Joel, sometimes @jayroh

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What this freelancing lifestyle is missing

28 Jul 2010

In a word – “Feedback”. Plain and simple.

It’s a given that while we work with our customers and clients we get some feedback along the way – “This is good”, “This needs to move over here”, “Make this red”, etc. That sort of feedback, however, is a little superficial in the grand scheme of things and not quite the feedback we’re in need of most. The feedback I’ve been missing for the past few years is the piece of the traditional employee-employer (“working for the man”) relationship. We might bitch and moan about it when we’re there within that context, but to be frank – the annual review is crucial. How else are we to know what we need to improve on?

As a freelancer – these constructs no longer exist if we don’t want them to. Which is nice to begin with. We’re free! Right?! Right. But, over time the novelty and the doubt will creep in and you’ll be left wondering – “What is it that I could do better?”. I’ve found myself longing for this feedback as of late and, while it’s a little scary and my lizard brain is wailing like a banshee, I’m pulling the trigger.

I’ll be asking my clients upon project completion just what it is that I did well on, and what I done poorly or could use some work. To some it might be counter-intuitive – “They hired you, right? They had to have confidence.” – but I’m more interested and excited to know for sure. No gray area. No guessing. No assumptions. Running a business is just that – it’s business. There’s nothing personal about this. Tell me how my business can be better.

I’m sure a good number of my fellow freelancers have been doing this for months (years) and wondering what’s taken me so long. I really wish I had an answer for that, but I don’t. Would those of you who have been doing this have any suggestions? Are there any questions you’ve asked that get the most constructive and helpful reaction?

Continuing on this theme, but a different post for another day, is feedback from a different slice of our professional life – our peers. To be continued …

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Joel Oliveira

Hi, I'm Joel.

I'm a software engineer in Boston. You can follow me on twitter at @jayroh. I usually tweet about beer, bulldogs, writing code, and sometimes building shubox and thredded.

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