Contracting, like any other business, is all about cash flow. You want to make sure you have more money coming in the door than leaving the door.
A friend of mine once told me that the best advice he had received about running a one person business was that there were three components to the work:
- getting work
- doing the work
- getting paid for the work
and if you didn’t enjoy all three and treat them equally, you’d be in a world of hurt.
I find this be be very true. Don’t consider contracting if you are only interested in the doing of the work (whether that be development, design, data manipulation, etc). You don’t have to be perfect at the other pieces (getting the work and getting paid for the work), but you ignore them at your peril.
Good ways to get the work:
- Market yourself. I like blogging, but contributing to open source and speaking at user groups and conferences seem to work well too.
- Always be networking and helping others.
- Look for work before your contract ends.
- Have a cash reserve so you don’t have to take the first gig that comes along.
Good ways to get paid for the work:
- Sign a contract
- Stop work if you aren’t getting paid
- Be persistent–I have chased invoices for five months before getting paid (this included sending the responsible party a holiday gift)
- Use an accounting system (I like FreshBooks but use something! I started with a spreadsheet).
If you’d like to learn more about contracting, I am speaking at the June Boulder Ruby Meetup. You can RSVP here.