- TL;DR Contract while working a 9 to 5
As developers we fantasize about writing an application and then watching stripe to watch the money roll in.
The truth is it takes much more than that to have a successful SaaS app.
Usually SaaS is where our minds snap to first, but there are other options too - like SwaS, Contracting, and Info products to name a few.
But, by far the method that is easiest at bringing in money consistently is contracting.
Not everyone wants to be a an entrepreneur - sometimes we just want to work our 9 to 5's, but we also like to have money for that vacation or have money to invest into retirement. Contracting gives you the freedom to keep your job (if it allows you work on other stuff) and stack some money for other things.
Just because I'm saying contracting is the easiest out of the bunch doesn't mean it's trivial. I think it's the easiest out of the bunch because most of us can easily think of the steps required to getting a client.
Think about if you were going to make a SaaS app you would have a variation of these steps below:
- Think of an idea
- Validate idea
- Create app
- Price the app
- Market the app
- Monitor churn
- Customer support
If we're being real a lot of us (including me) hardly get to the "first customer" stage of the SaaS game. I'm not saying that to be discouraging, I'm saying that because it's a lot more difficult than the linear list above makes it out to be.
To start contracting at the very least you have to:
- Package up the skills you currently have
- Think of your rate
- Let a bunch of people know you're available for side work
- I think the fancy term for this is marketing :)
- Step 4 profit - I'm joking.
The last part not the profit part, the tell a bunch of people you know part is what trips a lot of us up. It will have us searching the internet on "How to get my first client" only to be bombarded by buzzwords (maybe buzzfeed articles too) and marketer speak.
I want to help with that. I want to share a few things that I've done in the past to keep my name floating around whenever someone needs contract work.
Honestly everything after this will be icing on the cake.
I'm not talking about forced networking, or the LinkedIn kind where you connect with everyone just cuz. You'll need to be a friend to people, have each others backs, get to know them, and actually care for them.
A lot of career and business advice makes networking seem as if you should be looking for the next come up. It's advertised as if you need to be weeding out the people who can't help you right now, but that's not it. That type of advice reminds me of people who want to break into the music business so every time they see a rapper out and about they try to drop a freestyle on them as if they're gonna be like "WOW! That's hot! Join my team bro!".
In the "business" world this is the same as perfecting your elevator pitch and always being "on". It's fake and one sided and the crazy thing is you'll be the one getting eliminated from circles because people can tell.
Just to list off a few tips on where you might start to network:
- Language or Framework meetups
- Startup Events
- Your current job
Most of us know the importance of networking and that we should be doing it, so I'm not going to spend too much more time on this one. So, on to the next one!
Become A Friend to Web/Software Agencies & Design Houses
If you're not one to hunt for new clients, then attaching yourself to a web agency is probably your best bet.
Agencies are always playing a balancing act of having enough work and having enough people to do the work.
Agencies are always on the hunt for work so you'll see their representatives at events, sponsoring events, and even throwing some of the events in your city/town. Attend events and build relationships with them so they will consider you when the time comes.
Building relationships with agencies is a great way to keep working coming in.
Become Friends with Tech Startups & Startup Incubators
In the beginning stages of a startup overall resources are low. Founders might need an extra boost from a developer but not have the money for a full-time developer so that's where you come in!
You can assist them with building their product(s) and you'll get paid in the process.
Depending on what you're after I would try and avoid startups with no capital and ones that promise all equity. If your goal is to become a startup founder or co-founder then by all means have at it, but if you're looking to make money I'd leave the equity talks for a way later conversation.
Other General Advice
- Taxes are a thing... Make sure you keep money aside for that.
- Keep your 9 to 5 money separate from your contracting money.
- Get an LLC or form a legal entity that works best for what you're doing.
- Establish boundaries on when you'll work and when you respond to clients.
- If you give them an inch they'll try and take a mile.
- Set a goal on the amount of money you're aiming for.
- Aimlessly working what is essentially 2 jobs gets old pretty quick!
Here's to a successful side work endeavor!