Freelancing Gods 2014

God
14 Jul 2009

Rails Camps - Coming to a Country Near You

This weekend, there’s going to be a Rails Camp. In October, there’s going to be a Rails Camp. Then in November, there’s going to be a Rails Camp. That in itself is pretty freaking cool. What’s even cooler is that they’re in Maine, England and Australia respectively.

Definition

If you’re not quite sure what Rails Camps are – they’re unconference style events, held away from cities, generally without internet, on a weekend from Friday to Monday. The venues are usually scout halls or similar, so the name is slightly inaccurate – most people don’t bring tents, but sleep in dorm rooms instead.

Getting Down to Business

Also, they are events for Rubyists of all level of experience – and not just focused on Rails either. Anything related to Ruby and development in general is a welcome topic for discussion.

Communal Hacking

The weekends are made up of plenty of hacking, socialising, talks, and partying. Alcohol and guitar hero usually feature. A ton of fun ensues.

Making Pizzas

Rails Camp New England

A quick rundown in chronological order: first up, from the 17th to 20th of July, is Rails Camp New England. This will (as far as I know) be the first Rails Camp in North America. We’ll be up in the middle of Maine, at the MountainView House (a bit different from most Rails Camp venues) in Bryant Pond.

Unfortunately, if you want to come to this camp, we’re all sold out. Let me know anyway, just in case someone drops out (although it is late notice).

Rails Camp UK 2

Building on the success of last year’s first UK Rails Camp, a second one has been put together by Tom Crinson out in Margate, Kent.

Balancing

If you’re anywhere in the UK, or even Europe, you really should be keeping the weekend of the 16th to 19th of October free. In fact, go book your spot right now.

Rails Camp Australia 6

Last on this list is the original Rails Camp, that started back in June 2007, run by the inimitable Ben Askins. We’re returning to Melbourne (the host of the second camp, in November 2007), but this time we’re down by the beach in Somers.

John showing us how it's done

November 20th to 23rd are the dates for this, and going by the names of confirmed attendees, alongside what looks to be an fantastic venue, it’s going to rock just as much as the last five (and quite possibly even more). Feel like booking your place?

For all of these events, you should beg, borrow or steal to get your hands on a ticket. The energy, intelligence and passion of past camps has been amazing (which is why I do my best to spread the word), and they are a breath of fresh air compared to the staid and structured setup of RailsConf and most other technical conferences.

Thanks to John Barton, Max Muermann, and Jason Crane for the photos above.

28 Jun 2009

Link: Good Food Store - Bethel, Maine

Possible catering option for Rails Camp New England

28 Jun 2009

Link: Cafe DiCocoa

Possible catering option for Rails Camp New England

30 Dec 2008

Freelancing Tips via Rails Camp 4

Context

The fourth Australian Rails Camp happened back in the middle of November – and it was unsurprisingly and extremely enjoyably awesome, just like the previous four. Ryan and Anthony did a sterling job with putting it all together.

I probably talked a bit too much – I certainly felt I had more than my fair share of peoples’ focus – and while I rabbited on about Sphinx and Ginger, the topic I really enjoyed ranting about was freelancing, because it became far less about me, and far more about sharing the wealth of everybody’s experiences. I provided a few starting points, and then wise RORO minds added their own thoughts and opinions.

I can’t reproduce all that here, though. I wouldn’t do it justice. What I can do is go over the same notes I had then, and you can add your 2 cents (or five dollars) in the comments.

Freelancing Maths

One of the first things you need to be aware of, when you start freelancing, is how much to charge. I didn’t have a clue, but some more business-minded friends put me on the right track, so I’m sharing their advice here – don’t give me any credit for it.

So, let’s assume you want to start freelancing, and you have a target of earning $80,000 over the year (yes, some of you may say that’s too low, but others will say it’s too high – it’s just an example, okay?). You can use this as a basis for figuring out an hourly rate. There’s 52 weeks in a year, 5 days in a week, and 8 hours in a day…

 52 weeks
x 5  days
x 8 hours
x ?  rate
_________
   80,000

But wait a second – are you really going to work all of those 52 weeks? I doubt it. You’ll need time off for annual leave, sick leave and public holidays – the times when an employer would still pay you when you’re not slaving away. Australian annual leave is four weeks, sick leave is usually two, let’s add in another one for public holidays, and that brings us down to 45.

