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Learn what people really do at work

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Freelance Web Developer

I’m a freelance web developer and designer.


Most of my jobs last roughly two to six months long; occasionally they’ll overlap but generally I’m focused on one at a time. All of them are long-distance, there’s nothing local to me.


The daily tasks I do really depend on where we are in the job:


There tends to be a big flurry of emails and conference calls at the beginning and near the end of the job. Used to be companies would fly me in for kickoff meetings, but that’s gotten less common (whether this is due to increased familiarity with telecommuting, better communication tools — WebEX used to be standard, but google hangouts are taking over — or to them realizing that airfare and hotel is a waste of money I do not know). There is some back and forth email throughout the job, and some of them will schedule regular conference calls, but generally I’m left alone to do my thing. Which, depending on the job, consists of


  • digging through their existing code and site and making lots of notes, diagrams, sketches etc
  • writing up documentation of What I Think Should Be Done
  • building mockups in html /css / js and photoshop of What I Think Should Be Done, which depending on the job range from simple wireframes to fully-functional websites
  • lots of back-and-forth communication with their devs and managers where we find a middle ground between What I Think Should Be Done, What They Want Done, and What Their Devs Are Willing To Allow
  • working out a process with their in-house developers for how we’ll hand off my work to them (this ranges wildly, from checking code directly into their repository to throwing standalone code over the wall so they can mistranscribe it)
  • Actually doing the html / css / js / photoshop work
  • responding to bug reports and change requests
  • writing up documentation, and sometimes training their in-house devs on how to use what I’ve built for them (you would be amazed at how utterly clueless some dev teams are) via email, phone, or occasionally in person.


There is a lot of hurry-up-and-wait during jobs as I wait for feedback, and sometimes longish periods of downtime between jobs. Freelancers more motivated than I probably use that time for self marketing, attending conferences and so forth; I tend to use it for keeping up with technology by blogsurfing, building throwaway experiments, and pretending to work on the Revolutionary New Product I’m Going To Build Someday.


All this is not terribly different from when I used to work in-house oh so long ago; the main difference is that I get to work on different products instead of endlessly repeating on the same one over and over again.

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