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    My main question is, how do you get to that place, and how do you find those clients? And how do you weed the promising ones from “do me good for cheapest possible”: is it just by putting hourly rate high enough? I’d guess you are, or at least started as, a consultant/freelancer? I suppose this requires some particular personal traits, being ok with working in non-9-to-5 environment, chasing clients etc.? Also, I really respect and admire what you’re doing; I think a lot of things you gloss over are not that easy to achieve.

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      I think the way to find opportunities is to talk to lots of people and keep your eyes open. The opportunities are out there but often we look past them.

      The steel distributor gig was posted on the jobs channel of a Slack community I’m a part of. I got in touch and pursued the opportunity.

      The ski club thing came about because I offered to help out on the board of my club. They approached me because they knew I had tech skills and was personable.

      Just try and network as much as you’re able to create flow, I guess.

      As for weeding out time wasters a high day rate definitely helps. Clients get a lot more focused about what they need when it hurts a bit. The trade-off is that you need to make sure you’re equally focused and you make every work day count. Split your down time between looking after your family/self and investing in future revenue streams, too.

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        Without bias: that sounds like a typical consulting business, with the commensurate sales & business skills required.

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          Hm; so, isn’t your story here basically what every freelancing/consulting programmer is doing?

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          Same here, I would like to know how to find this type of clients too.

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          It feels like all our best engineers are tied up building programs-for-programmers-to-program-programs-for-programmers.

          Many programmers are under-employed by the ‘real world’. They actually really want to do the type of work that you do, but don’t know how to find those opportunities, or it involves a significant amount of risk. So they solve their own problems, because they are denied that from 9-5.

          I think there’s a huge opportunity here: a lot of what we call business is not actually that hard, it’s just veiled in credentials and bullshit. If someone set out to make a course to commoditize the MBA (as it were) and teach programmers how to do market research, talk to potential users, and be create their own opportunities, we could create a small, thriving culture of indie technologist-business types.

          At the age of 37, I’m already sick of working on other people’s dreams.

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            Risk is definitely a factor. Over the course of my career I’ve created space to experiment with these kinds of things. That’s a privileged position and I acknowledge that.

            I actually did an undergrad business degree years ago. I don’t think there’s much of that in these products though. Maybe it helped shape my mindset, though. “Market research” in this small context is just “talking to people”. It’s looks much less like the market research I learned in uni than it does the user interactions discussed in the agile manifesto and the original extreme programming principles.

            Reading a few lean startup books and then giving it a go a few times is probably all the MBA you need at this level. Managing a multi thousand dollar company is much easier than a multi million one.

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              Thanks for the reply. Any lean startup books you like?

              Meant to also say, thanks for the article. Looking forward to more entries!

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                Thanks! Personally I haven’t read any lean-specific books. I leant on HN posts, blogs, podcasts, etc for that stuff.

                The early Free Agents podcasts are good.

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            For all of its deep importance to our field we pay surprisingly little attention to the study of domain models.

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              We also keep inventing super complex systems to distract us from learning any of the domain. See hadoop or kubernetes. I believe many people would be better engineers, if they spent less time on CV-boosting tech and more on learning a domain or two.

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                Hell yes this. People get enamored by the latest shiny hammer and suddenly everything looks like a nail.

                Containers are great at solving certain kinds of problems, and cluster orchestration systems like kubernetes are great at solving an even narrower niche of problems, and I have to wonder if it really makes sense everywhere it’s being used.

                In addition to mastering a domain, I’d argue that mastering some particular set of core skills is super important as well.

                You can be 100% buzzword compliant and your resume may glow but if you can’t solve problems you’re going to be hamstrung.

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              The software industry is awesome but sometimes I get frustrated by it. It feels like all our best engineers are tied up building programs-for-programmers-to-program-programs-for-programmers.

              This is a good article and you make a number of solid points backed up by some interesting war stories, but I have to cry foul on this assertion.

              Maybe the people in your circle are suffering from a lack of interaction with real world problems, but I can speak from personal experience - my career hasn’t had that issue.

              I have thus far worked to map the human genome and in the process cure various cancers and dengue bone break fever, elect a president, and most recently enable scientists, civil engineers and yes technologists solve problems at a scale undreamed of by people of prior generations.

              So, yeah. I am 100% behind the overall message of your piece, but this particular bit I’m not buying :)

              Thanks for writing the article and posting it here!