Making A Living

If you’d taken the time to read my About page, you might know that I’m one of the co-founders at the Internet start-up Octabox. Octabox however is not a source of income for the time being, as its still under-development and self-funded.

That means that we, Octabox founders, have to earn our keep in other ways.

Up until now we got by somehow by taking in a web-development project every month or two, but the well has run dry so to speak, and funding doesn’t look to be getting closer. So yours truly has decided to suck it up, and send a resume to all who might be interested. What followed was an interesting process.

At first it seemed like my resume had been lost in the sea of Internet sand. However, after about 5 days of the initial resume-sending batch I started receiving the calls. The first was from a company called OpenIT (don’t worry if you can’t read the text in the link. It’s in Hebrew), a medium web-development company whose mantra is delivering open-source solutions for web projects. That means PHP, MySQL, Apache and the rest of the hoopla I am very familiar with. We scheduled to meet on Sunday. Immediately after, another call from a company called realcommerce (don’t worry if the layout is breaking for you. You are probably using firefox). They developed some large Internet sites (in Israeli site standards at least), and have over 100 employees. Great, we scheduled for Tuesday.

After the phone calls I check both of their websites. First thing that strikes me about realcommerce is their late 90’s design and that it’s broken a bit in firefox. This is actually a major problem with a lot of Israeli sites, failing to support the third leading browser on the market. I also check their markup, by hand and through the w3 validator. Sure enough, it’s not even close to validating. I’m not a fanatic, some missing alt’s and title’s don’t really matter to me but not even declaring a doctype… I guess you can tell what’re my feeling on this one. OpenIT’s website is currently under reconstruction it seems, but at least it’s standards compliant and their place holder looks aesthetic (works on firefox too. Score one, OpenIT).

So the interviews come, and I’m killing them. They almost feel uncomfortable asking me to take the programming test. I guess I did well since I got invited for a terms offer interview the day after.
I don’t think it’s fair to the companies to disclose the actual terms, but let’s say that I was positively pleased to find out how competitive being a PHP developer is, salary wise.
During the off-day I also got some requests for price-proposal on freelance projects, and another call from a company asking me to interview for a position (which I had to decline, as I was closing in on a deal), which already got me reading the company’s Leadpages review. Situation is getting better by the minute!

In the end I closed a fixed-price deal with OpenIT, which works well for both of us. I priced them a partial process of a project saying I can complete it in so and so hours. For me the pay is almost as good as freelance but at larger bulk (but still leaves me enough time to work on Octabox), and they get a super-efficient developer who completes a lot of work in limited time. In contrast, realcommerce offer was both lower and they required more hours (basically a full time job of 45 hours a week). Didn’t help their cause that they were releasing sub-standard sites thus far. The choice wasn’t very difficult.

So I have new job now, at least for a couple of months (Funding, Appear!) and I’ve learned several things about the recruitement process for web developers. I got a taste of several interview approaches, tried out some programming tests (my tests for applicants at Octabox will be much harder I assure you ;-) ) and got a valuation on my expertise in the open market. As they say, life is a learning process.

I start my new position on Sunday. I approach it as both an income and an opportunity to learn more about how others approach web-development and deployment. Should be interesting.

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  • http://www.octabox.com Adam Benayoun

    Good luck with your new “job”.
    I’d like to add a remark to the process you’ve been experiencing since you’ve put me as your recommendation.

    I received a call from RealCommerce’s human resource and they interviewed me for almost 30 minutes. I have to say that the interview over the phone is a nice thing to do, but offer little value when conducted by someone who doesn’t have any experience in the field of the job position.

    Questions were general and I felt that the CTO or whoever makes the call to hire you would have learn very little about you when reading the “report”.

    I think recommendations call are important when conducted by the right person who can ask challenging questions and thus get to know more about the candidates but when asked by an HR representative I think it is almost a waste of time.

    openIT – score two.

  • http://www.octabox.com Adam Benayoun

    Good luck with your new “job”.
    I’d like to add a remark to the process you’ve been experiencing since you’ve put me as your recommendation.

    I received a call from RealCommerce’s human resource and they interviewed me for almost 30 minutes. I have to say that the interview over the phone is a nice thing to do, but offer little value when conducted by someone who doesn’t have any experience in the field of the job position.

    Questions were general and I felt that the CTO or whoever makes the call to hire you would have learn very little about you when reading the “report”.

    I think recommendations call are important when conducted by the right person who can ask challenging questions and thus get to know more about the candidates but when asked by an HR representative I think it is almost a waste of time.

    openIT – score two.

  • http://volomike.com/ Volo Mike

    (I came here because of your post in DevNetwork.net.)

    First, I love the page layout of Octabox’s site, for whatever this thing becomes. Nice big font, no completely black font, and the rest of the Web 2.0 look. You’ve got it down.

