Sunday, January 22, 2006

Five Tips for Freelance PHP Coders

By Elizabeth Naramore


If you've decided that working for yourself as a self-employed web developer or PHP coder sounds like your cup of tea, but you feel as if the task is a bit daunting, then listen up. We've put together a list of helpful tips that will enable you to go wherever it is you want your own business to go. You should know that these are in no particular order and we consider them all equally important. As well, please be advised that this is by no means a guarantee to your success, nor is it a comprehensive list of potential obstacles you may encounter.

1. Guard Your Reputation With Your Life

Your reputation is the most important asset you have, and you should treat it as such. You might be the most competent coder on the planet, but if you have a reputation for being difficult to work with, or unreliable, getting new clients will be more difficult, you will lose referrals from current clients and you will find you will have to prove yourself over and over again. Don't make promises you can't keep, and remember that your actions today may have a profound effect on the future success of your business. Maintaining a contract business is difficult enough without you inadvertently sabotaging your own efforts.

2. Be Passionate About Your Work

Clients want to see genuine enthusiasm and they will take comfort in the fact that you have a personal investment in their web site. A larger company may be able to offer the same coding services that you can, but you can use that "personal touch" to your advantage.

3. Be Responsive And Communicate Often

Even if things are crazy or if you are extremely behind schedule, taking five minutes to make a quick change for a client's site or sending a quick e-mail to update your client about the status of his project will really go a long way in diffusing a potentially damaging situation. Of course, this will only buy you a little time, but it is much better than ignoring a client altogether and aggravating the situation.You can also provide status reports for your clients weekly or bi-weekly, so they are kept in the loop as to how things are progressing. Knowing that you will have to be presenting these reports helps you maintain accountability for the project and keep you moving forward, as well as keeping your client informed.Along with this goes the advice of promptly returning phone calls and e-mails. Some of us are averse to using the phone, but by giving your client the courtesy of returning a phone call, you are in essence communicating that you value their business and that you are there to help. Likewise with e-mails, they should be responded to immediately, not three or four days later.

4. Don't Be An Ostrich

When things get overwhelming (and they will), resist the urge to stick your head in the sand and play another game of . This will only exacerbate the situation. If you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, get help. Enlist a trusted colleague with a few small pieces of the bigger project. Better yet, enlist several trusted colleagues. Whatever you do, make sure you're doing something to chip away at the workload.

5. Remember That You Are Your Own Ambassador

Tact and diplomacy can be your best friends, especially when a client is asking for the impossible. Unlike coding jobs in the industry, where you have a full staff of sales and marketing and executive types buffering the client from the dungeons of the coders, when you are your own boss, you are thrust onto the surface world and must deal directly with the clients. Try not to be condescending or openly laugh at their ignorance; you will only alienate them and risk losing them as a client (and any referrals they might have passed your way). At least wait until they are no longer within earshot; then mock away


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