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Steven Yung
Steven Yung

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How taking a full-time position made me a better freelancer

Post originally written on my blog, please give it some love πŸ™

I started full-time freelancing almost two years ago after my studies. I mainly worked on Symfony project before but I had very little to no experience on how to handle medium to large size projects, I didn't feel confident in my abilities to carry through an entire project by myself.

Even though Symfony was my bread and butter before, I had more affinities working with Laravel and wanted to work on Vue.js project to extends my profile to be more "full-stack", but I was too afraid not being able to deliver good result.

I declined a lot of good opportunities to work on interesting projects at the time by fear of not being competent enough for the task.

I had the feeling that, as a freelancer, I should be competent enough from day 1 and be able to work productively after a very short adaptation period as it was one of my selling point when working for new clients.

Moreover, I also had to pay the bills at the end of the month and to counter-balance my lack of confident I accepted a lot of projects which were basically "not the right fit" for me. They were for the most part either built on technologies I knew but had no interest improving on or simply not interesting.

I was always concerned about finding the next project, and save as much as possible for the next month as we all know freelancing can be unpredictable. I was afraid of not being able to sustain myself.

I worked remotely all the time, disconnection and loneliness had a lot of impact on my moral and motivation after just a few months of freelance.

I didn't feel happy and I felt it was time for a change.

From freelancer to full-time employee

At the beginning of 2018, I applied for a few positions just to test the water. I didn't expect much out of it. I did this mainly to see which opportunities were available to me, but also certainly to reassure myself at the time about how hireable I could be.

After two months and a few propositions, I decided to quit the freelancing world and finally start working for a small rising startup as a full-stack Laravel / Vue.js developer. The dream stack I worked so hard to learn.

My mission for the past year was to create a sustainable project for the future of the company as the initial project was starting to accumulate too much technical debt. It had reached a point of no return where no one besides the initial developer of the project, the CTO, could actually work on the project.

With quality in mind, I had the freedom to spend time thinking differently about my work and gain perspective on how to work on a long-term project, with the opportunity to work on many differents subjects.

The company was transitioning from a one-man team to a team of 4 people at the time.

A lot of organisation and process, like git flow, automated deployment and agile process; had to be implemented, and I was lucky to part take in each decision regarding the team organisation.

Working as a full-time developer also allowed me to focus more on code and less on client management. That was very beneficial for my personal growth as a developer, and I acquired skills and knowledge way faster as I was able to challenge and implement new ideas, week after week.

I had a great time working on this project with a small team of talented dedicated people and having this environment helped me grow much faster than I could have ever done by myself.

I was an integral part of the decision making process, whether it concerned technical aspects or process decisions. Today, we finally launched that brand new project to the world with more than 250k users across France, Germany and United Kingdom.

This is by far the biggest project I have worked on, and I feel very proud and strangely validated in my ability to work on bigger and better projects even though there is a lot of remaining work to do.

I have nothing but good memories of this year, and for the first time in my career, I'm really proud of what I can show to the world.

But after one year, it's time for me to fly on my own again.

From full-time employee to better freelancer

During the year I worked as a full-time employee, I was excited by my new position and the challenges awaiting but I now feel like it's time for me to start working for myself again, and pursue my own goal this time.

I reflected these last couple of months on what I want to achieve and what mistakes I made while I was freelancing one year ago.

My lack of confidence was definitely one of my biggest obstacles at the time and turning down opportunity for growth by fear of screwing up was a vicious circle.

It prevented me from improving because I wouldn't take the risk to not being able to deliver.

With what I achieved today, I feel more confident than ever to grab opportunities, and even though I might (will) screw up in my journey, I know I will still manage to learn and grow from my mistakes and I should embrace failure instead of fearing it.

I also plan on fighting loneliness by participating in more events and connecting more with people online from different communities. Travelling while working will also be my objective by the end of the year, letting me to take my marks again.

Moreover, being able to find my first full-time job without too much trouble, made me realise that this time, taking the leap will not be an irreversible decision and if ever I feel like times are difficult, or I don't enjoy freelancing, I will most likely be able to find a new job again.

The main objective as of now is to focus on myself this year and on my own personal goals rather than pursuing money by fear of the future. I want to feel the "free" in the word freelance.

Free to decline missions I don't want to take part in.

Free to take a break.

Free to pursue my own projects.

So what's next ?

