101 Things To Do In 2010 If You're A Freelance Developer

A great freelancer must always change their game. If we’re stuck doing the same thing over and over again, not only will we be bored with what we’re doing, we’ll eventually fall behind the curve of development and lose business. A New Year is a great excuse to stop doing bad habits and to start picking up good ones.

It’s tough running a freelance business, we have to wear so many hats and it’s easy to forget a few. We have to be accountants, marketers, sellers, lawyers, bankers, designers, developers, secretaries, social media experts, SEO experts and we still have the hats we wear in our daily lives: father, mother, husband, wife, maid, etc etc.

So if you’re looking to change up your game some and learn a few new things, here’s a list that I compiled, with some help from some developer friends on Twitter & Facebook, of 101 Things To Do in 2010. It would be interesting to track these and see just how many we can accomplish in the next year.

  • 1. Learn a new computer language.
  • 2. Learn to do your own taxes and accounting, save a few hundred bucks in the process.
  • 3. Pick up 25 new clients.
  • 4. Make twice what you made in 2009.
  • 5. Don’t work weekends.
  • 6. Don’t work holidays.
  • 7. Don’t work nights either.
  • 8. Do one extra thing for your best clients for free.
  • 9. Raise your rates, or keep your rates and lower the time it takes to finish a site.
  • 10. Learn to validate your sites.
  • 11. Show IE6 some love and gracefully degrade.
  • 12. Stop being a slob and organize that office!
  • 13. Go digital ( we are computer nerds, right?) put your calendar, quotes, invoices, tax returns neatly organized on your computer and get rid of cluttered paper.
  • 14. Backup your files, I suggest going with Apple’s Time Capsule if you’re a Mac user, backsup automatically multiple times a day, and if you buy a new¬†computer, will completely move over every single item, down to the desktop photo, to the new¬†computer.
  • 15. Get some nice business cards printed, even if you only use them once a year, never know when you might need them.
  • 16. Start your blog.
  • 17. Find new ways of marketing without using money.
  • 18. Or if you’re making good money, buy some well placed ads.
  • 19. Partner with someone who offers services you don’t and come up with some great residual income options.
  • 20. Stop using Flash for anything that’s not supposed to be in flash, like navigations.
  • 21. Fire the clients that give you hell.
  • 22. Work to make the existing client relationships you have, better.
  • 23. Do some free work for a great charity, but only in your spare time.
  • 24. Find a small business you really believe in and help them out, even if they can’t pay.
  • 25. Stop competing with fellow freelancers and start partnering.
  • 26. Attend 10 Geek events including your local Barcamp, Geek breakfasts, and Podcamps.
  • 27. Attend 5 local chamber events.
  • 28. Adopt a dog or cat from a local shelter, they’ve been proven to reduce stress (which all freelancers have) and you’re giving a home to an animal.
  • 29. Stop buying stuff you don’t need when you have no client work!
  • 30. Spend more time with your family and loved ones.
  • 31. Go out with friends at least once a month <–I’ve failed this in 2009.
  • 32. Get out of debt so no-client times aren’t so stressful.
  • 33. Upgrade your old programs.
  • 34. Ask a few web development blogs if you can guest write for them.
  • 35. Start commenting your code better.
  • 36. Start using less code as well.
  • 37. Stop using bidding sites like GetAFreelancer and Elance.
  • 38. Take on only the work and clients you know you’ll enjoy. Refer others to another developer.
  • 39. Tutor a middle/high schooler who wants to be a coder.
  • 40. Answer all emails the same day you receive them, or that morning after if they come late.
  • 41. Send your clients Christmas cards or small gifts.
  • 42. Run a coupon: 20% for every client referred or something similar. Put it online so they can print them out.
  • 43. Update your portfolio and/or your portfolio’s design. Delete your bad or worse pieces.
  • 44. Take some open courseware classes and brush up on old knowledge, or learn new web things.
  • 45. Go back to school for web development. <—I really want to do this, my degree is in Graphic Design
  • 46. Start using HTML5 and CSS3. (Colin McCormick)
  • 47.Visit at least once conference in your area or join meetup.com. I’ve learned a lot / made many connections at these networking events. (Jack Ciallella)
  • 48. Replace your coffee with decaf tea – you’ll live longer.
  • 49. Stop working at 5pm, and make sure you schedule your time wisely.
  • 50. Stop checking Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn every 5 minutes and get more work done.
  • 51. Require a 50% deposit on all client work before you start working and don’t release files until the last 50% is paid. Reduce your losses.
  • 52. Get two monitors – will speed up your coding time and you can get a 22″ for less than $200 these days.
  • 53. Spend some money on ergonomic keyboards, mice and chairs – your arms will thank you for it in 3 years.
  • 54. Use a contract with billing terms, revisions, etc for EVERYTHING.
