Are you an unemployed developer? Here’s what to do

I keep running into unemployed devs, people that can do a lot of the things I do, and almost definitely everything I currently get paid for. It’s always surprising to me in some way especially on reddit. There are devs that would work for 1/4 of what I get paid, 1/2 of what I get paid, devs that are happy with 70% of what I get paid, for almost the same work (I say “almost” because I’m not 100% sure as to what they do and how I compare to it). Same thing goes for Forrst, twitter, and other places.

It’s really common for me to run into people like that so I wanted to write a checklist of places where to find good work. Some ideas:

Freelancer.com

if you’re willing to work your ass off, spent 90% of your time bidding on projects, and get paid little, go here. I started out on freelancer and I made about $100 in total. Freelancer.com, Guru.com, Elance.com, and others are great once you get the work flowing though. With enough reviews, you kind of snowball into work. I know that after I did my first two $30 projects, I started getting more feedback from bidders. What’s cool is that if you’re watching TV, playing video games or whatever, just check back in to the newest or closing projects and bid on them. Write a special message addressing specific concerns in a project and see what happens.

Monster.com

This is how I found my last job and will find my future job. I went from freelancing for one specific company to full time elsewhere with monster. Imagine that, $1000/month to $1000/week. And that’s from $75/week at Kroger, stocking supplies. All within a year. And now I’m headed toward a nice raise. What’s the strategy here?

  • make a kick ass resume. Search lifehacker and freelanceswitch for suggestions on how to do this. The general idea is to have the first page emphasize your best skills, have some work experience, and, finally, a list of skills.
  • make several resumes. Are you at cross roads between design/development work? Make two resumes, one emphasizing design, one emphasizing development. Better yet, make a third resume working with both.
  • submit to every job you can find in your area.
  • ignore minimums!. Do they ask for bachelor’s degree minimum? Submit anyways. Chances are, a recruiter will pick up  your resume and see that you’re qualified for a different job or the requirement was put in as a deterrent for people who aren’t as driven. I’ve seen this happen countless of times: 5 year minimum experience for entry level jobs, bachelor’s degree in ANYTHING (meaning, I can have a degree in philosphy and it would count), knowledge of obscure languages, knowledge of all programming languages in the world. Just don’t listen, don’t even mention it, write an email. I’ve seen places require knowledge of ASP, PHP, Java server-side, Zend, and something else for entry level job. Turns out, they only worked with PHP, had no plans on expanding in the other languages, and needed a WordPress dev.
  • Screw cover letters but write personal replies/emails when contacted. No one really reads cover letters. Write a generic one, or an easily customizable one if you want to. What you should do is if a recruiter or someone contacts you with a job description, explain point-by-point what you can do about it like so:

Must have knowledge of PHP – I have 5 years of experience programming in PHP and adhere to clean coding, documentation, and follow the OO style of programming 

  • Setup a CRM just for jobs. You need to contact/recontact recruiters and possible jobs. Ask them how things are going, what you need to do next and if turned down, what other jobs they know of in the area. If you’re speaking directly to a company (and not through a hiring company), see if you can build up some kind of relationship. Ask if they are hoping to expand soon, see if they have any work overflow, and so on. I use Mingly and writethatname. I got a solid address book with great recruiters and all their info in one place.
  • Be available over the phone. You’ll get phone calls, many. Pick up, talk to them. Some recruiters, and I don’t know why, will call you but will REFUSE to email you. When you’re on the phone, get straight to the point and ask questions. Where’s it located? What’s the company name? And if it’s a fit, ask them to email you with details. That way you’ll have an email and name to associate stuff with and a company to research before interview.

Follow at least 3 or 4 of these pieces of advice and you’ll have a nice kick in the butt with job offers, and potential interviews. The conversion rate, however, will be low (or was in my experience). Be prepared to have 100 email-backs and 1 interview. Be prepared to have recruiters tell you you’re perfect for the job just to speak to a manager/interviewer that asks you about stuff you’ve never heard of.

