Developer Journal: Thoughts on Job Hunting and Life

Photo of woman looking while shielding her eyes with her hand, by Jason Wong on Unsplash
Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash

A Brief Retrospective of My Job Seeking and Career Successes in 2018

As I sit to write this, having just taken a bath and moisturized my curly hair with a dab of coconut oil, the moon shines brightly above. Perhaps the full is moon is why I can’t sleep. Perhaps there are other reasons.

I’m so blessed that since I started praying and believing that my personal health issues are becoming a thing of the past. Now, my challenges are more of a practical nature. Yes, I’m talking about money.

I’ve been seriously job hunting for about 3 months now, but only this week did my wife and I sit down to discuss expanding my possible employment locations to as far away as Montgomery and Panama City (about 100 miles radius from Geneva).

Not much luck getting remote work

I live in a small and pleasant town, and I love it here. But, Geneva doesn’t really have a “tech-friendly” vibe. So, I have been looking primarily for remote WordPress jobs until now, which unfortunately seem few and far between (and, according to some recruiters at TekSystems, they are very specialized roles and hard to get).

Freelance Experiences

Web Design: WordPress

This year I had one paying customer whom I designed a WordPress website for. She is a spiritual and alternative healing practitioner and not a coder. So, I helped her by essentially writing mini tutorials in emails I would send. Eventually I realized that I could help others and future clients as well by posting my responses as step-by-step video tutorials on YouTube.

But, other than her, that is the only website design client I’ve had this year.

Accuracy and Fact-Checking are Crucial

I’ve done one freelance job on Upwork and one freelance job on TextBroker. Unfortunately, I can’t write crappy code and I can’t write crappy thin-content blog posts. That’s just not me. I naturally write in a conversational style — the way I speak — as if I am narrating a grand story. Frequently I find myself digressing and needing to return to finish writing about the original topic. But, that’s just me and I accept who I am. Who is that? Somebody who has thoughts at light-speed and has trouble wrangling them all! The takeaway is that it takes me longer than I’d like to write stuff because I always fact-check and research my sources, as being as accurate as possible with the information I share is one of my core values.

Not Letting the Perfect Become the Enemy of the Good

Another thing I have trouble with is leaving code or designs alone. I have been a fan of continuous improvement ever since I entered the workforce in the late 1990’s, though I had never heard the term until just now. I think it may be related to something the Japanese call “Kaizen”, but I’m not certain. I am a bit of a perfectionist, people who know me will tell you. It’s all true.

Upwork Projects: Technical Editing & Proofreading

And the freelance jobs were also few and far between, so far. I proofread and edited a 40 page RFP response technical document on Upwork for a company in high-tech sales. That was enjoyable, but I had to work for seven hours straight to finish it before the day was out. Anyone can run a document through a spell-checker. It takes skill, patience, and meticulous attention to detail to scour a document (including images) for spelling and grammar errors that spellcheck didn’t find. You really have to be a certain kind of analytical person like I am to find pleasure in searching out mistakes in documents.

TextBroker: SEO Content Marketing

The other freelance job I did was on TextBroker. They pay roughly $1 for every 100 words. First they give you a rating based on a 250-word writing sample they ask you to submit, on a scale of 1-5, five being the highest and indicating the best quality writing. This is SEO content marketing-type writing. Copy-writing. I researched and wrote about a technological topic I (at the time) knew nothing about: Power over Ethernet switches.

I was excited about being able to write advertising copy and possibly make a name from it. I’ve been doing that kind of thing for years — for me and my relatives — but have never done it professionally until now. But. my experience with TextBroker was disappointing to say the least.

Don’t get me wrong — they were honorable. I didn’t have any problem with payment. But, you know me — being a very meticulous sort, I wrote the post given the stated criteria in about 2 hours, including 30 minutes of research. Of course I spent 45 minutes checking spelling and grammar and then rewording certain passages. Finally, I spent another half hour formatting the text as HTML. Well, for my first assignment, I did such a good job and wrote just over 500 words that I got paid $5 — they highest pay a beginner can get for doing the absolute best quality work. But, I realized that $5/hr (if the client accepts the work) is not enough to make it worth spending 3-4 hours on the thing. I decided to abandon TextBroker for now. About a week after I completed this assignment I searched google and found the exact copy I wrote with no changes. Here is the version which I archived on the Wayback Machine.

Re-Focusing My Freelance Work on My Programming Skills

So, Upwork is still something on my Radar, but I’ve been having a difficult time trying to figure out how to market myself. I’m starting to think I should focus on WordPress, PHP, and JavaScript web development projects and so I should re-write my profile to reflect that.

New Blog Management Needed

With all that said, here is what I’m thinking about doing. Basically, I need a new strategy that incorporates being able to manage and publicize my blog, doing freelance jobs on Upwork, and searching for full-time programming work with 100 miles of Geneva. Once I gain a decent amount of followers and subscribers by producing informative, educational, and practical content on my blog, I can then sign up for some affiliate marketing programs so I can make money while I sleep. A wise man once said protect your wealth by diversifying your investments. I see affiliate marketing of great products as only one of many simultaneous income streams I look forward to making a living from. Sales of my memoir “Confessions of a Talented and Gifted Dropout: Vol 1” (coming soon, supposedly … if I can ever find time to finish it) is another.

Better Job Search Strategy Includes Upwork and Cold Emailing

But for now, I need a good strategy to put food on the table and provide for my family. Here is what I’m considering:

  • Even Week: Do full-time and contract job search.
  • Odd Week: Do freelance jobs on Upwork.
  • Make $200 a week on Upwork as my start goal.
  • I will broaden my ability to earn by identifying companies I’d like to work for and send them exploratory cover letters/letters of interest with my resume attached.

Which reminds me: Where did the term “stretch goal” come from? It seems everyone on Kickstarter is using it now. Sounds like a fancy way of saying “hey, we already made our goal, but we are going to keep our campaign up longer so we can get a much money as we can from you.” I’m not saying that is a bad thing, but I kinda like to know where a new term originated when I encounter it for the first time in the wild.

It’s late and I’m rambling. I hear the bed calling me. I really hope that me sharing my thoughts and experiences with job hunting and career management in the freelance and full-time arena are beneficial to you.

Questions for You:

Have you been job hunting recently — What was that like? How did you prepare? What has been your experience with freelancing?

Good night for now,

Eric

P.S.: One of my biggest #gotchas right now is putting images in posts. Because of all the time it takes to credit others and attribute borrowed work, I have tried to just create my own post featured images. It has been largely successful, and I have honed my skills with open source graphic design and desktop publishing software applications like Gimp (Photoshop), InkScape (Illustrator), Scribus (InDesign), and OpenOffice Calc (Excel) and Writer (Word). I’ve also been learning how to create eBooks with Google Docs and Slides.

Now that I think of it, I guess it takes about as long to attribute someone else’s photo as it does to make my own design from scratch. I’m probably going to start using royalty free images from places like Pixabay and Unsplash. My dreams of being to crank out lots of blog post content are somewhat unrealistic then, I guess. It is quite difficult to manage and create all the content for a lifestyle blog AND be an organic farmer AND take care of a 2.5 acre homestead AND be an active church member AND conduct job seeking activities simultaneously.

I think my action item is to be okay with only posting twice a week instead of three times, like I was shooting for. This will still make my blog one that is consistently and frequently updated.

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