    I see where you’re going with Octabox. I mean, one thing I’ve learned here is that I need to get a project management tool online in order to interact with my clients, but everything I’ve seen either costs a lot of money per month, is downright ugly, or makes things too complicated. So I’m writing one of my own called TabTool, and it’s really simplistic. As a client, you login, choose the project you’re working on with me as your freelancer, and see a set of admin-definable area tabs on the top and category tabs on the left. Once you choose these, you can then place “items” in an AJAX and jQuery based grid control. In the “items”, you can use them as holders for project tasks, calendar events, documents, to do lists, and so on. It uses an extremely KISS principle and also is zippy fast because of it. And after awhile if this thing works, I might sell it as a sitescript for $50 on something like ClickBank, and give it a great landing page and an AdWords ad occasionally.

    Now, on the career discussion. As for me, a PHP Freelancer, I tried going the retainer route for 100 hours a month, but that was brutal and didn’t work out. It paid the bills for a bit, but I was glad to get out — unreasonable expectations abound there. I’m also 40 years old, and have worked many, many years in the IT industry in a cubicle, and was downright sick of having to work for someone else and being belittled occasionally. I also don’t like working for a permanent boss over the Internet, either. So, for me, the only way to survive in this industry is to think of freelancing as primary income and bootstrap income for awhile, but then switch to it as secondary income and gap filler income eventually. Instead, primary income should eventually come from residual income projects. That way, you can charge a higher price for SEO and PHP dev work, and catch only the big fish for that, and meanwhile your focus is on residual income.

    For residual income, I mean building websites and/or doing affiliate marketing to the point where this stuff makes income for you while you sleep and needs very little tending to except, for instance, to handle chargebacks/refunds on PayPal or moderate volunteer moderators of your forums where you might collect ad revenue.

    It’s also good that you found some other partners. I have found some too and it sure does help.

    Good luck in your endeavours, and you know how to find me if you want to interact or sublet work to me. :)

  • http://volomike.com/ Volo Mike

    (I came here because of your post in DevNetwork.net.)

    First, I love the page layout of Octabox’s site, for whatever this thing becomes. Nice big font, no completely black font, and the rest of the Web 2.0 look. You’ve got it down.

    I see where you’re going with Octabox. I mean, one thing I’ve learned here is that I need to get a project management tool online in order to interact with my clients, but everything I’ve seen either costs a lot of money per month, is downright ugly, or makes things too complicated. So I’m writing one of my own called TabTool, and it’s really simplistic. As a client, you login, choose the project you’re working on with me as your freelancer, and see a set of admin-definable area tabs on the top and category tabs on the left. Once you choose these, you can then place “items” in an AJAX and jQuery based grid control. In the “items”, you can use them as holders for project tasks, calendar events, documents, to do lists, and so on. It uses an extremely KISS principle and also is zippy fast because of it. And after awhile if this thing works, I might sell it as a sitescript for $50 on something like ClickBank, and give it a great landing page and an AdWords ad occasionally.

    Now, on the career discussion. As for me, a PHP Freelancer, I tried going the retainer route for 100 hours a month, but that was brutal and didn’t work out. It paid the bills for a bit, but I was glad to get out — unreasonable expectations abound there. I’m also 40 years old, and have worked many, many years in the IT industry in a cubicle, and was downright sick of having to work for someone else and being belittled occasionally. I also don’t like working for a permanent boss over the Internet, either. So, for me, the only way to survive in this industry is to think of freelancing as primary income and bootstrap income for awhile, but then switch to it as secondary income and gap filler income eventually. Instead, primary income should eventually come from residual income projects. That way, you can charge a higher price for SEO and PHP dev work, and catch only the big fish for that, and meanwhile your focus is on residual income.

    For residual income, I mean building websites and/or doing affiliate marketing to the point where this stuff makes income for you while you sleep and needs very little tending to except, for instance, to handle chargebacks/refunds on PayPal or moderate volunteer moderators of your forums where you might collect ad revenue.

    It’s also good that you found some other partners. I have found some too and it sure does help.

    Good luck in your endeavours, and you know how to find me if you want to interact or sublet work to me. :)

  • Eran Galperin

    Thanks Volo, it’s always good to hear that there are plenty of professionals looking for good management solutions that are not expensive and heavy (SAP anyone?) or completely useless. This is what drives us to build Octabox (by the way, the layout is only half done, we are still working on a visual concept of the platform, which will be in the header to the right of logo. Glad you liked it).

    In the meanwhile, you might want to check Basecamp (from 37signals) it’s very simple and has its uses.

  • Eran Galperin

    Thanks Volo, it’s always good to hear that there are plenty of professionals looking for good management solutions that are not expensive and heavy (SAP anyone?) or completely useless. This is what drives us to build Octabox (by the way, the layout is only half done, we are still working on a visual concept of the platform, which will be in the header to the right of logo. Glad you liked it).

    In the meanwhile, you might want to check Basecamp (from 37signals) it’s very simple and has its uses.