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4 reasons people fail at freelancing

Rob Johnson is the Founder of Makers Academy (www.makersacademy.com), a highly intensive 10-week academy in London that teaches complete novices everything they need to become entry-level web developers.

I hear this all the time, “I’m going to teach myself how to program so that I can work from anywhere! I’ll sail around the world on my yacht and split my time between doing freelance programming work for others while trying to build my own company on the side!” This sounds amazing and can work great if the person already knows how to code – but most people fail before they get that far.

Where is the disconnect?

Why is it that some people can teach themselves how to program with relative ease and others fail so miserably along the way? Despite what most developers want you to believe, programming is not rocket science. It can be challenging depending on how deep you want to go, but the average developer’s IQ is absolutely no higher than the average IQ of someone in a comparable profession like nurse or schoolteacher. The reason most people fail is that they fall prey to a couple of key pitfalls.

The top four reasons people fail

1) Not having a mentor – Some people can teach themselves how to code, but it’s inefficient because by definition, a novice doesn’t know what they should be focusing on. Help sections aren’t helpful to a novice because they don’t understand the terminology.
2) Sudden leap in difficulty – In most tutorials written by experts, the expert can’t remember what it was like to not understand everything they implicitly understand, so there is usually a sudden leap in difficulty at some point in the learning process.
3) Inconsistent learning – Programming is like math. Every new topic builds on previous topics. If we picked up today exactly where your high school trigonometry class left off, you’d be completely lost because it’s a perishable skill and you’ve likely forgot the foundational building blocks. This is exactly what happens when someone tries to learn to program in a couple hours here and there in the evenings.
4) Boring projects – Most people want to learn how to program to give them the freedom to build things new. They want to give themselves the freedom of making the change they want to see in the world. Building another To-Do application rarely satiates this hunger.

Overcome these obstacles with these four strategies

Now that the failure points are visible, here are the ways to overcome them as the first steps to freedom:

1) Get a mentor – Find someone who is willing to meet with you periodically to check in on your learning and confirm that you’re using your time efficiently.
2) Test out a variety of learning methods as no single method will work for everyone.
3) Commit – You can’t learn to program by spending three hours every Tuesday and Thursday evening. If you want to truly make this career shift, you have to whole-heartedly commit to it. Your nights and weekends for the foreseeable future need to be consumed by it.
4) Build your own projects – Tutorials are useful to teach concepts, but as soon as you can, break away and start building your own stuff.

If you’re truly committed to making the jump to the freedom a life of programming provides, check out MakersAcademy.com – a highly intensive 10-week course that teaches all of the fundamentals of web development.

  • http://www.swbi.co.uk Fernando Hidalgo

    Great post! I couldn’t agree more.

    I would say that there is some kind of programming that are rocket science but it is not usually what companies ask for.

    I was thinking I do not mind at all to be the mentor of someone who want to learn programming, I like teaching and programming is the best that I know how to do it. I kind of moved on to other area with less programming called “Business Intelligence” but I was a good programmer and I still touch some code from time to time.

    So if anyone in Bristol is really committed to learn programming and need a mentor just give me a shout.