weekend and on Monday. At night I submitted an updated demo with the features he wanted to know were possible.
Afterwards, I got this response:
33321
Nothing's decided yet, though. Either way, I have two portfolio items now.
 

WillHurtDontCare

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Every company that exists could benefit from data science, even the small ones. The problem (read: opportunity) is that many companies who could benefit from data science can't afford a full time data scientist. BUT, they could probably afford a small retainer where they give you Xper month for a few very important projects that take up only a small amount of your time - essentially a micro-service model (thank you @UnrealCreative for this idea).

You also don't need to be a fully accredited data scientist to make this happen. Help people put their data in a chart in a way that helps them make more money and you have yourself a profitable service.
 
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xy2_

xy2_

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 26, 2020
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France
This week
Proposals: 3
Interviews: 2
Jobs: 0

I don't make enough proposals, I think. On the interviews I get, something is blocking me from advancing further. Is it my portfolio? I don't know, and right now I don't have enough data to know any further.

Freelancing status
I got rejected from the starmap job. However, I think it looks cool, and I've been working since last week to make it a reality and a cool portfolio piece.

I need to apply more, I think. I'll do one proposal per day from now on. Right now I've only been applying for jobs I have absolute confidence about, but maybe you don't need absolute confidence. Maybe you can even get away with not knowing much, as long as you can demonstrate you can solve the client's problem. But how do you do that? I still don't know. (What do I plan to do to get the knowledge I'm missing?)

Of the two interviews I got, I backed off one because I wasn't confident in my skills (way above my level) and the other found another freelancer. But I don't think I should have backed off. Was it really me not being skilled enough, or just fear?

Freelancing and internship
I start my day pretty early (at around 5AM for about a year now.) I try to get some freelance work done, but usually I don't get much done before 8:30 rolls up and I start work on the internship, for which I'm done at around 5:30 PM.

I could "cheat" and work less hours, but I don't really want to lie to the people who employed me. I would do 8 hours at the office otherwise, and doing anything else is dishonest, I think. What I can do however, is get started on the internship after I wake up and get ready, so I can work on freelancing for the rest of the day.

Speaking of the internship, there's been a disappointment. I learned that the tool I'm developing, a web site, is not going to be used. I'm making the tool only for one person's use, with unclear requirements. But that doesn't matter; I'm still going to do my best for my one 'client' and leave them amazed. I have three weeks left.
 
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xy2_

xy2_

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 26, 2020
21
54
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France
This week
Proposals: 7
Interviews: 2
Jobs: 0

I focused on doing at least one high-quality proposal a day, with a demo if I could, and working on the portfolio whenever I have time. I'm still looking for my first job.

I finished polishing one of my more promising demos and put it on my portfolio: now I have two portfolio pieces. I took the opportunity to rework my profile.

Right now I'm waiting on the second interview which looks promising, so we'll see.

I find that my biggest barriers are mental ones.

On the technical side, I'm learning a lot every day out of necessity, having to figure out both what the client needs and how to actually do it. There's been many times where I was scared because "I didn't know how to do it", but once I pushed through the fear I could find how to do so with a few hours of effort. I'll make an effort to put myself into more of these uncomfortable situations from here on.

On the client side, I've never sold my services before, so the many resources here and on the web gets me thinking and trying new things. I checked out @Lex DeVille 's threads as recommended above which helps a lot with both mindset and techniques. Also, thanks to @Andy Black for his many threads of value here.

The best part of this is taking action every time. I learn every time I misstep and fail. I haven't faced this much failure in a long time, and I'm sure there's much more to come. Every one of them just makes me better at the game.

Planning forward
  • I own a site which I made out of "doing what I liked" in tech. It's not very useful however and I'm thinking to rework it as a place to host my portfolio, and eventually get clients outside of Upwork.
  • I'm looking in the short future to make a good portfolio piece about some of my datavis ideas, and post it on data viz communities. This way I can test if the work i can do is of quality, and if so make a small impact in a bunch of people's days and get some traffic.
 

Andy Black

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xy2_

xy2_

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 26, 2020
21
54
20
France
This week
Proposals: 1
Interviews: 0
Jobs: 0

It's the last week of my internship. I had to write give my internship report and my presentation is for tommorow. So I didn't get much freelancing done.

I have no more internship after this week. So I can put basically all my time into freelancing, after my internship is through and done this Friday.

Interview
I continued on with the interview I considered promising. in the last post After asking a few questions about the client's needs, I made him a wireframe chart for him to see what the thing I would produce for him looks like.