 45 weeks
x 5  days
x 8 hours
x ?  rate
_________
   80,000

What are the odds you’re going to have work all the time though, and are you really going to have eight billable hours each day? Unless you’re some sort of machine, the answer’s no, trust me. So lets drop eight down to six.

     45 weeks
x     5  days
x     6 hours
x 59.25  rate
_____________
       80,000

One thing we’ve missed in our calculations is superannuation. Again, using Australia as the example (because it’s all I can reliably comment on), you’re supposed to be putting away 9% of your income into your super account. Let’s factor that in:

     45 weeks
x     5  days
x     6 hours
x 64.59  rate
_____________
       87,200

Okay, so we can get an hourly rate of about $65 from that maths. And that could be fine… but maybe you’ve been eyeing off RailsConf or RubyConf or other such events. They’re not cheap – and hopefully employers would normally fork out the cash to get you there. You’re the employer now, so how are you going to afford it? Add an allowance into your calculations.

Again, due to the remoteness of Australia, it’s extra expensive to get to any of the major Ruby conferences. If we assume you’ll get to two of them (again, could be extravagant for some of you, but this is all hypothetical), then I’m adding a touch over $12,000 – flights, hotels, insurance, the conference tickets – to bring us to a nice round $100,000 target.

Also, I’ve dropped the number of weeks down another two – it’s not like you’ll be getting anything done for your clients as you jet around.

     43 weeks
x     5  days
x     6 hours
x 77.52  rate
_____________
      100,000

Okay, our final hourly rate is about $77.50.

I know a lot of the more experienced developers are looking at that value and thinking it’s pretty low – and going by market rates (for Ruby developers), it’s definitely below average. Some say a good ballpark figure for a decent Rails developer is $100/hour – USD or AUD (remember when the two currencies were almost on par?). This doesn’t mean you should charge that much (or that little) – but it should factor into your thinking.

All that said, you need to be comfortable with what you’re billing your time at, but don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth. If the idea of having more cash than you expect scares you, there’s plenty of charities who would like to be your friend. Or, you could just work less, and spend the extra time on cool things (and they don’t even have to involve code!)

Freelancing Profile

Knowing what to charge is useful, but it’s not going to bring in the clients. Being known will help that problem, though – and there’s a few things you can do to help that.

Blog

Interpret how you will – a normal blog, twitter, tumblelog, even gists and pasties – sharing your ideas and knowledge is a great way to get your name known to others. It also helps build some human connections, via comments, emails or directed tweets. If it is valuable, they will find you (and if you think they need help, use a site like RubyFlow or RubyCorner to bring in some eyeballs).

Talk

If there’s a neat bit of code you’ve found, library you’ve come across (or written), or knowledge you think is valuable to others, offer to talk about it! It can be at your local Ruby group, or at something like a Rails Camp or BarCamp, or if you’re really comfortable up on stage, think about applying for a RailsConf or RubyConf slot.

I’m not a natural public speaker – but my confidence has grown in leaps and bounds from giving talks to fellow developers. Granted, I need to build up a bigger repertoire of topics, but I’m a bit less nervous about standing up and announcing my thoughts and opinions to others. It all started with an email from Tim Lucas asking what I was going to talk about at the first Rails Camp – and now Rails Camp folks are probably sick of hearing my voice.

They know who I am, though, and they know what code I’ve written. And that’s led to a referral or two for Rails work (usually Sphinx-related).

Socialise

Networking is a dirty word – and I can see how building connections with others for the purpose of connections, instead of meeting cool people, is a bit dirty. The much more fun alternative is to socialise – go out to social events, find those drinks happening in the evenings of conferences, have a conversation with a person you’ve not met before at your local Ruby meet.

Down the track, you will find these people may throw work your way – or maybe you’ll just learn cool new ways to code, or share some of your own knowledge, or make a good friend. All chalked up as wins in my book.

