The non-startup-story

I’d like to share a brief story to make sense of the last few months as these have proven to be very interesting times. I like to think that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (thanks Nietzsche) and that every cloud truly does have a silver lining.

I’ve always believed this is true but just recently have been given a wake-up call to see if this is really what I believe. Time to walk the talk as they say.


The Wake-Up call

Photo by Tristan Colangelo on Unsplash
Photo by Tristan Colangelo on Unsplash

My story starts February this year (2018) when I was several months in to a new permanent role. My new job was going well, the people nice, the work interesting enough, but due to my seniority they had problems placing me with the right client and I felt bad for them as I always like to deliver good value from the get go.

At the same time, a head-hunter got in touch with me who I had been speaking with the previous year. A role I had been interested in had come up again, and the daily rate had been increased (it was already an interesting proposition back then). This combined with the slow start to the current role made me say yes to an interview.

To cut a long story short, I got the new role, agreed a start date and signed on the dotted line. My current firm was sad to see me go and I was genuinely sad to leave them. Then two days before the contract start I got a strange message from the recruiter to call him urgently.

Straight away from his tone I knew it was bad news, and he let me know that the new contract had been cancelled, with no good reason given… so there it was, back to square one. No job, a family to feed, and a newly signed mortgage to pay!


Searching for the silver lining

Photo by Alexandre Godreau on Unsplash
Photo by Alexandre Godreau on Unsplash

I have been tempted with the idea of freelancing for several years now and have dipped my toe into the water several times as a contractor.

Work as a permanent employee has often been too comfortable and time can be spent dreaming about how wonderful life must be on the high seas of freelancing. Working for yourself and setting your own agenda seems like an adventure to most, yet few people ever do anything about it…

So with my new found situation I considered my options.

I could of course start calling around recruitment agencies and looking at job postings again. However, most permanent jobs are never as secure as we are led to believe and contracting is often just working with one employer on a long-term basis. Hmm…sounds like more of the same?

This time I felt something must fundamentally change as I didn’t want to place myself and my family in such a precarious position again.


How about spreading the risk of one company being fickle?

Or them having their own financial troubles?

So how about freelancing?


The pot of gold?

Photo by Maria Angelova on Unsplash

Since the financial crisis in 2008 a lot of people have been in a similar situation, and concurrent with this there have been several websites formed to serve this “gig economy”.

My initial impression of some of these websites is unfortunately akin to an online body shop where work will simply go to the lowest bidder. So where do companies go looking for quality?

One of the better sites I have found that could help with this is Toptal. What sets it apart from other freelancer websites is a thorough vetting process done by tech professionals (if you’ve ever encountered the tech un-savvy head-hunter 5 second phone interview then you will relate to why this is important). This focus on quality freelancers allows the hiring companies to know that they will be getting value for money… And allow them to make savings on the true cost of building software (in the rush to deliver everyone forgets the maintenance cost which is harder to estimate over the lifetime of a product).

I hope to be joining the Toptal Business Intelligence Development Community. For a startup like mine it would give me great access to top quality clients far quicker than traditional networking. It might not turn out to be a pot of gold but so far the process has impressed me and I will be looking forward to talking with them soon…

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