  • 55. Learn the basics of design, even if you never design. My design degree actually comes in handy when learning how to layout my frameworks and organize code. Has definitely made me faster.
  • 56. If you don’t want to learn a programming language, learn yours better. And learn enough of the main languages and scripts like PHP and jQuery so you can easily hack your way around them.
  • 57. Start taking responsibility for your freelance mistakes. I’m sorry and Thank you go a long way with clients.
  • 58. Take several 5-minute breaks throughout the day, you’ll be more productive.
  • 59. Don’t use tables for anything other than tabular data – and eating on.
  • 60. Shop around for cheaper car insurance, health insurance and rental/home insurance – no need to work more hours just to pay that stuff.
  • 61. Make a point to get up at the same time and get dressed everday. No pajama working unless you’re sick!
  • 62. Move your banking to a bank like USAA or Regions that allows you to deposit checks electronically to save on time and gas.
  • 63. Doctor Who wisdom: Be Extraordinary! (@socialmediabham)
  • 64. Use your real name on your Twitter and portfolio. Be personable.
  • 65. For one, don’t be afraid to invest in yourself. Money traded for knowledge is awesome – don’t be scared of it. (Nicholas Young)
  • 66. Host your own Geek party and get to know your local freelancers and Twitter friends.
  • 67. Learn to say “No” to scope creep and ridiculous requests.
  • 68. Learn to verbalize why something can’t or shouldn’t be done.
  • 69. Don’t accept clients who ask for a discount or other red-flag items. Run away from one who refuses to pay a deposit, they are planning not to pay you at all.
  • 70. Don’t talk bad about a client or other freelancer, if you must, leave out names and identifying details.
  • 71. Stop position absoluting everything and start floating. Will make your life easier in the long run when (not if) content expands.
  • 72. Give you clients basic SEO services with your programming, such as SEO-friendly URLs, keywords in alt tags, etc.
  • 73. Save a set portion of your freelance income.
  • 74. Follow some RSS feeds that offer great tutorials and stay on top of trends.
  • 75. Learn something outside of web development – content, SEO, or social media marketing. It will help you understand your clients better, even if you don’t offer those services.
  • 76. Niche yourself into doing only the kind of work you like, for example PSD > HTML/CSS
  • 77. Learn a web platform and offer that as a complimentary service like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal.
  • 78. If your notes or CMS is too complicated for you to understand in 5 minutes or less, your clients aren’t going to understand it either.
  • 79. Learn to correctly organize and tab your code.
  • 80. Make a simple framework with HTML/PHP pages you use in all of your sites, so when you start a new site, you can skip all the meta, and basic code.
  • 81. Don’t expect a WYSIWYG to design, code or populate a website.
  • 82. If you can’t use CSS3 for something, use image sprites for rollovers correctly.
  • 83. Stop complaining, start doing.
  • 84. Everyone has dead periods, use that time to market, blog, revamp your work, learn and connect.
  • 85. A 9-5 job will never make you rich, so start freelancing. It will still take you forever to get rich, but you’ll get there.
  • 86. Don’t expect handouts, if you want it or want it done, do it yourself. Government help will only hold you back and weigh down the rest of the economy.
  • 87. Learn to name your divs, classes and IDs correctly. No more “div#1”, “greenbox” or “thingy”, ok?
  • 88. Write down your image name and sizes for quicker coding.
  • 89. Make it a point to make your websites look exactly or as close as possible to the original PSD.
  • 90. Speak up if your designer is adding non-web friendly elements to their designs. Make it easier for both of you.
  • 91. Be nice to people who ask your advice, they are were you were 10 years ago.
  • 92. Move your office to a windowed space, if possible. Better light, better on your eyes and it gives you a resting space and connects you to the outside.
  • 93. If your office is in your home and you work alone, work at a local cafe or bookstore a few hours twice a week. Get out some!
  • 94. Grab some disinfecting wipes and clean your computer, mouse, phone and keyboard. Billions of germs are floating around from last year’s use!
  • 95. Stop meeting in person with clients, and instead offer to meet online through Skype or some other screen-sharing program. Saves on gas and wasted time, as many of those clients never buy!
  • 96. Take a look at your business and make sure you’re working on and with what/who you want. If not, change it.
  • 97. Write a programming book or helpful PDF.
  • 98. Write a website strategy guide for your clients and give it away for free on your website.
  • 99. Find sources of residual income, selling themes, code snippets or extra stock items.
  • 100. Take time for yourself, never skip lunch or dinner.
  • 101. Most of all – Have fun! Freelancing should be a dream, not a nightmare. Spend money, take days off, be rich!

Your Turn

What are some of the things you think we, as freelance developers, can do to better ourselves and our business in 2010?

Photo courtesy of Alex Osterwalder