Release Code

Releasing your own code – from snippets to plug ins to full-blown applications – is a great way to show peers that you know what you’re talking about. It also shows potential clients that too, and reaffirms that you’re worth the rate you’re charging, and that you can be creative.

In my own case, I’ve done the occasional bit of Sphinx consulting due to my work on Thinking Sphinx.

Coincidentally, doing all these things are rewarding in and of themselves. I don’t do them to bring in work, I do them because they’re fun and I meet awesome people, which is (I think) the best approach. The opportunities they lead to are just an added bonus.

Your Turn

So, what’s your advice to a budding freelancer? Is there anything here that’s a bit Ruby or developer-centric? Any more general suggestions to keep in mind?

Also, please keep in mind I’m not an expert. I think the above advice is useful, but it is just advice. There’s no hard and fast rules that should be followed.

And the name of this blog has nothing to do with my work lifestyle, but the idea of deities who freelance for each other. Don’t take it as an indication of my ego. Honest.

26 Aug 2008

Rails Camp UK Report

Just over a week ago, the first Rails Camp in the UK was held in Downe, outside Orpington – and I think it was a fantastic success (having been the organiser though, obviously there is some bias).

We had quite an international flavour to the weekend. Of the 30 or so who attended, several were from around Europe, alongside the local British, and a few of us Australians to round it out.

The Beer Disappears

In true Rails Camp style, around the beer, pizza and games, much hacking and discussion was had – assisted by the *jour gems, twetter and SubEthaEdit. Plenty of cool projects were displayed and created – topics ranging from RSpec to EXTJS to in-memory models to plugins to CouchDB to approaches for better browser-server polling (with a neat browser game as an example).

Railscamp UK 2008 (8 of 12)

One of the cool creations of this Rails Camp has gone live. The collective talent of the RailsLove guys and Rany Keddo produced a forkable lists web app called Don’t Forget The Wurst – and features William Shatner, which just adds several levels of awesomeness to an already neat idea.

Werewolf

Massive thanks to all who came along and made it such a fantastic weekend – I’m looking forward to hearing about another Rails Camp in this part of the world (even if I won’t be able to attend it).

Matt and Simon

Also, if you’re in Europe, you might want to check out the German and Danish Rails Camps, which will be happening later this year. Australians, Rails Camp #4 will be happening in November (details are almost finalised). Everyone else: I highly recommend making one happen near you. There’s now a group of us who have dabbled in the organisation of them, and we’re more than happy to help however we can to get more of them happening around the world. It’s not too hard, and it’s an awesome way of strengthening your local Ruby community.

Balancing

16 Jul 2008

Odds and Ends

A few random items:

  • There’s a Rails Camp happening in Denmark. How awesome is that!?
  • I’ve added an About Me page to this blog – filled with opinions. You have been warned.
  • I’m talking at NYC Ignite – come along and listen to me talk quickly about non-Ruby stuff for five minutes, if you’re near that part of the world.
  • Joss Whedon is awesome.
  • So is Pixar. You must see Wall-E. Easily the best film I’ve seen all year.
01 Jul 2008

Rails Camp UK

Following in the steps of the Australian Rails Camps, it’s now time to announce the first UK edition. Running from Friday the 15th to Monday the 18th of August, it will be an extended weekend of hacking, talking, eating, drinking and games, with a bunch of smart and passionate Ruby developers.

Even though the name is “Rails Camp”, previous camps have included talks on topics from Merb to Rack to Extreme Programming – all topics somewhat related to Ruby are welcome.

If you’d like to come along, I’d recommend registering soon, as there’s a very limited number of places.

16 Mar 2008

RailsCamp #3

If you’re a Ruby developer in or near Australia, I highly recommend attending RailsCamp number 3, which has just opened for registration. The first two were simply amazing, so I’m just a little annoyed that I can’t make it to this one (as I’ll be traveling overseas at the time). I’ve no doubt that this one will be just as fantastic – expect an extended weekend of hacking and talking with a bunch of smart, entertaining and passionate developers, and plenty of drinks and games thrown in for good measure.

You don’t need to be a Rails or Ruby genius to attend – just a desire to discuss, learn, teach and (most importantly) have fun.

