Why remote freelancer?

My 2019 resolution is to switch to freelancing, mostly home-office. I took a 6 months break to think about what was really bothering me in my previous jobs, here are my results.

Why remote freelancer?

It's 2019 folks! Happy new year! 🥂🍾 My 2019 resolution is to switch to freelancing, mostly home-office.

I'm only 25 and I've joined and left 10 different companies already. It says as much about me as it says about the state of IT positions in France.

Right after high school my main objective was to try as many things as possible and narrow it down from there. I was able to narrow down my field, Mobile and other frontend technologies were more my thing, but I couldn't find the job parameters for me: managers, projects, pay, location... I even tried to create my own company 2 years ago, it failed again because of french co-founders = bad (co)managers and bad pay ...

Tired of only complaining, and surely annoying my surrounding with it, I decided to act.

I took some time off during the last 6 months to think about what was bothering me deeply, clean it up of all the anger and feelings and analyse what was really going wrong.

TL;DR : Goals

  • Commuting smarter, only when necessary
  • 1h worked = 1h paid
  • Choosing my middlemen better
  • Never promise to get tasks done but agree to work on tasks

1) Commuting

Yes, commuting is a burden for everybody. But it doesn't have to be.

I understand that some jobs aren't compatible with remote work, but I think those who can should lead the way in that path.

Do you really need to be physically in your company's building every day?

We are well into the era of Skypes, Slacks, Teams and other collaboration platforms.

As an MSN Messenger kid, I don't understand why many companies are not accepting remote work for positions that could clearly be compatible.

A meeting room you'd never want to leave
Photo by ROOM / Unsplash

Many of my friends told me that their typical workday is to come to the office, say hi (to notify of the time of arrival...), go to meetings, work on a desk, and then leave. Unless you're discussing a physical product at those meeting (clothes, paper towels, whatever ...) I don't see why this meeting couldn't be virtual.

Sure, it requires some preparation, discipline, and tooling to hold an efficient virtual meeting, but nothing impossible.

Do you know how much your commuting time costs you?

Freight transport
Photo by Ankush Minda / Unsplash

Simple calculus that I encourage everyone to make:

I used to earn in Paris 45k€/y (Yes, I'm transparent and I don't care) so roughly 20€/h after taxes. Living in Paris I had to commute 1h back and 1h forth. So, loosing 40€ of my time per day. Multiply that by 252 worked days per year in France (yeah, we know, we are lazy), you get 10 080€. This is without counting the transportation pass, the higher rent than anywhere else in France, etc.

10 080€ is also what you could make working 2 extra hours per day, tutoring a student for 2 hours or working on another project. Emphasis on the "could", nobody forces you to! Calm down you Yellow Jacket, but don't complain if you've spent those extra 2 hours of personal time per day to go on a strike, marching in the cold streets and loosing an eye.

Socialising with coworkers is the main reason for going to work for me. I prefer to invest the time/money of going to the workplace as a socialising spending, with the same value as going to the cinema or a bar, rather than an obligatory spending.

If you use this photo, I would be very appreciative if you would please credit in the caption or meta to "www.useproof.com".
Photo by Austin Distel / Unsplash

Trust issues

The main reason for not allowing remote work is trust issues.
One of my former bosses explained to me:

How could I know if he's working when he's not at work at his desk? I mean if he's home why would he be working? I can't check ... Maybe if I require him to leave his webcam open at all times ...

To this I reply:

So, if you were offered the possibility of working from home you'd be chilling by the pool? Some people have conscientiousness. Because you'd do it doesn't mean he would.
(ps. you're a terrible person)

Remember that trust needs to go both ways. When you imply that you do not trust your employees to work when they are not at their desk, they can not trust you either. You are saying that, in the same situation, you would screw the system/team/company for your own personal gain.

My first reflex then is to start looking for another job.

2) Difference between paid hours and worked hours

I'm deeply passionate about my work. Always giving more than required. I've saved more than 35 000$ in licences and hardware to my last company thanks to my extra work and connections, when I brought it up to ask for a few favours they told me "We didn't ask you to do this specifically, we asked you to find solutions, which you did". This article will be about the employment contract and why I think it can be a scam.

I don't know about your country but in France we have a type of employment contracts called "CDI Cadre". It means "Long term contract without fixed hours but with fixed objectives" and it is considered the Holy Grail of employment contracts. It's salary as a subscription: you're paid the same amount every month regardless of how much your boss "uses" you. Renting an apartment or taking a loan in France is 10x easier with this kind of contract.

