First Month as a Freelancer: A Brutally Honest Review

BACKGROUND

My coding journey began about 2 years ago, though I always had an interest in technology. I was at one point studying Business Economics with the goal of going into the business side of tech, possibly even working in venture capital. I used to think that engineers and programmers had God-given talents, and I simply wasn’t one of the ones lucky enough to have these talents encoded into my DNA.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. I do believe some people are born naturally smarter than others, these differences are often negligible and become diluted over time if not honed. So I want to preface this article by saying if you have a passion you are interested in, or something you treat only as a hobby because you don’t think you can do it professionally: simply put in the work, and pursue it. Only good things will happen if you dedicate a portion of your day to getting better at the things that interest you. Genius is not a birthright, it is a skill that is acquired. No one is born with the C++ syntax memorized, or the ability to perform multivariable calculus.

“Genius is not a birthright, it is a skill that is acquired.”

In 2018, I was using the little money I had to trade Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies. I was fascinated by this new realm of asset classes, but I was also challenged to find worthwhile plays to make. It’s no secret that many ICO’s were scams, and navigating through white-papers on top of monitoring charts was practically a part-time job. I learned all I could about the technology behind the cryptocurrencies, but still had difficulty navigating through projects that would prove to be scams. I told myself that the only way to know if one wasn’t a scam, was to know if the project actually worked. The only way to do that, was to be able to understand the code behind them.

In my attempts to understand the code simply to make better trading decisions, I fell in love with the art of programming. I knew that this was the field for me immediately. I loved problem solving, I loved even the mundane aspects of coding/programming, I loved learning more about computers and how operating systems function. I fell in love with with the not-so-sexy aspects of computers and software such as how high-level code goes through the hexadecimal/binary conversions necessary to be interpreted by a machine. I equated computer science to alchemy, and I still do. My goal is to be an alchemist and make what was previously confined imagination apart of everyday life.

“My goal is to be an alchemist and make what was previously confined imagination apart of everyday life.”

Before this, I had fallen down many rabbit holes. When i was 18–21, I thought I knew everything and what I wanted to do with my life. Now, at 23, I can confidently say I was an arrogant kid who had some serious self-reflecting to be done. I am still very much a slightly-less arrogant kid, but the first step to becoming who you’re meant to be is acknowledgment of where you are now. I changed my major multiple times, and engaged in many acts of youthful debauchery that eventually set me back academically and professionally. I am still in school, now for Computer Science, and I will continue to be in school for at least another year and a half. I am not discouraged, or regretful, though. I couldn’t be happier with the path I have laid out for myself, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the mistakes I’ve made along the way. There is no such thing as a painless lesson.

“When i was 18–21, I thought I knew everything and what I wanted to do with my life. Now, at 23, I can confidently say I was an arrogant kid who had some serious self-reflecting to be done.”

QUITTING MY JOB

I began working at a bank in 2018, right after I started my coding journey. It was meant to be a temporary position to keep me afloat financially until I was ready to become a software engineer professionally. I ended up working at the bank for more than 2 years, and had risen from Personal Banker Level 1 to Assistant Branch Manager. I was now working and going to school both full-time. The goals I had laid out for myself were getting further away, and not only that, they were becoming things that I had no control over.

“I would graduate sooner if I was able to take more hours, but I don’t have the time.”

“I would have a tech job if I was able to work on my portfolio, but I’m already busy with school projects and work”

I thought the solution to these obstacles was to sacrifice sleep. I would routinely function off of only 4 hours. I would wake up at 5 am, workout, work on school until work at 9:30, study on lunch, work on school when I got home, and have maybe 30 minutes to an hour to do the projects I wanted to until I mentally could not write another line of code. I was making zero real progress.

I had a decent amount of savings to last me at least 5 months on my own, and I had 2 years of programming experience under my belt, along with upper-level computer science courses. In the weeks leading up to me quitting my job, I had already checked out mentally and was more of a hindrance to the team than anything else. I had only one thing on my mind: how am I going to leave this place? One morning I woke up, checked how behind I was in my summer classes, and looked at the lack of progress I was making not only on my personal projects, but my personal life. I told my roommate and another dear friend what I was thinking about doing, and they gave me different scenarios to think through and risks to consider.