Go register now.

01 Jan 2008

2007

Sinfest comic for New Year's Day

I don’t want to bore you all with an extensive recap of 2007, so I’ll keep this footnote of the last year’s highlights relatively brief.

Nullus Anxietas

After a few years planning, we produced the first Australian (and non-UK) Discworld Convention in February – and it was a smashing success. A few hundred attendees, dozens of sessions, a load of fun. We even made a small profit (which is rare for fan conventions) – and we proved the doubters wrong.

Rails and Freelancing

I began the year by switching jobs and finally getting paid to work with Ruby on Rails. Halfway through the year, I started freelancing. I’m really enjoying working from home, on my Mac, using tools and a programming language I enjoy. After far too long wrangling with ASP and ASP.NET, coding is fun again.

RailsCamps

As part of working with Rails, I’ve become involved in the local Ruby communities here in Australia. Through this, there’s been two awesome RailsCamps (and massive props to Ben Askins for leading the way with the first, and helping so generously with the second), and I’ve met a bunch of smart, friendly folk. Networking has become socialising.

Change

The last of my siblings has finished their secondary schooling. My sister’s moving to another state. I’m posting regularly to this blog. Howard’s out – and not much longer to put up with Bush. Climate change is being taken seriously by many governments. There will be a proper apology to the indigenous people of Australia.

What’s next?

For me, 2008 is looking to be a year of travel – to New Zealand for a holiday in a few weeks, and then to Portland for RailsConf, UK and Cambodia to visit friends (and in the case of the former, check out the Edinburgh Fringe Festival), and stops to New York and Istanbul will likely feature in there as well.

Freelancing will continue to be challenging as my first big contract ends and I look for new ones, and there’s already plans for more RailsCamps and a second Discworld Convention. I’m looking forward to all of it.

Endless thanks to my family, friends and peers for their support over the past twelve months – you’re all brilliant.

27 Nov 2007

So you're a kick-arse coder

This is the written version of a talk I did at RailsCamp – it is pretty close to what I actually said on the day, minus the heckling, discussions and answers to rhetorical questions.

So, you’re a kick-arse coder…

XKCD Regular Expressions Comic

Over this weekend, you’ve created awesome Rails apps – or perhaps you’re such a code ninja that you’re using merb, Camping, Sinatra or Hack. Well done. You rock. Honestly.

Perhaps you’ve been doing this for years – maybe you’ve fought off Java or .NET in a previous life. You’ve made sense of XML, and twisted Internet Explorer into looking somewhat decent without too many CSS hacks.

And that’s cool. Really.

But it’s only code, right?

Alright wise guy. What’s next?

XKCD My (Geek) Generation Comic

So where to from here, then? What’s next? What’s better than code?

To put it simply, although it may sound trite: Make a difference! Give something back!

Seriously.

And I could finish now – my message was blunt enough. You all got the point, right?

Ah, but examples would be nice. I don’t want to just lecture you with broad dreams and ideals – let me see if I can give you something to work with.

Let’s start with the basics. Release code! Let others learn from your mistakes. Let them save time using your plugins and gems. And this is also a subtle way of teaching about code.

There are less subtle ways to teach, though.

What, teaching? Like, in a classroom?

You can’t just type away on your blog and expect everyone to read it and become enlightened. You need to seek others, instead of waiting for them to seek out you.

Do people who use b, i and font tags make you sad? Well, go teach kids how to write semantic HTML. Get them while they’re young.

Contact your old Uni or TAFE and offer to do a guest lecture or two on unobtrusive javascript. Or some basic pointers on freelancing. Tell them how important it is to find a good accountant. Encourage them to be part of user groups and communities like our Oceania group. Give them some idea of what a reasonable hourly rate is – you know, the kind of things you needed to know back when you began freelancing.

Do the same at your old high school – drop in on the IT classes, and give the kids a lesson from someone who actually knows their shit. Run through the basics of firewalls. Regale them with your networking war stories (without the geek speak, though).

Be rewarded with glory, recognition, and warm fuzzy feelings.

