What do I do? I’m a software developer. I usually start with nothing, I write code, and will eventually create something that will (hopefully) satisfy my customer’s needs. I work on a Mac all day, mostly using nothing but a text editor to get my work done.
After I finished uni in 2003 I pretty much jumped right into a full-time job as an employee. Not knowing anything else it felt like the way to go. I studied computer science, and even during the studies I had several jobs. Among them were teaching younger students, doing a free internship at a web agency, working part-time for another web agency, and working as an administrator for a big financial internet service provider.
I went straight into being a junior in a company doing product development, and over the course of three years went to being project manager for one of the teams.
But I grew tired of it. Heading into the office, working on the same stuff with the same people (of course some of them were awesome) every day, that just couldn’t be it for the rest of my life.
We also had a few freelancers on our team. They were among the most skilled people on the team. I’m not saying I’m highly skilled or anything, I just liked the way they worked. I thought about leaving the company on several occasions, but only on the third one did I go through with it. Quitting that job has been the happiest moment of my life.
I went straight into freelancing, and found work right away. That was in 2006. From then on, I’ve worked with many people on many projects in different companies. Sometimes I worked on-site (which is pretty common in Germany), sometimes I could work from my office. I worked for as long as 15 months on a project, or just two weeks, it pretty much depends on what the client wants and needs. Either way, it is always an interesting experience.
Berlin is a great ground for freelancing in my field. When I finished uni it was nothing like that (given the recent dotcom bubble burst), but being a rather cheap city to live in, I counted on the fact that a lot of smaller companies will set up camp as soon as the next boom in the web would arrive. Thank goodness I was right.
With a great network and just getting your name out there, people tend to contact you, or fellow freelancers recommend you, so I don’t spend a lot of time actively looking for projects.
I spend a lot of my free time working on open source projects, projects freely available for everyone to use. I can improve my skills working on them, and I can learn from what solutions other people come up with.
While not every day is as much fun as I’d wish for, going full-time freelancing is still the best decision I’ve made in my life. I have no idea if I’ll still be doing this in ten years, but then I again, I don’t usually plan more than a few months ahead. I love the feeling of not knowing what I’ll be doing in three months, even if it means not knowing where the next payment comes from. I stopped thinking too much about that, because it takes up too much energy when you’re constantly worried about the next paycheck. Sooner or later something comes up. If not, there’s always something to spend my time on.
I love being able to work where I want, when I want, and with/for who I want. I can choose the tools I use, and the way I get the job done. All that make freelancing the most fun for me. I still enjoy what I do, and I enjoy learning something new every day. Because if I didn’t I would become obsolete within a few years.