8

Edit: revised question ----

When trying to break into any career the biggest hurdle is building professional experience in that field. On any resume it's the most desirable quality for any candidate, and while it's not corporate workplace environment, I still thought freelance development would still be very desirable if not downright impressive to a startup however that has not proven true for me.

(Briefly overviewing my resume for a bit of context:)

  • Worked one year outside career field as an assistant in advertisement photography, lighting and shooting engine kits and performance car parts. I go on explaining responsibilities, expectations and teamwork between myself and the art directors and photographer.
  • Freelanced 3 projects for clients: an iPhone app, one e-commerce website, and one band's wordpress site. Not just cosmetics, I developed backend cloud services, remote databases, server configurations, routing - all from nothing to distribution, collaborating with clients and graphic designers using current technology and professional design techniques. I detail technicals in my resume, my responsibilities on projects, and design solutions in each of these, every thing is current business practices and tailored to the project.

I have proven the ability and competency to develop a quality product at a professional level - full stack and on my own, but I have been passed up for jobs and I question how visible this is in the actual job market. I feel my professionalism and product complexity gets completely ignored and eclipsed by how few I showcase through my resume.

(note: I'm not going for "senior" or "developer lead" positions, I just want to be a team member at an interesting startup)

So a couple questions:

  • Does the fact these are "freelance" jobs detract in a meaningful way to startup employers somehow I do not see?
  • Is there a better way I can help myself get across the level of professionalism and competence I would bring to the table to my next prospective employer? Is it just my presentation?
  • Is it just the market stigma that's quantity over quality, that no matter the depth a project has it'll still get overshadowed by multiple lesser projects in terms of candidate "experience" in the eyes of the employer?
  • Hi Jeremy, welcome to The Workplace. I think you question has an answerable core, but it is very unclear to me right now, as it is buried between all these bits of information. Would you mind going through your post again and editing out the details not really necessary to your answer? – CMW Mar 29 '14 at 7:24
  • I can do that - to be clear, you want me to remove the personal details of my situation and make it a more general question? – Jeremy Mar 30 '14 at 1:06
  • When you say your resume is being overlooked, how many jobs have you applied for, and at what skill level? You may be struggling going for a mid-level position when your resume feels like "junior" – Fiona - myaccessible.website Mar 31 '14 at 9:35
  • At what point are you being phased out of the process? Is it when applying, after initial contact with HR or post interview? – Paul Muir Mar 31 '14 at 12:25
  • Careful about what you claim to have done. I once interviewed a guy who wrote the navigation and propulsion control software for a satellite launch rocket. In the interview we determined he did it from scratch, by himself, in three months. He did not get the job - one guess why. – mattnz Mar 31 '14 at 21:03
7
+100

•Does the fact these are "freelance" jobs detract in a meaningful way to startup employers somehow I do not see?

They shouldn't but it depends on how you sell it. Ultimately, the company is going to be looking for the candidate they feel fits the best. Freelance work is likely going to be what will fit the best for their organization since they will not have a lot of developers. At the same time though they will need someone strong who can be versatile and do several different duties quickly.

Essentially, you have to turn your lack of 'professional' experience into a plus for the company. At start ups especially you will be expected to own a project, since you have freelance experience, your used to owning a project. So find a way to display those skills.

•Is there a better way I can help myself get across the level of professionalism and competence I would bring to the table to my next prospective employer? Is it just my presentation?

It is always in the presentation. Your a developer but now you need to be a salesman and you have to sale yourself. It might be a difficult sale but prepare yourself, study up about resumes (And especially how to score very high on software scanners) and try and get at least a face to face interview. This is where you can either shine or fail.

•Is it just the market stigma that's quantity over quality, that no matter the depth a project has it'll still get overshadowed by multiple lesser projects in terms of candidate "experience" in the eyes of the employer?

In my experiences it is the absolute opposite. A single project can make or break your career. But if no one understands the complexities of the project than it doesn't matter. If you have a 'flagship' project create a high-level overview of it and then bullet point some of the specs. This gives you the opportunity to both work in the keywords that are required for the software scanner while explaining to the company that you know what you are doing. Also by giving a high level explanation it explains to the recruiter (Usually a non-technical person) that you, for example, have used a database and the technical details explains to the technical person that you know Oracle for example.

TL;DR:

  1. FreeLance work should be looked upon in high regard by a start-up if you sell it to them correctly
  2. It is ALWAYS the presentation. Remember the order of hiring:

    a) Software screener

    b) HR Rep

    c) Person who actually knows anything about your position (hopefully)

    Start with the software screener and get past that, get past the HR Rep and then worry about the people who actually know what they are doing.

  3. I think it's just you. While some companies are rigid about experience the majority of IT companies respect talent and experiences. The issue is you have to establish that these experiences that you have is quality experience.


