Transitioning from working as a subcontractor to working with clients directly.

A picture showing the wizard from The Wizard of Oz.
Stepping out from behind the curtain. Scene from The Wizard of Oz, 1939.

Since I started to work as a freelance web developer, I’ve sought work from other designers, developers and agencies, but that’s about to change as I move towards working with clients directly.

I’ve had a good run and worked with some very talented people, but ultimately I’m now realising the limitations of working “behind the curtain”, as a technician checking off tasks on someone else’s to-do list.

Professional versus technician

To understand my motivation, it’s important to understand the difference between a professional and a technician in the context of web development.

A professional web developer is one who helps their client achieve results by learning about their problem, understanding it, and solving it in the best way possible. If the request isn’t in the clients best interests, then the professional might say no, turn the work down, or offer an alternative solution.

A technician is someone who does a job. They do what they’re asked to, and make changes as instructed. They might solve problems, but only as a by-product of following instructions. They won’t turn down work or suggest alternatives, because the client’s best interests aren’t their responsibility.

A relationship with a professional is an investment, while a technician is a commodity.

And so you see, as a freelancer, subcontracting for other agencies and developers definitely puts me in the technician bracket, and means I’m viewed as an expense, a commodity.

It also puts me one step away from the client, and means I’m just carrying out tasks as instructed. The client doesn’t have the benefit of my experience and insight, and can’t offer alternative solutions to their problems.

Pivot

Moving forward, I’m going to be placing much more focus on working with clients directly. Working in and around agencies has given me valuable insight into how to better structure my business, and some of the processes and infrastructure I should have in place.

My intention is to provide much more value to my clients, delivering solutions that fulfil their business goals, as well as being built to last.

As my business shifts, the content of this blog will shift. I want to focus a little less on coding, and a little more on business. I’ll be blogging about my transition from working as a subcontractor to working for clients directly, and all of the challenges I face while traversing this path.

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