I'm thrilled to restart freelancing and excited about all the new challenges to come, but right now, after one year of intense stress and deadlines, I just wish for one thing, a god damn break.

Starting mid-march, I'll take a one month break to find myself, recharge my battery and prepare myself for my new journey.

That break will not only be for slacking (but mainly πŸ˜…), and I plan on trying my best to be helpful to others, give back to all the communities that have helped me so far.

Starting today, I'd like to openly invite any person out there that need help on anything I can provide help on (freelancing, laravel, vue, etc.) to reach out to me on Twitter and I'll try my best to help any of you πŸ’ͺ

I plan on blogging consistently throughout my freelance journey but also on my personal development and my tech adventure so if you like this article, be sure to follow me on Twitter where I share random thoughts and progress in my work πŸ‘‡

Once more, special thanks to my dear friends: Abdoulaye, Samuel and Jean-Baptiste ❀

Discussion (12)

simo97 profile image

I think it is a good idea to quit something to another one just to learn something and return to the initial stuff. Nice strategy, am starting also in freelance path as Django developer, but I am coming from office world. How do you find clients ?

nvio profile image
Steven Yung Author

I definitely agree even though at the time when I quit, it still felt like a failure. Especially when you know most people tend to go from full-time to freelance. In restrospect, I understand it that was the right choice πŸ™‚

In France we are lucky to have a few popular platform for freelancer called Malt and Comet, which have regulated pricing and only open to a very few countries. That’s mainly where I found clients before and where I plan on looking for mission in the future πŸ™‚

If you have a similar opportunities where you work, I would advice to build presence on those platform. Less international and more local platform tend to work best for me as client in the same country is always easier to convince in my experience.

Good luck in your journey, the first client is always the hardest to find but I am sure you can do it πŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺ

Don’t hesitate to hit me up on Twitter if you need more advice on how to start πŸ˜‰

simo97 profile image

Merci bien

emanuele83 profile image
Emanuele Sabbadini

hi Steven,

I read your post and really appreciate it.
being a freelancer is something I wish for the future. I've been employed for 15 years now and learnt programming for web and automation.
the first big step I think is to find clients and being known on the market. how are you achieving this?


emanuele83 profile image
Emanuele Sabbadini

sorry, there is another comment asking the same question... I didn't saw it.

so good luck a thanks for sharing!

I will follow you

nvio profile image
Steven Yung Author

Thank you for the kind words!

Don't worry about the double comment, always happy to answer! πŸ˜„

I would add to my previous comment. If you start looking for mission on freelancing platforms, consider starting with a lower / more attractive price (but don't undersell yourself, it's important to keep a minimum according to your experience and your value). Then give your 100% to complete the mission and satisfy your client.

When you will have your first mission done / review on the said platform. Start increasing your pricing back to normal. This is legitimate as you also grew while working on your first mission so your value increased too and so should your price.

Best of luck in your quest for freedom and don't hesitate to hit me up if you have any question πŸ‘

Thread Thread
emanuele83 profile image
Emanuele Sabbadini

many thanks!

aarone4 profile image
Aaron Reese

Great article. Imposter syndrome can cripple you as a dev. Just remember that you only need to be one step ahead of your client. For customers that don't really understand excel, vlookup seems like magic 😁
Taking on projects with an unknown aspect is all part of the learning process. You don't have to write perfect code, just get the job done. The community can always help and at the end of it, you can always sub contract the bit you can't do.

nvio profile image
Steven Yung Author

Thank you a lot for the kind words. After one months of break and sticking to not taking the first opportunity, I manage to land a nice gig in a project and a tech stack that I’m really glad about !

And like you say, it’s part of the learning process !

nuwannnz profile image
Nuwan Karunarathna

I'm a university student and at the same time I do freelancing during all of my free time. Loneliness and depression is my main two obstacles and as an introvert it's even more harder.

nvio profile image
Steven Yung Author • Edited on

I feel you. I also did freelancing when I was a working student, I barely had a life during 3-4 months to finish projects and meet deadlines.
It was beneficial at the end for my career but had a serious impact on my social life.

If you can take a break, please try to do so while you are still a student and enjoy student life!
Working is good but enjoying yourself is more important. Please don't burn yourself out and take back your freedom by declining missions if you don't feel good working!

My DM is always open if you need some freelance buddy to talk to πŸ‘

nuwannnz profile image
Nuwan Karunarathna

Thank you so much for the advice!