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Thomas Kjeldahl Nilsson

The Friendliest Freelancer

Software dev of 20+ years now helping other devs gain autonomy and become calm, independent contractors—new issue every other Sunday

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The Friendliest Freelancer #16: Sales basics for techies and introverts

A concern I regularly hear from software developers who want to try contracting/consulting: the marketing and sales bits can feel foreign and scary. One book in particular helped demystify sales so I could relax a bit—more on that below. Until next time, have a great week! ☕ “I'm talking to potential clients and I need to land a contract with one of them soon. Oh no: do I have to learn about sales now?” I’m not a sales expert. Most of my clients have been long-term, and I haven’t had to close...

8 months ago • 2 min read

First, some housekeeping: I’ll make this newsletter bi-weekly for a while. Does bi-weekly actually mean “every other week”, or“two times a week”? 🙂 In this case, it’s the former one: I’m dialing the pace down a bit to keep it sustainable. I’d like to return to a weekly rhythm again later, though! Okay, with that out of the way, on to this week's topic. Many software developers experience impostor syndrome, and it’s extra frustrating when you’re working as an independent contractor/consultant....

8 months ago • 3 min read

How do you get started? This week, we’ll go through the concrete steps you likely need to take after you decide to try contracting/consulting—this is the initial step-by-step guide I wish I had back when I decided I’d had enough of being an employee. As always, I wish you a great week! ☕ “OK, I think freelancing software development is right for me. What steps should I take to get there?” I’ve laid out the most important steps below. Note that some details may change slightly depending on...

8 months ago • 5 min read

Estimates can be very tricky: I’ve done them now and again for twenty years, and I still find it hit-and-miss. In this week’s article, I’ll describe how I usually approach estimates with clients these days (and I’ll share a Google Sheet template with you at the end). Have a great week! ☕ “My client just asked me how long this project will take. What do I do?” If you’re doing fixed-price projects, you need to estimate work upfront to know if it’s worth doing. But even when you’re charging by...

8 months ago • 5 min read

Okay, so we’ve gone a bit long and serious the last few weeks with mental health, setting boundaries, and so on. Let’s take a breather this Sunday. 🙂 We’ll take a quick look at the terms freelancer, contractor, and consultant. You probably want to have them clearly defined in your head when you go independent, but unfortunately, they overlap, and… well, it’s a whole thing, as we’ll get into below. As always, have a great week! ☕ “So what do I call myself when I go self-employed? I see people...

9 months ago • 2 min read

As discussed in the previous issue, you must protect your time and mental well-being. This week, we’ll look at ways to set clear ground rules in how you work and communicate with your clients. Cheers—I hope you have a great week! ☕ (As always, please reply to this email and let me know if you want me to write more about anything in particular!) “I’m always anxious; my client calls or texts me at all hours!” What to do? A story. Years back, I worked in a consulting agency where we built apps...

9 months ago • 3 min read

I had a burnout in early 2021. We encountered a medical issue in the family in early 2020 (not COVID), and I kept hammering away at the client work throughout the year—even though I could afford to scale down a bit. By early 2021, I was exhausted. I took an extended break from contracting in mid-2021 to catch my breath. I barely remember doing anything on a computer during that time (besides hacking my way through Dark Souls…). Downtime helped, and thankfully, I was consulting for a client...

9 months ago • 6 min read

This week's article describes how the lifestyle feels so you can consider how it would fit you. A separate question is, “Will it pay well?” We’ve talked about hourly rates a bit earlier, and I want to give you a tool to run your numbers on employment vs. freelancing. We’ll swing back to this soon: I just need to sit down and extract a user-friendly and country-independent spreadsheet template for you first. 😀 Until then, I hope you find this walkthrough of upsides and downsides valuable. And...

9 months ago • 3 min read

One question I hear, particularly from younger software developers, is "when am I ready to try freelancing?" Here's a few things to think through if you're in that situation. Or maybe you know someone else who could benefit from this checklist? Have a great Sunday, see you next week! ☕ How do you know when you’re ready to start working as an independent freelancer, contractor, or consultant? It’s tempting just to say: “Do you know how to ship software? Great, quit your job and find your first...

10 months ago • 4 min read

This week, I’ll start by talking about ways to figure out what you should charge per hour, only to end up waffling a bit about “what is valuable in life?” (Spoiler: My goals are slightly different from those of Conan the Barbarian.) Anyway. I write about hourly billing here because that is how I operate. You could pursue other pricing models (fixed price, value pricing, etc.)— we’ll visit those later and look into the tradeoffs. But that’s for another day! You’ll also notice I encourage you...

10 months ago • 5 min read
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