Complacency Killed the Freelance Star

July 8th, 2016

I have been a freelance developer long enough to see there be a couple major shifts in what is considered to be the new standard in building websites. In just the past few years responsive sites built on top of CMS’s have become the standard, where before those were potential up sells you offered your clients.

The web moves fast and as a freelancer you need to keep up and not rest on your laurels. However, I see way too often someone who reaches a level comfort in their abilities and then just stays there. They get complacent and feel they know everything they need to.

This is straight poison to a freelancer.

This temporary comfort is just that – temporary. Some new development will happen with the web and you can stay comfortable, or you can learn something new. Let’s see what happens with both.

Staying comfortable

Who needs to worry about insert fancy new technology or tool here? With that train of thought, or even worse truly believing you know what is best and there is no need to worry about some thing that will only be a trend, you are bound to keep doing things the way you have been.

When clients ask about this new fancy thing you explain to them how it is dumb and no one needs it. Not only are you doing a disservice to your client by not giving this new thing a fair shot to see if it would benefit them, but you are also taking another sip of your own koolaid.

This is super dangerous. I have fallen into this before, and I have seen way too many people who are just comfortable. Really the word comfortable could be replaced by lazy or lack of pride. Might sound harsh, but I don’t believe anyone who works on the web should ever feel like they know everything they need to.

The constant learner

OK, here’s the other side of that coin. A freelance who wants to be the very best. Like no one ever was (if you get that reference please tweet me @rjmccollam and let me know). Being the very best means not resting on your laurels. It means more than simply learning about all the new stuff that comes out in your field. It means you are driven.

Drive is one of the most valuable attributes that a freelancer can have. Drive is what lets you listen to what the client wants and then go read up on it to see if you should use it or not. Drive is what keeps you always putting in hours to make each thing you build a little better than the last. Put simply – drive is what makes a successful freelancer.

Of course this isn’t to say you should go about it reckless abandon and just jump on every new hype train that comes rolling though town, but having the desire to be great will do you justice in the long run.

If you are reading this and you feel you know pretty much everything you need to do your job and do it well – I’m sorry I don’t believe you do. Think of someone you feel has really made an impact on the world. Maybe it’s Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, your favorite president, or whoever. I guarantee you that they never felt satisfied or became complacent to the point where they just plop their feet on their desk and thought there was nothing left to learn.

Freelancers who want to have a long career need to understand this, because with complacency comes a death to your career that is slow, but sneaks up on you after it is too late.