There are a heck of a lot of us doing this “web thing” today. I read an article a few months back that geeky jobs writing code, managing databases, and multi-level problem-solving are the most in-demand jobs on the market with way more positions than there are people. It’s a programmer’s market right now and you just about have to try to not get enough work. Seriously. If you’re not booked solid now, in March of 2013, you’re doing something seriously wrong. Bill Erickson has a great article on this for consultants, in particular.
I’ve got a lot of thoughts on that and what to do about it — some of you know I am working on, and I’ll announce it widely soon. (I should probably at least tell my parents first.) Then I was reflecting on a chat I had with Jared Atchison last week month he said that people in our position don’t last very long. He’s right. If they need benefits, can’t weather the ups and downs because they suck at managing a business, or they suck at client interactions, then they go to an employer with a position that more or less makes them happy.
To be clear, I won’t fault anyone for taking a job to do what’s best for their family – some of my best WordPress developer friends have quit being a small fish in a big pond and taken jobs, even just last week in one case. It’s a personal decision – I’m here to encourage those who are at the 10-40 client mark and have a lot of volatility. Some people benefit from joining a team to enhance their careers that would otherwise be an uphill battle alone – programmers and designers alike. Three of my favorite people have joined teams for that purpose.
Heck, I’ve almost thrown in the towel twice. Both times I was broke and desperate, but I couldn’t shake the shame I’d place on myself for “failing” by my standards and would never be happy making in a week what I often made in a day or less. I was tempted to go back to my old employer with great benefits, but I don’t fit under management very well because there are precious few true leaders in those positions, so if you have a great leader at the helm, then you’re very blessed. I’m a rebel and enough of a visionary that I can’t be molded like that.
The million dollar question
What is your lifestyle worth? By that, I’m asking, “what price would have to be paid by an employer to quit what you’re doing?” We all have a price. What’s yours? You can no longer decide you don’t feel well enough to get up at the crack of dawn hour and sleep in until 8am. Traffic sucks, and now you actually have to get dressed to go to work. You have one, two, or maybe even 5 people making the decisions to hire and fire and if one of them has you in their cross-hairs, you’re gone. Jobless. Again. Feeling worthless because someone didn’t value you enough to keep paying you a pittance.
My answer might shock you
I’ve come up with a price. I’ve had it ever since I had more than 50 regular clients paying me every month, quarter, and year in many varying amounts. I’m now at 180 clients on a regular basis and many of them pay me monthly or annually with newcomers and redesigns being larger ticket items. I’d have to be fired by over 100 individuals and most new inquiries in order to be in that prior scenario
My price is $1,000,000 per year. Note, that’s not what I earn each year (yet /grin) but what the price of the risk of putting all of my eggs into one basket that can be crushed at a moment’s notice. It’s unlikely that I would add $1M to an employer’s bottom line in my first year to make up for my salary and benefits overhead, so it’d be for a long-term goal. That said, I’m very happy to do what I do now and would do it for free if that was realistic – which it’s not – and it would take something very grand to pull me away from this. Why would I want to put all I’ve worked for in jeopardy for a salary that can be cut off like the electricity? My purpose and passion extend beyond what happens 9-5 M-F in our office above the garage.
Do epic stuff
You don’t have to make a million dollars per year or have 50k Twitter followers to do something epic. I’m just an ordinary guy doing ordinary stuff extraordinarily well. It’s making a difference to those people I work with. My friend Steve Farber has a saying,
“Do what you love in service of those who love what you do.”
Being a servant leader and serving your clients is not below you. Instead, it will propel you to new heights.