Since my earliest days of hacking together simple HTML web sites (around ‘93) I have always done a healthy amount of freelance work.
Partially because it’s always a great way to suppliment my income (or finance my next thing), partially because it was a great way to get exposure and learn new things (in my early days), and partially because I just really enjoy being helpful (when I can).
Anyway, one of the biggest mistakes that I made early on was to work for the promise of future money (always get at least some cash up front)…or worse, equity.
I should state that I don’t think it’s always a mistake to work for equity – but it is when you are doing it as a freelancer. At it’s core, freelancing should be about exchanging a service for cash. That’s it.
If you really believe in the project, and the team behind it, then you should go all in and officially join them (at which point doing it for equity actually makes a lot of sense). But if you’re not fully sold, then it should be an all cash deal (ideally with 1/3 up front, 1/3 at a defined mid-point, and 1/3 at completion).
Anything in the middle is just a recipe for aggravation and failure.
These days I rarely do freelance at all…I dedicate my free time to my own projects, hacks, and interests (selfish I know).
When I do work on other people’s things, I generally do it for free because it’s something (or someone) I believe in, want to help with, and think I can add a little value to move things forward…but I do it for free so that I can do it on my own schedule, and in my own way (which doesn’t actually always work out to be best for the project; meaning I don’t always end up actually being involved or used – and that’s fine too).
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Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.
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