freelancing, why my 4 hours of work equal to 8 hours of your full-time employee

Last October I quit my full-time job. I was so burned out I didn’t touch code for a month. Then came November and I knew that at some point I need to start earning money again, bills do have to be paid after all. For a moment I considered joining another company but the pure thought of it made me want to run for the hills. What other option did I have? Freelancing. I am not going to lie, last time I tried to freelance (two years ago) it was a pure disaster, but that was before I had confidence in myself as a developer.

My last job taught me two crucially important skills that made me undertake freelancing with confidence and excitement.

Firefighting, i.e. to be able to solve any problem with fast turnaround.

Managing projects, i.e. knowing what can go wrong and how badly things can go wrong if the project is not managed correctly.

I have been freelancing for three months now. I have two clients, one is a sinatra app and another one is a flask app. With the second one I am building the whole platform from scratch, with the first one I focus mostly on the front-end. The biggest discovery that I made so far is how productive my work time is.

I realized that the amount of work I do in 4 hours is pretty much the amount of work it typically takes to do in 8 hours if you are full-time employee working in the office.

Here is a simple math. Let’s assume your employee, call him John, starts work at 9:30 am. First he gets coffee/tea and checks email, reads news, talks with his fellow coworkers. Usually this morning ritual takes about an hour. So, it’s now 10:30 am and he starts to work, but his coworker just pinged him a hilarious gif/article, next his manager is pinging him to check on the progress of the project, oh and there is a meeting at 11 am as well, because there is always a meeting about something. Maybe during all this time John managed to write a few lines of code, that he probably will scrap later, because with all those distractions he is not even sure what is that he was solving. It’s now noon - LUNCH Yey! The best time of the day. Everyone gets excited about where to go to eat or order from. John’s another coworker asks him to go to play ping pong while they are waiting for lunch. Lunch arrives, John tries to be productive and code while eating his lunch, but without luck, he gets pinged by sales team to check on that feature they promised to the client. It’s now 2 pm, food coma. Thankfully, everyone is in this coma; so, at least all the pinging subsided and John can get back to the task at hand. He focuses on the work for a few hours, solves the problem he wanted to solve and he goes to celebrate it with another match of ping pong. It’s now around 5pm. Work slows down, John might stay until 6 or 7 and work, there will be a few more matches of ping pong. John closes his computer and heads home.

At best John put about 4 hours of work.

Now let’s see how I work.

I check in with one of my clients in the morning and with the other in the afternoon. Both of my clients use slack, and I keep the respective window open only when I am working on a project for that client. I charge by an hour and I use the harvest app to track time and do my invoicing. I do not press the button “track time” unless I am actually coding. It means, if I get up to make myself a cup of coffee, I pause the timer. If I go to the bathroom, I pause the timer. If I decide to read an article that doesn’t pertain to my project, I pause the timer. You get the idea. My work day doesn’t end at 6pm, it ends when I exhaust my brain capacity for that day, it could be at 9pm, 12am or 1am. I have minimal amount of distraction or interruption. And most importantly I get the job done.

On average I put in 8 hours of actual coding work a day which is approximately 2 days of work for a full-time employee .

So you probably wonder, why in the world would anyone work like that. It comes down to individual priorities. For me the benefits of being self-employed are invaluable. I am in charge of my own schedule, of the projects I undertake and the tools I use. What I learned in the past three months as a freelance developer supersedes drastically what I learned as a full-time developer while working for more than a year. I fell in love with coding again. I strongly believe that if you like something you can be really good at it, but if you love it you will be great and I really love what I do.


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