The recruiters will say about a CDI:

  • It's safer for you, you won't have to look for another job, you have one secured here!
  • Since you have "flexible hours" you can adjust your work schedule to your workload! I think you're talented, so you'll probably finish your days at 4pm, right?
  • We only have this daily meeting at 9am. Quick and easy. [IT specific : Because we are cool kids, we use Scrum and Agile.]

They will not say :

  • If you want to resign you have to give 3 month notice. You know you won't get job insurance pay if you resign from a CDI so you won't! We own you!
  • [IT specific : We are working with a huge backlog so there is always something more to do.] We have a lot of work to be done. You will never finish your day before 7pm since nobody leaves before 7pm. And "team spirit" is important.
  • Yes you have to be present at that 9am meeting. It means you have to be at work from 9am to (at least) 7pm. Yes, it is a daily overtime of 3h compared to a "non-cadre" contract. No, it will not be paid.

Same as for commuting, 3h of your time per day is worth 15 120€ per year. This brings it to a total of 25 200€ per year.

I think the next time I'll sign a "CDI Cadre" is the day I can pay my groceries as a subscription. Can you imagine walking in a Target or Carrefour, paying a monthly fee of 200€ and being able to walk out of there with anything you want? That's exactly the comfort bosses of CDI Cadre have.  

3) Choosing the middleman

I'm sure you're familiar with consulting companies, or "talent sourcing" companies. Those companies that sell one day of your time and skill 1000€ (more or less) to a big client and then pays you 140€ for that same day of work (45k€/y in Paris). I'm not sure I even need to explain what's wrong here ...

In the aftermath of every mission, like "Developing an app for client X" or "Designing a logo for client Y", the client puts money on the table, the worker puts actual work.time.skill, the middle-man takes 80% of the money for having introduced the client and the worker. Basically, that's what Linkedin is for. Seems unfair ? It is.

If you're tired of giving 80% of the money your work is worth to salespeople so that they can go to restaurants with clients or to an oversized HR team whose job is to replace you: quit. Remember that you don't need them as much as they need you.

When you switch to freelancing, keep in mind that a company (final client) agreed to pay 143€ per one hour of your time. This is what you are worth sold by expert salesmen. Now of course you're not an expert salesman, but any price between 140€ and 1000€ per day, without that middle-man, benefits you and the final client at the same time.

Photo by Mink Mingle / Unsplash

4) Ability to say "no"

A friend of mine told me a good story :

"If I ask you to empty a vehicle, how long do you think it'll take you?"
"I don't know, maybe 20 minutes"
/* Goes and comes back the next morning */
"Okay, so I said to family X that you'll move all the furniture from their truck to their 5th floor new apartment by 10h20. There is no lift but that's just a detail for someone as work driven as you are, right?"

It happens a lot in IT and in a lot of other fields too. I'm not sure how this technique is called.

In IT they took it even further where you're not the only one estimating your own tasks but all the developers of the project estimate the task for you, bragging proudly about how fast they would (supposedly) finish it. It's called "poker planning".

Estimating the deadline like this is just wrong as anything can happen. You could get injured by a piano falling on your feet, the doors to the building can be blocked for 1 hour by a fire alarm, you could break a vase by accident and need to repair it.

Photo by Kai Pilger / Unsplash

There is also the story of the painter, by Paul Cunningham : [Full story here : https://paulcunningham.me/overtime-on-call-and-the-myth-of-the-it-hero/ ]

Imagine a painter hired to paint your employer's offices. The job should take five days, and the painter will get paid $5000 to cover materials, their time, and some profit.

The painter spends the week painting. On Friday the employer says, “Actually we've got a whole other floor that needs painting by Monday. So we need you to stay and keep painting.”

What do you think the painter is going to do in that situation? If they were like many IT professionals they would keep working through the weekend to finish the job. They'd work long hours, and work as fast as possible. And they wouldn't charge any more than the original $5000.
Photo by Anna Kolosyuk / Unsplash

The boss would say "I need this room painted before Monday, I promised X it would be done, you said you'll be done, we all need it painted before Monday, we all relied on you. You like painting, it's your thing, so it should take you a couple hours anyway, I believe in you, you're our wonder-boy!"

This happened to me mostly in Start-ups. A combination of belittling the worker's job and blaming the worker for commitments he didn't make.

By being a freelancer I'm counting on being able to put a limit to this. Every time I hear a client/salesman say

"So we pay you {amount of money} for you to finish {tasks} before {deadline}."

I reply

"No, you pay me {amount of money} per hour of my time and skill that I will dedicate to work on {tasks} and if everything goes well I think it will be done by {deadline}".

The 2 sentences are very similar, but the small changes are very important.

Thank you for reading this long story, I hope it helped you. If you liked it or if you have any question don't hesitate to comment below ! 🙂