Some people think that it's too hard. Some that it's about instable income & risks. There're ways to do it successfully, of which I may write later. Right know I want to tell about why I became a freelancer and why it's important to me.
I should admit I have a specific character: initially I was apt to polishing personal skills than collective work. There always was a big wish to "start something with my friends", though looks like friends were tough to this (or maybe I was).
Imagine a typical specialist in typical office (I guess you should take Russian mentality into account). There's too much of work, not enough of skills, and everyone around is trying to work on this heap of tasks (or just pretend doing it). Goals and prospects are quite foggy, and therefore you can't measure the progress. The result is squirrel in a wheel. Slowly my technical head starts realizing that the problem is not insufficient skills, or "too scientific orientation", or fatigability. Not at all.
The problem is, the entire process is built wrongly.
They can hire wrong people and fear to fire them afterwards. Sometimes your direct boss can say "our project managers do not ask for this now, but they likely to want it at the last moment, so we have make everything from start", sic! Sometimes they junior developers to "fix bugs" here and there, in diverse projects, every one of which consists of spaghetti code. So there will be more spaghetti, while formally the tasks done in time. And there's a time bomb launched. They fear to discuss it. Do they really not thinking at all about their company and it's future?
So this it how it feels: a time bomb you're sitting on, till the last day of your work. You can't control it. Actually, you can control it, and it requires developing a new skills - more in management, than in technology itself.
Second try was in smaller company, which was much more controllable. So we rewrote big part of "student's code", how we call it, to something more professional. Yes, these were amazing results. Still, there're a lot of stuff to fix, and where is the "train" is going, is still a question. So you understand, that just writing a good software won't do the trick: you make the railing, but there're no wheels. Why do people still continue just doing their work in such situation? Maybe they work in honor of weekends & holidays? Or maybe they think that just doing their work properly does the trick this days?
So it is logical to start being interested in how your company is working with all the details. This won't go along with developer's work, at least if you're responsible for most of the IT in company. I started to work at home to concentrate better on current tasks, getting to office from time to time. Meanwhile, it was possible to get into management in this company, but sometimes it's just don't worth it - if the company is not moving along with your ideals.
How to become a freelancer
Those who moving with small steps get real results. I was interested in becoming a strong software developer, and understand business too. Freelance gives you both, just in the amounts you're able to consume. Good for start.
How to become a successful freelancer? For those who have initial skills in self-organization, the answer is simple:
- Use http://habrahabr.ru (Russian known platform for IT professionals) everything which contains "UpWork" word ("oDesk" for older articles).
- Read them all!
- Become a freelancer.
Looks funny, but it works. Everything is described many times, and everything is in free access. Just remember:
- Return to item (1) from time to time, and evolve constantly.
Freelance is a new style of life
What do you need to continue as a freelancer successfully? Self-organization. A habit to work on your own, without severe manager controlling you.
Collective motivation is great, but only those who can do without it have a real power. If you worked several years before in this field, it'll be easy to you to get up in the morning and start working. Just as a habit. But if you want to look into future, a skill to build your life using only your will is the main skill. I see freelance as a step in my life, which gives me a fundamental skill, which will be a key to solving any problem in any area. So, being a freelancer means following a self-perfection way.
What about personal motivation? It will become much more strong. Building a challenge, choosing a way, which is optimized specially for you - that is what you choose. How do people learn new things and build their mastery? If you work hard, but don't get results in the end (which may happen because of bad management in your team), your inner strength is weakening. If you work really hard and get results in the end - your motivation grows, and you continue forward, and do much more complex things. You invest more - you get more. Your clients get more. The world changes.
For getting inspired by freelance philosophy, I recommend a course by Seth Godin, at least at some point of your career.
I can say it's fundamental and relevant for all specialities. If you start alone (as myself), without talking to other successful freelancers - it will blow your mind and open your eyes.
You can grow and polish your skills, and do it in much faster than anybody. Your income will be limited only by your abilities. What's next? Some time before I've found an amazing theory, which is Tribal Leadership. It's rather new. It describes how corporate cultures work and how you can improve them. Read the book - it will worth it. According to the theory, each organization is in one of 5 possible stages. There're 5 stages, and each next stage is by an order more effective than previous. And it means different way of thinking for employees. So different, you can't leap over the stage, only adopt the next one at a time.
Freelance is your personal way to change your way of thinking. It's a move from 2nd stage (which is called "life sucks") to 3rd stage ("I am great"), which means strong professionalism. You think it's easy? Most of people lie to themselves, living a 2nd stage's life, thinking it's ok, while their income is fine. They think they reached their roof. They work together, but not as a true team. I vote for uncompromising way - a move to the next stage. Only this will allow you to move even forward - to the stage 4, which is a true team work without any scepticism about it. To the team, which can do magic.