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I'm considering doing some contract work on the side of my normal job. I know that it will kill my free time, but I figure I can control when I'm doing projects and then get a little extra money or even eventually make it my full time job.

But as I've never done this before, I'm wondering what issues people face to do this kind of work. For instance:

how do you find customers?

What difficulties do you normally face on a project?

How do you deal with projects that are too large for one programmer to effectively complete?

What about projects that need other skill sets (for instance web design for a web app?)

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First make sure that your full time employer allows you to do this - check your contract! –  Oded Mar 15 '11 at 21:31
    
There's almost no mention of anything specifically related to programming in this question. –  David Thornley Mar 15 '11 at 21:33
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@David - but it clearly is related to programming ... from the context (e.g. where it came from), and from the 2nd to last sentence. It is on-topic, IMO. –  Stephen C Mar 16 '11 at 3:49
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3 Answers 3

  • Over promise & under deliver == reputation suicide
  • Under promise & over deliver == happy customers

As for the other questions.

how do you find customers?

As you would find any work--colleagues, Craigslist, Monster, et al

What difficulties do you normally face on a project?

Poor requirements, unreasonable schedules, the same issues you find at work.

How do you deal with projects that are too large for one programmer to effectively complete?

Walk away, find another dev you trust, what would you do at work?

What about projects that need other skill sets (for instance web design for a web app?)

Same as above.

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The biggest difference I found with freelance work was the parts that aren't programming.

You're not just responsible for writing good code that does the right job. That is important but that is the part you do anyway.

Finding customers, managing customers, running the office, figuring out expenses, deciding your pricing model, timekeeping on your projects so you know how much they are costing you, handling late payment, hassling people over late payment, explaining to your bank manager that you have payment coming in, taxes...

If you think of all the other things that go on in your company that you don't have to do because there are other people to cover them, you'll need to do those things as well. Expect to spend about half your time doing administrative tasks rather than actual development. Remember that they pay you get for the development needs to pay for those tasks and for the use of your facilities and the utility bills you incur doing the work and other relevant costs.

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That was definitely something I didn't anticipate the first time I did contract work. Taxes? I have to pay all those myself? Yeesh. –  Tieson T. Mar 16 '11 at 12:33
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My #1 piece of advice for anyone considering a freelance business: find a GOOD tax accountant. The tax ramifications of self-employment can be huge, and having somebody to help you navigate that (including perhaps forming a corporation, etc) is a godsend.

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