Thanks for the interest Paul, it IS establishing that professionalism of the experience I have I'm trying to get the finer details of hence the question. I have 1 or 2 "flagship" projects described like your suggestion in my resume but HOW would YOU up-sell it if it was yours? My current train of thought is to embellish these with app feature videos, nice portfolio highlights, hell maybe a nice blog write up or something. Being the hire'er what would be the way to get across these details to sell my experience to you?

Well it's not selling your experience to me. It's about selling it to the general public. On your resume, list accomplishments. Detail the specifications and use Google AdWords to assist with keywords that are being searched in your local area for the job position you want.

The next step is to list the different types of frameworks and technology used in order to achieve your goals. Show what you have experience with. Resumes are typically directed at an HR rep at the larger firms and they will just be looking for specific words, make sure that you have those words.

Compile a list of notes of your experiences, how they were used and when. This will help keep things fresh in your mind for the potential phone interview. It is important that you ACE the phone interview so having access to the information is vital.

Compile a list of strengths you possess and create a list of questions to ask the interviewer based on your strengths. A sample question would be I have experience with full stack development, how would your company utilize these skills?. This reinforces your resume and allows you to ask questions based on your strengths. The Q&A section of the interview is where you make or break getting the job (I have several posts here regarding how to perform this portion).

After all of that, it comes down to your personality. The most important thing is to make them remember you.

  • Thanks for the interest Paul, it IS establishing that professionalism of the experience I have I'm trying to get the finer details of hence the question. I have 1 or 2 "flagship" projects described like your suggestion in my resume but HOW would YOU up-sell it if it was yours? My current train of thought is to embellish these with app feature videos, nice portfolio highlights, hell maybe a nice blog write up or something. Being the hire'er what would be the way to get across these details to sell my experience to you? – Jeremy Mar 31 '14 at 23:00
  • I edited the answer with the information requested. – Paul Muir Apr 1 '14 at 1:04
  • Why the down vote? – Paul Muir Apr 2 '14 at 2:05
  • Sorry, dunno how that happened it just unupvoted it - fixed – Jeremy Apr 2 '14 at 4:41
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If you've been a freelancer for some time, you have built a "brand" out of yourself, something that is "you", the freelancer's form of corporate identity. You paid your bills, you mean business and your clients know you mean business, that's why they chose you. Every single thing about you has to be professional.

You give your potential employer content, which is your resume and your portfolio (or an excerpt of it). But you don't only give them content, you market yourself to them, the same way you pitch a client.

When they hold your resume, they should already know that they're dealing with a professional without reading a single word. Put effort into your paperwork, especially when you send it in as print. Choose quality paper, create a minimalistic but professional design, sell yourself. Why did your clients choose you? If you don't know, ask them. Your future employer wants you, they just don't know it yet.

You send in a folder containing your best portfolio pieces, outlining the work you've done, precise to the point, informative, something for the eye. Of course you also give links to your website(s), and they're - you guess it - professional.

When you get that interview, you show confidence and professionality. You did not forget how to put on pants in your freelancer time and you have no problem at explaining what you do, how you do it and why you do it best.

The two most important things in short:

  1. You are a freelancer, you know how to sell yourself, so do it. Freelancing is all about selling yourself to your clients. There are thousands of "my brother in law's cousin's flatmate's coworker's son who will code that website for 20$", but there's a reason your clients choose you. Remind your potential employer of that reason at every chance you get:
  2. You are professional. This means every single thing about you is professional grade perfect. You live for perfectionism. Your business card, your website, the portfolio items you present, the resume, your appearance and behaviour, all those small things that add together.

Of course none of this matters if you are not a professional - which might very well be the case if you're unable to communicate professionalism. But there are still possibilites like advanced training, certifications, workshops, internships to gain resume points, increase your "network" and train the whole aspect of professionality.

1

Freelance jobs are a great way to break into software development. You can show that you have done real-world work in the field, you can discuss the work that you have done, and you can discuss the challenges of developing software. If the quantity is too high, then there is a risk of looking like you're not doing quality work, which you should be able to address by discussing the technical work that you did and the challenges that you faced in each of your freelance projects.

As such, I wonder if your resume, portfolio, or communication style is such that you're not getting anywhere. If you haven't yet, get someone to review your resume. You might have the wrong level of detail on your resume, or miss important skills that are highly relevant, or poor formatting. Make sure that your resume and cover letter are tailored to the position that you're applying for; if you're not applying for a specific position, then your resume and cover letter need to specify why you'd be an awesome fit for their company (and that has to be more than just "I think your company is awesome"). If you have an online portfolio of your work, get that reviewed as well to ensure that it highlights the work that you have done.

If you're getting phone interviews but not in-person interviews, consider practicing your interview technique so that you're more comfortable with the phone screen and giving answers that help potential employers understand your experience and get you to the next round of interviews.