“Well, that’s nice and all, Pat,” I hear you say. “But surely it’s still just tech. Even semantic HTML is important, sure, but it’s not really important now, is it?”

“That’s a good point,” is my reply.

So let’s think a little bigger

Mark Pesce at WDS07 with slide saying 'People are the network'

The world can always use some help. But it’s so big, and you’re so small, yeah?

Bullshit. Don’t give me any of those cop-out excuses. To paraphrase Mark Pesce: “We have been blessed with the biggest and best networking gear of all the hominids, and we all share the same capability.”

Did you know that all of Delicious Library’s Amazon referral income goes straight to charity?

Simple, yet effective. I think they’d be cool with you imitating that.

Perhaps you could donate that old hardware you’re not using to a school. Or, you could push 1% of your income to the NGO of your choice. It ain’t much, and it ain’t hard.

If you’re looking for a something a little different: Dean Kamen, who created the Segway, is providing electricity for villages in Bangladesh with boxes running off cow dung, and pure water for communities in Honduras. I’m sure he’d love some support.

It can be nice to get a feel for how you’re helping, though – random donations of money can seem like lip service. One suggestion of an alternative: Oxfam is an NGO that you can ‘buy’ specific items (cows, wells, mosquito nets and so on) for communities in third world countries.

So, take your slick Web 2.0 app, and build these donations into it. Perhaps as a small part of the account fees. And give your users the ability to donate more through your app if they wish. They’ll feel warm and fuzzy, and you will feel warm and fuzzy. And it’s all thanks to Rails! Or, well, something like that.

But wait! There’s more!

If you’ve got a bit of time up your sleeve (or are willing to make the time), you could donate a few months to organisations like Engineers Without Borders, or Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development if you’re under 31. Sure, it may mean you have to put up with Windows, or poke around with PHP – but it’ll be while helping out people in countries like East Timor, or Nepal, or rural Australia.

Let’s blow this taco stand!

Now, what I’ve just gone through – it isn’t the answer. There is no silver bullet, no one approach that will always work. But they’re just a starting point, a few suggestions – and if we put our heads together, I’m sure we can come up with some better ones.

Gandhi said something like “be the change you want to see in the world” – and yes, it sounds clichéd, but it’s fucking true.

Don’t sit on your arse waiting for things to be better, or people to be smarter, or code to be DRYer.

Get out there!

XKCD Interesting Times Comic

(Photo above was taken by Rowen Atkinson at Web Directions South 2007. Comics from XKCD. Inspiration from Mark Pesce, John Allsopp, Mike Lee and Dean Kamen. Massive thanks to all who provided feedback.)

26 Nov 2007

RailsCamp Wrap-up

RailsCamp 2.0 finished earlier today – and I think it’s safe to declare it a fantastic success (even given my bias).

Massive thanks to Ben and Karen for their hard work getting everyone fed and co-ordinating people in the kitchen (and the RailsCamp bus from Melbourne to Sunnystones). Thanks too to everyone who helped at various points – both in the organising and over the weekend.

Finally, thank you to everyone who came along – these camps are so much fun because of the calibre of people who attend, and their willingness to share ideas, code and laughs.

Will be posting a version of my talk at some point soon… once I’ve recovered from the weekend.

30 Oct 2007

RailsCamp Reminder

In case the few readers of this blog are not aware, there’s a RailsCamp happening just outside of Melbourne, from the 23rd-26th November (not far away at all). It will be a weekend of hacking, chatting, food & drink, and very likely some gaming (along the lines of GuitarHero and WiiSports), taking a similar approach to barcamps. The first one, back in June near Sydney, was a fantastic success, and judging by the current list of attendees, I’m expecting it to be much the same.

We’re edging closer and closer to being sold out, so if you’re considering coming along, I recommend signing up as soon as possible. Day passes for the Saturday and Sunday are also available.

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About Freelancing Gods

Freelancing Gods is written by , who works on the web as a web developer in Melbourne, Australia, specialising in Ruby on Rails.

In case you're wondering what the likely content here will be about (besides code), keep in mind that Pat is passionate about the internet, music, politics, comedy, bringing people together, and making a difference. And pancakes.

His ego isn't as bad as you may think. Honest.

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