I told myself I was going to tough it out, but within an hour of being at work I informed the team that I was putting in my 2 weeks and I was going to figure it out on my own. The next day I was scheduled to work, but I was so eager to get started, that I showed up in normal attire and simply turned in my keys and explained to management what it was I felt I had to do. They were very understanding and supportive. I still consider everyone from the team to be some of my dearest friends.

MY INITIAL PLAN

I was confident yet scared about the journey I had undertaken. I knew my success was completely up to me. I immediately began forming a plan, a daily routine, and a weekly routine. I knew that I would likely end up working more than I was before, I knew that I was always going to be networking to find clients, I knew that this was by no means an easier path. I thought I had a solid plan, I thought I had factored in all of the possible things that could go wrong, I thought I had developed countermeasures that would allow me to get take those challenges in-stride.

“I knew my success was completely up to me.”

I was going to spend 6 hours a day coding. 4 of those would be focusing on iOS development, 2 focusing on machine learning. After that, I would dedicate my time to growing my Youtube channel, reading, and homework. I set a “worst-case scenario” plan as well. If my savings reached a certain point, I would begin running favor on the weekends to bring in money. I didn’t want to do this immediately, as it would be time taken away from more fruitful activities like software development or networking.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” — Mike Tyson

In my first month, I had 2 emergencies that would reduce my 5 months savings to only 3. I felt the heat before, but now I am in the oven and cooking.

IMPOSTER SYNDROME

“Am I really good enough to be doing this?” is a thought that finds its way into my head DAILY. The imposter syndrome is something almost every developer/engineer feels when they get their first job, or decide to go out on their own. On top of this, I was struggling with self-discipline and remaining consistent. I am still not as consistent as I need to be with making content for Youtube, or working for the allotted time I schedule for myself. This is one of the difficulties that you will face when you are completely in control of your own time. In some ways, it was easier to remain consistent/disciplined when I had an outside obligation to work. I often catch myself “actively procrastinating.” This is the act of doing administrative/mundane work to make yourself feel like you’ve accomplished something, but in reality, you’ve done nothing.

“‘Am I really good enough to be doing this?’ is a thought that finds its way into my head DAILY.”

Though these are issues I struggle with, I am fully aware of the solution: do not give up.

If I am the one who is responsible for my success, then I am also my own worst enemy. I will not lose to myself. No matter what plan I put in place, or what strategy I have thought of to maximize performance, none of them will matter if I am not consistent. This rings true for anyone or anything. Consistency always wins. People want productivity hacks, they want apps to help them organize their life, they want things that make them feel like they’re being productive. The reality of the world is much simpler: put in the work, rest when you need to, and be consistent about it. That is the only hack you will ever need.

WHAT KEEPS ME GOING

There are 3 types of people: those who are motivated by money, those who are motivated by happiness, and those who are motivated by purpose. I am motivated by purpose, and believe that through fulfilling what I believe to be my purpose, I will remain happy and never go without, financially.

Though I’ve spent a lot of this article acknowledging my difficulties and shortcomings, make no mistake: I am happy, and I will make the same decision I did to leave my job 11 times out of 10.

On top of this, and one of the things that really amazed me when everything happened, is the support I found from unexpected places. There are people who I haven’t talked to since middle school, people who I thought I would never talk to again, and people who I thought just flat out didn’t like me that have reached out and expressed how much they believe in me and want to see me succeed. I want them to know that the confidence they’ve given me to continue along this path from something as simple as a dm or text, a sub to my Youtube channel, or following my separate coding instagram is something I can never expect to repay, but I will always value them deeply and support them in whatever they may need in the future. Trust me, you have people who want nothing but the world for you and believe in what you are doing.

CONCLUSION

As mentioned earlier, there is no such thing as a painless lesson. Embrace this and continue to push forward, for this is the only way. Something else you need to always be conscious of, is you are never as good as you think you are. Success will come quick and be lost even quicker if your ego is not actively in check. I have yet to land my first paid client, but I am working on multiple projects for myself and my friends to build my portfolio. I am fully confident that with persistent and consistent networking, it is only a matter of time.

Stay humble, stay consistent, and don’t forget the people who were there for you whenever you started out.

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