Developers: David Colgan helps you escape 9-to-5 employment by building an effective freelance business you'll love to run.

Independent? That's code for unemployed!

What romantic comedy thinks about self-employment.


For some reason as a child we repeatedly and continuously watched the 1991 Steve Martin romantic comedy Father of the Bride, in which Martin plays the role of George Banks, an overprotective father dealing with having to let his daughter Annie go as she gets married. We watched this movie so many times that it seems to have embedded itself into our psyche.

There's a part of the movie where George and the mother Nina and Annie are having a relatively heated discussion about this guy Bryan she's found.

Nina asks, "What does Bryan do?"

Annie replies in an impressed voice, "He's an independent communications consultant."

To which George exclaims, indignant, "Independent? That's code for unemployed!

But this is how many people also actually think

Interestingly, many years later (and perhaps because we watched this movie so many times as a kid) I repeated this exchange between myself and my own parents when I decided to go independent and freelance. The objections were certainly not as snarky as Steve Martin's character, but the fears were basically the same:

  1. What does freelance web developer actually mean?
  2. Doesn't this mean you'll be poor forever?
  3. Won't this mean throwing all job security out the window?
  4. Wouldn't you much rather just get a nice safe salaried programming job? You have so much potential for making money especially as a programmer!

These objections were said out of genuine concern for my wellbeing, but I think that this mindset of "independent == unemployed" was just sort of implicitly assumed to be true since it was the going wisdom and there was no particular reason to discount it. Plus nobody in my family has ever gone independent before me. And as I've talked to more people I've found this mindset to be fairly common. But!

I would argue the exact opposite of each of these objections is true!

These objections are valid. It could be argued they were very true even just a decade ago. And you can definitely bankrupt yourself pretty quickly by just jumping head first into starting a business with no plan at all. I definitely took a more roundabout path than I needed to had I known then what I know now. I want to help you avoid that trap!

If you are worried about making enough money, the going rate these days for an experienced developer is at least $100 an hour and, depending on how much time you want to spend working, that can translate to a super solid overall income. Freelance development is actually one of the most efficient forms of money making I know, all things considered.

I also argue that even if freelancing sometimes has more variance, employment is more susceptible to catastrophic failure. That is, if you lose one of several clients your income does not disappear, while if you lose your one employer from layoffs or firing or the company dies, every bit of your income evaporates overnight. If you haven't cultivated the skills of sales, (read: the same skills you'll need to find clients) you may not have another job lined up immediately. Having more than one boss makes you less beholden to any one boss, and if one leaves, you can replace them with a different one. More on this topic to come as well.


I first sent this article as a letter to my mailing list. New letters go out each week!

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