June 2016

Errors and Bugs

Have you ever had one of those days where you might as well be banging your head into a wall as far as productivity goes? Today was one of those days for me. I swear everything I touched got worse, not better. I don’t have these days often but when I do, I am thankful that I’m not a surgeon or a pilot or something.

Please tell me that I am not the only person who has days like this!!

First, at work, one of the employees accidentally downloaded a virus. It luckily did not infect anyone else’s computers because we were able to physically remove it from the networks (and the employees wonder why everything here is hard-wired. This is the reason!) and isolated the virus but I could not get it removed. It just sat in the employee’s user profile, waiting for the profile to be installed on another computer so it could start all over again. Ugh. I went through everything countless times and just could not get it all. Finally, I gave up and passed it off to my boss, who showed me what I had been doing wrong. He made it look very easy and I felt inexperienced and foolish. We wiped that hard drive and gave the employee one of the refurbished computers. I spent another hour getting that one up and running, plus we’re required to change all of the passwords on the user account, and then give the employee a computer security seminar. Really it is a lecture, and there’s a form the employee has to sign at the end of it. It’s all a bit humiliating, for them and for me. I’m pretty sure when everyone else has to shut down their computers and we have to turn off the networks as part of the security procedures, they already feel about as dumb as possible and don’t need a dressing-down with me in the conference room to help matters.

I tried to shake off the rough day when I got home. I had a project from a client waiting for me. They wanted me to adapt a specific type of accounting software so that it was customized for their niche market. It should not have taken long but I just could not get the programming correct. Every time I thought I had it, I would run it and be hit with yet another bug. I would fix that one and run it again, and something else would come up. I finally went on a message board to ask for help. I got a lot of the “aww, poor little girl, leave programming to the big boys” as I expected, but I also got a few tips. I went back in and tried ond or two of them and that got it nearly running perfectly. I decided to walk away for awhile and went for a walk and dinner with a friend. While I was eating dinner, I figured out the last piece of the puzzle. I thought about leaving but didn’t want to abandon my friend.

You know what I’m going to say here, don’t you? By the time I got home, I couldn’t quite remember how I had figured it out. It took me another hour to work it all the way out. By then it was super late and I am about ready to fall over.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day!

My Personal Strategy

I really want to be able to support myself with my freelance job but I know that I have a long way to go before I can do that. I’m going to share my strategy with anyone currently visiting Planet Limux so that they can see what I’m doing, and what has been working for me, in case they are freelancers too and need some ideas or encouragement.

Right now, I keep my fees low to help build my client base and resume. Also, because I have a day job, turnaround time is not as quick as I’d like, which is another reason I don’t charge as much as some other people can. However, I can’t wait until I have enough freelance credibility that I can charge a living wage for my work! I’ve been doing this on and off for about a year and a half now and I’ve raised my rates every four months or so. Nothing huge, so that my existing clients complain, but it really starts to add up. Hopefully, it won’t take too long for me to get on par with my more established peers.

I am trying to put myself out there and reach out more. I’ve joined a few message boards and I started this blog to reach out to other people in similar situations. I also really want to go to OpenRheinRuhr this year. It is a fair on free software that has exhibitions, lectures, and workshops. I really want to meet developers and other programmers to talk about their experiences, find new open source software that I can use for my clients, and get some career advice. They are also doing some stuff on licensing, which can be kind of a murky area for me, so any help I can get, I’m going to take.

The end goal is to be able to support myself through just my freelance work. I know people who are brave enough to quit the steady paycheck and focus solely on their passion project but I am not one of those people. If my work was small but constant, I probably would do it—I could survive for a while living frugally until things picked up, I don’t have that many expenses right now—but it isn’t quite there yet. While yes, I’d have more free time to devote to rounding out my client base and be able to churn out projects faster if I didn’t have anything else taking up my time, I’d also starve. Nor would I have the electricity to power my computer or anything like that. So I work. And it’s fine. If you don’t think you can quit your day job yet either, don’t. Don’t let anybody tell you it is holding you back. Since I’m in a similar field at my day job, I actually end up doing a little networking there. I’ve brought in a few clients this way, either through employees who run a side business and need something or through referrals. Again, every little bit helps, so I’m sticking with it for now. As soon as the work gets more consistent and lucrative, I will walk out those office doors and never return!

There you have it: my three-arm strategy: a steady increase in fees to build up credibility and your CV, networking to add to your client base, and then enjoy being your own boss!  Fingers crossed that it is a good plan!