Then I got this reponse:
33692

At this point I was thinking we'd be set. We discussed what I would deliver - I offered to deploy the chart on his website, develop until the chart fits his needs and what he had in mind, and then offer a year of support. Finally the time comes for pricing.

However, I have no idea how to price things. So I look it up, both what similar project cost (on Upwork and outside Upwork) and what they offered based on their price. I also adjusted the price to what the client was used to paying, however it was still higher than any of their previous offers.

The client isn't happy and asks me if I could do something lower. At this point I tell him that my price is fixed. However, did I price too high? Was the client too used to low pricing? Should I have taken the project even for a low price just to get my first dataviz job on Upwork? I don't know. Maybe I should have.

Another interview, but not the kind I expected
I mentionned before that I have a site right now. I only use it to do technical writing - it was in order to gain some online presence. I did three articles, with a lot of effort in each (about 4 to 8 weeks of research and writing for each) and surprisingly got on frontpage of Reddit and HackerNews with them.

Why is this relevant? A few days ago, I get an email in my inbox, from a "Content Marketing Manager". She found one of my articles and made me an offer to contribute to [company]'s blog as a technical writer.

But I declined the job. I want to try one focus in one niche: freelancing as a datavis consultant. Taking the job would probably fill my goal quickly. However I think it would break my focus and that's not something I want to do.
 

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Andy Black

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The client isn't happy and asks me if I could do something lower.
Just a tip. They're not a client until the money is in your account.
 
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xy2_

xy2_

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 26, 2020
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France
I completed my first dataviz job this week! I'm really happy.
I'll post a full update later.
 

LordGanon

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Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 22, 2020
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What?
Right now, I'll be freelancing on Upwork. I'll stick to one very specific niche: data visualization with d3.js. The barrier to entry is high, because d3 is hard, and data visualization is tricky in general. I also know React, and the MERN stack, from a full stack course. I've done one data visualization for Upwork before in d3+React, which I'll be leveraging, and then build up my portfolio further to gain trust.
Hey Hugo!

Thanks for the link to that course. I taught myself the essentials of web development a few years back with www.freecodecamp.com (they also had d3 tutorials at that time, haven't looked into it for a while).

I thought about hopping back in because I have a few ideas for web apps and wanted to learn React (and honestly, while working on online marketing I was getting somewhat pissed because I had to pay so much for tools which are probably fairly easy to program yourself with the API).

Didn't care so much for d3, though, as I did for game development. I created a few games with phaser.js and thought about porting them to Android, but...really, it's better to just stick to native programming than to try to get them to run on a phone. Although things could have changed by now.
 
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xy2_

xy2_

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 26, 2020
21
54
20
France
This week
Proposals: 6
Interviews: 3
Jobs: 1

A few weeks ago, I had no experience and not a single sale in my life. This week I got a job!

Waiting for feedback was probably the most tense I've ever been in my life. Am I really good enough? Turns out I am:

33817
I learned a bunch of things leading up to this first job, but I'll just put my main takeaway:

Basically, just take action now. I didn't wait until the end of my internship, or until school started, or a thousand other BS excuses. I think that once you start and keep doing the thing everyday, then strangely enough things start happening and changing.

Even though you fail all the time, you learn a little bit more everyday. And then one day you don't fail and succeed.

Anyways, my internship is done now. So expect some more things in this thread for the remaining months of my challenge.
 
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xy2_

xy2_

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 26, 2020
21
54
20
France
This week
Proposals: 10
Interviews: 5
Jobs: 1

I got another sale this week!

This was from the clients who told me I "read his mind". He contacted me again after a bit to know how long the project would take, and if I would take up his project, at the price I quoted him. I accepted.

For the rest of the week, I've given as much value as I could to this single client. He seems very impressed, so I'm going to bring up the idea of a retainer (thanks @WillHurtDontCare). I can do this with my other clients too, after proving the value I offer for their business on their job (or subsequent jobs).

I also have two interviews with prospects which are looking promising. Is it people that are taking me more seriously now that I have a job (and soon two) under my belt, or is it I who takes myself more seriously?

At this pace, I keep learning every day. I learn to refine my skills everyday, which is a thing I can fall back to anytime when my situation gets dangerous. But I also learn soft skills: how to talk to people and how to sell. I've been reading in the meantime on these two subjects:, with "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" and "How to Win Friends and Influence People".

Every day I keep learning from this awesome forum and the awesome people who post here. Thank you so much, seriously.
 

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