Cal Evans and the Education of Freelance Developers
It’s not uncommon to find educational conferences and seminars for most professions. But finding educational opportunities when you’re a freelancer can be a more difficult matter.
Cal Evans, the founder of Day Camp 4 Developers is looking to solve that problem — at least for developers.
The Importance of Educating Freelancers
Whether you’re a developer, an illustrator or some entirely different variety of freelancer, getting the right skill sets to grow your business can be tough. Even identifying those skills can be problematic: there are plenty of great schools turning out top-notch developers and other creatives. But very few teach anything in the way of how to mange the business side, even down to the basics of how to create an invoice.
Evans sees the problem among developers as well as other freelancers: “Nobody teaches designers Business 101 or Marketing or Accounting…Honestly, I think the biggest problem freelancers face these days are finding quality clients. A future Day Camp 4 Developers will address this topic because I think it’s important.”
Quite a few freelancers depend on trial and error (and a few great blogs) to learn everything there is to know about the business side of our profession. That makes it harder than it needs to be to grow your freelance business and move forward.
If you’re lucky, like Evans was, you might find a great mentor, but it takes a conscious choice to really learn the skills necessary:
I learned the business side of development two ways. First, I had some great mentors in my career. Second, I learned a long time ago that there were kids coming up behind me that could code faster and longer than I could, so I made a conscious decision to move into development management to get out of their way.
The Value of Business Skills
The typical freelancer doesn’t sit down in front of her computer and design client websites for twenty years straight. We start and stop freelancing, pursue big projects, take the occasional long-term contract and generally evolve the way we earn a living. The more business skills we can develop, the better equipped we are to keep up that forward momentum that keeps good freelancers from stagnating.
Evans is no different. His work history is incredibly varied. “I have been programming computers for 27 years now. I’ve written everything from BBS Door games to medical transcription workflow systems,” says Evans.
I wrote my first dynamic web site in 1995 using the forerunner to ASP, IDC/HTX and IIS 1.0. My first data driven page was my resume. I was so proud I rushed in the next morning to show my boss. All he saw was that I had put my resume up on the web. He asked me ‘Something you tryin’ to tell me?’ Since then I’ve run a print shop, produced over 40 live concert videos and run an operations team for a mid-sized hosting company. Through it all though, I kept coming back to programming.
Day Camp 4 Developers
The third Day Camp 4 Developers will take place on October 1st, 2011. The entire event will take place online, letting freelancers (as well as developers working for employers) attend without traveling.
The price is more in line with what freelancers are willing to pay for education ($40 per ticket) than many of the professional conferences out there. Evans has been involved in a number of major PHP conferences over the years, including chairing ZendCon, the Dutch PHP Conference and php|tek.
One thing that has always bothered me is that at conferences, people want to see hard technical sessions. The soft-skills sessions are hard to sell to management so we tend not to approve them. Developers need these skills though; managing your career is just as important as MongoDB. So I decided to pick a few of them and put on a virtual conference. You don’t get the personal interaction (the ‘hallway track’ as my friend Chis Shiflett coined it) that you get at regular conferences but you do get the information, the fun of hanging out and just chatting with friends and the inspiration you need to put the information into action.