If you're targeting startups, make sure that you spend time getting involved in the communities where the startups who you find interesting spend time. The best way to get in the door with a company, including a startup, is to meet someone who actually works there and have a conversation with them. Events like meetups and conferences can be a great way for you to make these personal contacts. Likewise, if you have friends who are at startups, they might be willing to share your resume. There are recruiters who specialize in recruiting for startups too; getting your resume in their hands might help you achieve your goal.

  • Hi Nadyne thanks for taking the time and showing interest, you're very correct about effective communication and that's what I want to improve through this thread. Your last suggestion about the community involvement is truly a fantastic one however the sub-problem in my problem is I'm trying to get a job in a new city I looking to move to and don't currently live. Any ideas about remote involvement? As for communication style, could you go into more detail? What would you as the hire'er consider most strongly, resumes or portfolio? And what details in specific? – Jeremy Apr 2 '14 at 1:43
  • I start with the resume. If the resume is sufficiently interesting, then I look at the portfolio. If the resume doesn't seem to be a match with my current needs (which could be experience or technical depth), then I don't look at the resume at all. The resume needs to be well-written, include appropriate detail about the work, and be relevant to the position that I have available. I don't think I've ever watched a video on a candidate's website. – nadyne Apr 2 '14 at 6:34
-3
  1. The development field is pretty much on fire. "Any idiot" can get a job any time, anywhere. Everyone I know has, what, three times .. four times? as much freelance as they can humanly do. Everyone I know who presently opts for a full-time position, constantly (every month, or more often) has headhunters calling them trying to get them to move to another job.

  2. Your portfolio is you. (ie, the apps you have done.) People barely care about education, or to some extent experience as such.

(All of that is all the more true, if, you're looking to work for a startup.)

  1. HOWEVER, note that you say "I've done one app." (Web sites men nothing, so forget that.)

That's simply not much man.

TBC you'll extremely easily get a junior-ish position anywhere you want, no problems.

But "one app" is just getting started.

{I just had a guy apply to me to work on a project and his situation was "well in the last couple of years the six games I was lead on, three of them grossed over a million. I also did these three 100,000+ user corporate apps {all well-known} .." And on and on. OK, that's experience. Obviously a guy like that can and does just pick and choose from the best-paid most interesting work - and as I say there's a huge amount of that around.}

The three items you mention as dot points at the end, nobody cares about.

Regarding like "cvs" or "resumes" ... does anyone even read them or have one any more? Search on the obvious sites for startups looking for a younger programmer. Then enthusiastically send the person an email, or have guts and phone them or walk around. Also, don't hesitate to simply make a list of the 20 smaller companies / startups / whatever you most want to work for, and start emailing.

(100.0% of programming/app/dotcom related companies are currently "desperate to hire people", it's just taken for granted and most don't even bother putting up an ad.)

My short answer to your question is (A) good news, there's a hyper-boon on, you'll easily get a either job or freelance position as you desire, and (B) just be aware you have "very minimal experience." (I guess "1" app is the minimum - heh!)

You simply get paid by how many apps you've been the lead on. It's very straightforward! (TBC, "personal" "experimental" etc apps don't count, only reasonably name-brand serious apps.)

If you want a secret tip for the market like right now! this (saturday) afternoon!, get a bAAs project in your folio, enjoy

I hope it helps! Start sending emails now until you find somewhere you like.

  • 1
    Hi Joey, welcome to The Workplace. Your answer is very elaborate and contains several points I agree with. However, it does not address the core question about how to communicate the level of professionalism properly. Assuming the OP is already in contact with several companies and knows their level of professionalism, how would they properly communicate that? – CMW Mar 29 '14 at 7:47
  • Thank you for the response Joey, I agree with the majority of your argument but it further supports the position quantity completely eclipses quality when looking at a resume (especially mine), and that is my problem. Part of what I created for my "one app" was a backend cloud service (I've not thought of it that way before) which updates and manages the app client on the phone. The e-commerce site was not front-end, but backend database and function of 4000+ products from two retailer - and it's these details, the professionalism, i feel something "freelanced" gets discredited having – Jeremy Mar 30 '14 at 1:04
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    In terms of literally preparing a resume PDF. I'd go for strong bullet points stating WHAT YOU ARE REALLY GOOD AT. I'd BOLDLY STATE that you have far more real-life experience than usual at your level. Fascinating point: the ONLY thing you've mentioned that made me think "We should hire this guy, I wonder what he's like?" is in the previous comment that you can do the backend for a small commerce setup (well done, excellent). The original detailed post I glazed over, as it was about photography blah blah or something (life is cruel!!) Again: agreed there is a golf "corporate" v/ "startupvibe" – Fattie Mar 31 '14 at 4:38
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    "Web sites men nothing, so forget that" My career and salary disagree with you. I have made zero "apps". – Fiona - myaccessible.website Mar 31 '14 at 9:26
  • 1
    Resumes can reflect Quality over Quantity quite easily. Break it down into a skills summary style resume and then explain the specifics of how you utilized those skills. Very simple. – Paul Muir Apr 1 '14 at 1:15

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