Four Years Freelancing on Upwork
Time flies indeed!
Last month marks the beginning of my fifth year as a full-time freelancer on Upwork. It’s been a wild ride, and a thrilling one,,,
Rough couple of months just before Christmas Eve, 2016
My last few months in Canonical were quite a stressful down-spiral leading to almost total burnout by the beginning of October, 2016. Before that, and during the year prior to this, we had an increasing number of people leaving, feeling on edge, cranky even. Priorities and the requirements of what should be the main focus shifted almost on a weekly basis. It also didn’t help seeing some great, really smart people literally brought to tears after having to endure long chastising sessions and being yelled at.
I don’t really want to get into any more details on this. It was hard enough for me to recover from the experience, to regain my peace of mind, and self confidence.
Surprisingly, playing a bunch of post apocalyptic games on Steam for days at a time, and binge-watching all of Star Trek over and over again did the trick. Eventually. After a couple of months.
I had a lot of good friends which supported me, and reached out to help. In fact, one person in particular needed help with a PyQt4 desktop application – whch had almost no tests, and was steadily becoming a minor maintenance nightmare 😀
By that point I’ve spent over 4 years using (and thinking) heavily Golang around my work on Juju. Python felt so distant, and I was feeling embarrassed how “rusty” I felt with it. Well, as it turned out, a fresh new perspective and a new challenget was just what I needed. I bravely plunged into a new, exciting, and complicated project that I can help to improve, while helping an old friend, and it quickly came all back to me.
Couple of weeks later we achieved 0% to over 95% coverage, while also enforcing introducing better separation between the low level components, and the high level UI code.
We could then afford to refactor the fragile HDFS-based data layer with a more robust and safer (multi-user proof) MSSQL layer. I enjoyed every moment of it, and felt in my element again.
Develated meets Upwork
In the week following January 1, 2017 I decided I’ll go (again) full-time into freelancing, and founded my own little company, Develated.
Side-note: if you tried searching for it, you’ll see a “coming soon” page, which has been in this state since then 😛 I do have a logo and web site design paid for (on Upwork) and almost in an usable pile of static HTML and CSS. I’ll get there at some point, for now I use the domain mostly for my company’s email.
Upwork is the platform that my friend was using, and I got on it as well. My previous (5-6 years earlier at that point) experience with freelancing was mostly an intense couple of months on freelancer.com (when it was still actually usable). Just to prove to myself I can do it, win a few projects, deliver and get good reviews and rating, more than actually earn money from.
And learning from previous experience, I pick very carefully what projects I get involved with. If I cannot get excited challenged about a project, it’s better to look for a better use of my time. I do care about the work I do and tend to quickly get deeply involved into it. My mind keeps going for hours trying to solve that specific issue, which I’m sure it’s almost within my grasp.. Well, perhaps that’s why I do find a solution (or ten), more often than not.
After a few projects and an year down the road, I finally got my official “Job Success Score” rating. It was a full 100%, and hasn’t been any lower than this, I’m proud to say. My clients seem happy with what I offer them, and I have some really nice testimonials on my profile (which I’d hesitate to share here, because it will feel too much like a marketing landing page :D)
But this is also one important reason why I’m really picky about what I work on, and tend to have longer term contracts (usually over an year). I care about my clients, the projects I work on, and clients keep coming back as well. Trust built over months of hard work and dependability on both sides is crucial.
EuroPython, volunteer to speaker
Among other conferences I’ve attended over the last 10 years or so, my favorite one by far is EuroPython. Lots of great talks, awesome people, and found memories 🙂 My first was EP 2013. Since then I missed it only once (not counting 2020 for obvious reasons), and that was during my last year in Canonical..
I wanted to help, and joined the great team of on-site volunteers during the last two times I was there. Apart from meeting some amazingly helpful, and dedicated folks, I learned a lot about the complexities around organizing a big event like this and keep things going smoothly. It helped me build up the courage and submit a couple of proposals as a speaker, something I was meaning to do for years.
My first talk in front of a big audience went better than I felt it did frankly 🙂 And the audience is really helpful and welcoming! If you feel like it, here’s a link to my All You Need is Pandas – Unexpected Success Stories, EP 2018 talk.
Encouraged by the reception and all the nice folks that came to me after that, thanked me, and said they enjoyed it ^_^, I decided to do it again the following year.
This time it was related to a project I was doing and got excited about: Extracting Tabular Data from PDFs with Camelot and Excalibur
You can find the slides and sources in my github talks repository.
Back to blogging
It’s been a long time since I blogged about anything, and after the emotional and physical exhaustion I experienced a little over 4 years ago, I almost didn’t want to do it anymore. Reading my older (and yet still popular) posts about Juju brought back bad memories. I went as far as changing the color theme and structure of the blog entirely, so it feels like a fresh start.
After all, I realized I do love to share what I learned, and hopefully help somebody (or even myself) months, or years from now.
I was also quite busy doing some amazingly interesting and quite diverse freelancing projects. I got a bit better at time management though, so I will try to write now and then. Writing is not task I take lightly, and try to go in depth, which takes time and passion.
Surprisingly though, I realized I can also write shorter, focused pieces on interesting aspects of some projects I worked on, or new tricks I learned.
I’m willing to give that approach a try and see how it goes. So, if you liked it so far, do come back again soon!