Category Archives: Self Employment

Basic Advice For Learning Computer Programming

Some time ago, I received the following e-mail:

I am interested in getting into computers and designing software and websites. You said in a yahoo post that you did not get a degree but learned everything yourself. How did you do this? Where did you get your information from?

My reply:

I started out by playing with Web pages. Then, as people asked me to make things for them, I searched on the Web for examples of how to do it, or read self-help books (think “For Dummies,” “Sams Teach Yourself” and Wrox softcovers) to teach myself how to do things.

If you want to make a career of Web development, my recommendation would be to do so in a more orderly manner than “learn as you go along.”

I would say this: Designing a Web site, and programming it, are two very different skill sets. You can be good at both, and great at one, but it is very difficult to be great at both. Design is left-brain, programming is right-brain.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do both; it means that you should expect to specialize either in design or programming. You may be that rare person who can master both, but expect that one or the other will be your actual focus.
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Subscribe To Seth Godin’s Blog. Do It Now.

If you aren’t reading Seth Godin’s blog, you ought to be. Especially if you’re an entrepreneur, independent contractor, in sales or a client-facing role, or are otherwise responsible for leadership or the bottom line.

Seth Godin

Seth Godin

Since that describes pretty much every developer, probably you should be checking out Seth’s Blog.

He posts once a day, usually in the morning. Which is actually a trick he recently blogged about: Rather than looking at Twitter or Facebook or whatever first thing, and thus following, make a point of doing something — anything — productive, first thing, so that you’re leading. Then you can check out your social media channels.

I’m trying to learn that habit; it’s difficult, but it does make a huge difference in terms of productivity.

Detractors and naysayers consider Godin’s posts tripe and self-promotion. Sure, some of it can come off as a bit pandering, important or simplistic. Don’t confuse the words for the message. And it’s always good to be reminded of the basics.

I subscribe to Godin’s RSS feed via Google Reader. He notes blog posts on Twitter at @ThisIsSethsBlog and on his Facebook page.

However you get Godin’s thoughts, get them. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.

All links in this post on delicious:

I’m Sticking With GoDaddy For The Right Reasons, Even If They’ve Done Wrong

Call the headline to this article overwrought, if you like, and you’ll be correct. But the way I view business is, you have partners, and the relationships you have with those partners are a balance.

If you’re a freelance coder and you’re not putting the same kind of thought and consideration you use in personal relationships into your business partners, you’re going to get burned. Because as it is with friends and lovers, you get out of customers and vendors alike exactly what you give.

I’ve put a lot into GoDaddy, and they’ve given me a lot back. That’s why, even though GoDaddy initially supported the Stop Online Piracy Act and only recanted under threat of boycott, I’m going to keep doing business with them.

For those in the dark and the benefits of post-event context, SOPA is a bill, before Congress at this writing, that would give broad censorship powers to the Department of Justice, ostensibly to block incorrigible copyright violators. It’s envisioned as a way to get the repeat scofflaws who are largely undeterred by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which clearly has been almost completely ineffective at stopping brazen file sharing.

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Review: Free: The Future of a Radical Price

Free: The Future of a Radical PriceFree: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading Free: The Future of a Radical Price reminded me, in many ways, of  The Grand Design.

To understand the universe on the quantum level, you have to embrace understandings and facts that seem ludicrous at human scales. That is, that we have free will; that things cannot be in the same place at the same time; that time progresses at one speed and forward only, are all convenient and explicit truths for our day-to-day existence. But at the subatomic level, that’s not how things work; not at all.

Anderson’s arguments about Free — that is, gratis and libre — are presented in the same sense, if not quite as well or explicitly.

Free does a fine job of explaining the mechanics of how things can be free on the Web: namely, per-unit / per-user costs are so low, they might as well be considered nothing.

He also does a good job of explaining the obvious money-making models applied successfully so far: advertising, freemium (basic service is free; premium service costs money) and non-monetary / indirect recompense, such as an increase in reputation / marketing of ancillary products, such as concerts and merchandise for musicians or speaking engagements and consultations for professionals.

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Good Contracts Make Good Business. Or, ‘F*ck You, Pay Me’

When I talk to new free-lance programmers about running a business, there are two core pieces of advice I offer. The first is that it‘s almost always better to have a little high-paying work than a lot of low-paying jobs. The other is the importance of a lawyer-reviewed contract that clearly defines the work to be produced, the date by which it will be completed and the cost of that work.

So I was very pleased to come across a Creative Mornings talk, given by Mike Monteiro of Mule Design and his attorney, Gabriel Levine, which reinforces and expands upon those basic ideas.

(via and Google Reader Play)

This is a long video (40 minutes) but worth every moment. But for the tl;dw crowd, here’s a synopsis of the salient points:

  1. Contracts protect both parties – you and your client.
  2. Don’t start work without a contract.
  3. Don’t blindly accept your client’s terms.
  4. Anticipate negotiation but don’t back down on important stuff – payment, deadlines and your intellectual property rights in the work until final payment is received.
  5. Lawyers talk to lawyers. If your client is talking to you in the presence of, or through, his lawyer, get yours or don’t talk.
  6. Be specific and confident about money. Ask for the rate you deserve and don’t back down on terms.

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