Private work or ‘Freelance gigs’ – Is it worth it?
It’s been a while since I last posted, due mainly to being extremely busy working on a number of side-projects.
The question then arises; “Should you do ‘side-gigs'” whilst working in a full-time job? I suppose it depends on a number of things – and with that in mind, I’ll detail below what you should be mindful off, and the pitfalls that you may stumble across, and ask yourself “Is it actually worth it…”
Why are you doing private work? Is it to make a few extra pounds or pay for a nice holiday in the Summer? You should set out the reasons for you working extra hours in order to properly evaluated the benefits. If, for instance, you are working every weekend in order to pay for a new touring bicycle, then it seems pretty pointless if you never get to take it out as you are working every weekend.
If you are doing a project for a friend or family member, they are immediately going to think that you are a) Going to do it for ‘free’, or b) Charge them next-to-nothing. This (unfortunately) can be a difficult subject to broach with them, especially if their perception is ‘Well it’ll only take you a minute to do that’. If the project is for a business, then you need to consider the price you are quoting versus the time-scales in which you can deliver it. Ultimately if you are working at home in the evenings and at weekends, it’s not viable for you to quote based on the number of days between order and delivery as you will not be putting in as much time and effort as you would in your day job. This leads us neatly onto….
In this modern Internet-connected always-on Facebook/Twitter age, everyone expects an immediate response to any email they send (I get people phoning me at weekends to ask me if I’ve read an email!) – You should at the outset define how available you are going to be, and the response time that they should expect. It’s not unreasonable to say “Please email me any queries, and I’ll get back to you within a day as I’m working on a number of projects at the moment”. Clearly it is not conducive to have a private client calling you at your main day-job, as I suspect your employer might get a little upset if they think you are running a business on the side whilst they are paying you for your time.
One of the biggest issues I have with developing a website or writing an application is what I call ‘Feature creep’. This is where the client says “Oh, I’d like it to do ‘x'” and then a week later tells you, “Ah… when its doing ‘x’, can it also do ‘y’ and ‘z’ at the same time”. There is no simple solution to this, but a good approach is to create a ‘Statement of Requirements’ with the client that details everything that they have asked for. You can then quote a cost and delivery time-scales based on this, with the rider that anything over and above the initial specification may be subject to additional charges dependant on the amount of increased work required.
In terms of product support, again you should set out clear guidelines as to what they can expect from you. In my case I will provide documented source code and database schemas, and manage any bugs that may crop up over say a 6-month period. Anything after that I would charge on a time and materials basis. This works well in the World of software, but may not be applicable to whatever you are doing in order to make some extra money.
You should be aware that anything you earn is subject to Tax – in the UK we have a variety of rules around this, and you should always seek proper financial advice as your circumstances may be different from everyone else’s.