If you are a freelancer and provide contracting or consulting services you probably also know the problem of fluctuating demand. There are times when you don't have enough work and then there are sudden peaks when several of your clients want your services at the same time.
You either say no to some of your clients and then risk loosing them for good, or you can drag your feet hoping to finish your other assignments before they run out of patience, which actually never works out quite well or you can try to squeeze in 14 hour long workdays which is bad to your health and your work quality. None of these are good solutions.
There are also projects that need more than one developer. Hiring and training someone is a long and expensive project and if the demand is only for 1.5 people then you are still in the same problem as earlier. Except that now you are also responsible for the salary of another person.
One of the ways to overcome this problem, or at least to reduce its impact is to form various levels of cooperations. One suggestion is to build a larger company by several individuals or small contractors. The added advantage here is that you can promote one name - the name of the company - and you can share the work. The problem is that most people, at least in the Perl community, seem to be very individualistic. They don't want to give up their freedom. Not even in exchange for some sanity.
Another way can be to form a loose cooperative, with or without a common name and hand over work to each other as demand changes. This can be done either by sending the other person to the client or passing only the actual work or part of it to the other developer. This too requires a period of learning each other, and the market fluctuation still has an impact on you but it will be lower than for a single consultant as hopefuls you won't have the peaks and lows at the same time. The level will depend on how diverse are the markets served by the various contractors. Are they in different industries? Are they in different locations in the world? etc.
Are you a member of such group of freelancers? Please, share your experience!
Published on 2010-05-13 by Gabor Szabo