Firstly, welcome to my very first blog post on this site. I have finally completed my portfolio website after a longer time than anticipated. The reason for that is in line with the following article. I aim to try and describe the challenges of attempting freelance work whilst having a full time job and how to manage these obstacles. More specifically, how to work towards being productive in a small time frame.
I've been working as a software developer for 3 years now. In the beginning I had not attempted to take on too much work in the evenings as I wanted to get my career up and running and off to a good start. This was my main focus. However as I became more comfortable at work and got into a steady routine which was serving me relatively well I began thinking about progressing myself further. My first step was to take on small personal projects that would help me learn about a topic. For example I created a small app that didn't really do anything except maintain a continuous connection between the client and the server using web sockets - my intention was not to create anything practical but to gain an understanding from it. However small the project was, it was adding to my knowledge and skill set.
Web Design & Development
I then began to try and improve my front end skills as I specialised mainly in server side programming. About a year ago I decided to create a portfolio website that would showcase what I can do and act as a platform where I could advertise my services. When I began the project I had no idea what I was getting myself in for. I had never before attempted to work on anything major in the evenings after work. Usually, I did something small as mentioned earlier or spent my time reading up on the latest tech trends and news etc. Trying to create a website in the evenings was a challenge I was not prepared for; especially after an 8 hour shift which primarily involved writing code. I quickly found myself losing the battle and I would often come up with an excuse to park it.
Other projects took priority and as a result the portfolio got sidelined for quite some time. I eventually came back to it and began to try and get as much done as I could without letting it affect my day job. This meant I spent a maximum of 3 hours working on either my portfolio or other websites that I had in the pipeline. Sticking to this timeline I found it difficult due to the fact that with coding things are never straight forward. Some evenings I would end up spending a few hours and getting very little to show for it. However it was a process. Little by little, evening by evening I was whittling away at the project. This was better than no progress and I soon got into this routine and started to enjoy it a little more.
In the process of developing the site I even found time to move jobs to another company. It was a move that I wanted and I also worked hard to ensure that I got it. All of this was done in between working on my portfolio and working at my previous employer. Eventually, as you can see, I did manage it. I wanted to create the website without the use of any frameworks such as bootstrap or boiler plate. My reasoning for this was that I wanted to gain a deeper understanding about responsive web design without the noise and bloat of a template. I also decided to create my own blog engine and nested comment system. I did find myself wondering if I was attempting too much but I knew If I completed it I would be a better developer and in a better position to offer more functionality to my prospective clients. As well as this I knew I would feel accomplished. I thought if I managed to get this project done that others would follow in a lot less time. I'm now completely comfortable with the concepts of responsive web design and what it takes to think with a mobile first development mindset. These are concepts which I would not have known as well if I hadn't stuck to the task and persevered.
As this was my first post on this website I didn't want to dive straight in and talk about web development and design techniques/tips from the off. I wanted to share my experience with anyone who may find it helpful. However going forward I will be writing mostly about web design and development related topics - sharing my experiences and tips to help people build great responsive, mobile-ready websites and apps. My advice to anyone attempting to work freelance is to take it on slowly to begin with. Don't try and do too much because you will inevitably burn yourself out. Attempt to find a duration of work that suits you in the evening. Don't aim for large chunks of work but instead ensure that each night you are taking something away from it and that you can see steady progress with your project. This way you will continue to build your website without sickening yourself and giving up as a result. Eventually you might encounter a routine that is serving you well and hopefully allowing you to perform well both at work and on your own freelance projects.