Note: I just stopped/started looking for jobs again and after knowing exactly what to do, I was able to land 2 interviews within a single day.

Craigslist

I can’t stress this one enough. If you’re starting out, this is an awesome place. I found my first connection with a media agency there and they gave me Ks of work and I still keep in touch with them just to see how they’re doing. Now, it’s not a perfect place to get small jobs or build connections, but it’s a start. Here are some pointers:

  • be ready to email a ton of people
  • watch out for projects that state no pay is involved (they’ll screw you over ;) )
  • have a contract ready but be prepared for people afraid of contracts so keep contracts short, easy to read, and sweet.
  • post ads for yourself as well as seek out people that want work
  • be prepared for $150+ projects and most likely under $500.
  • look for job openings as well as individual projects!

Directly Contact Companies

This one is a bit more complicated. Basically use the monster.com method but seek out companies around you. Send them your resumes with personalized messages. A lot of companies nowadays have a “Join The Team” page. Check places like Forrst for job openings too, these are directly from companies. Keep in mind that this is the “cold call” of seeking out a job. Low conversion rate.

Keep Updated

One thing to do is keep updated with technology. Some skills will be seen more powerful and useful than others. Also, make a good site for yourself. Here’s what looks GREAT on a resume:

Front-End Dev

  • jQuery knowledge as well as a less popular/less known/harder-to-use framework such as Backbone.js. Prototype is a good one to learn as well
  • use of LESS or SASS. Companies won’t use it most likely, but it will make an impression.
  • WordPress experience – building OWN themes rather than using bought themes. Gotta have that.
  • Use of SVN, GIT, or Mercurial for versioning. Even if you just version your CSS files.
  • know what REST stands for, perhaps some experience in it
  • AJAX. <- that’s a big one. And it’s really easy with jQuery
  • say you know HTML5/CSS3. Seriously, i’m not sure why you’d have to specify this but HTML5 semantics are so easy to learn that you might as well include this and same thing goes for CSS3

Back-end/PHP Dev

  • knowledge of ASP for some damn reason
  • Object Oriented PHP basics
  • basics of MVC and a framework. Doesn’t matter what you did with it, just have some basics down. even if you just built a basic blog site or whatever, pet project. Doesn’t matter
  • MySQL knowledge. Honestly, i’m not sure why a PHP dev wouldn’t have MySQL experience but whatever
  • versioning and documentation, same as above.
  • Mention caching. Learn how to use W3 total cache plugin and how it works. Nothing too complicated.

Anyways, good luck! :)

Additional Tips

It’s been months since I’ve written this article and here are some extra tips that may help you with your journey:

  • For extra cash, exposure, and rep, you can try to write an article for a blog that allows links back to your site. The advantage here is that you may be able to drive business to yourself from high-traffic sites. Not only that, but you’ll be able to demonstrate knowledge of certain subjects to your employers. You can try NetTuts or even my own site which will allow you to place a call-to-action button in your article.
  • Learn new skills. Check out my own web development quick start for some tips or check out Lynda.com for their tutorials.

Comments

  1. Treociti says:

    Thanks Antonin! Very useful information!!!

  2. Rik Suarez says:

    Very aggressive to get a job… I like it… I have noticed that Indeed and Simplyhired are better job search sites than Monster… Here are my two cents: for any interview you do, don’t concentrate in getting the job… focus on getting the “offer” then it will be up to you to negotiate; salary, time off, location, etc. and then decide if you want the job or not . . . just a thought!

    • Thanks, I usually do that and have been recommended the same by many recruiters. First, you figure out if they’re a good fit for you, and you’re a good fit for them, then you negotiate. No need to bring up “I need at least 4 weeks off every year” before they even figure out if they want you.

  3. great tips, thanks for sharing!

    btw, the link to mingly does not work, it takes me to a vacant page. ming.ly is the right url.

  4. I’d like to add to this that attending area Meetup.com groups and offering to present on topics can be huge. I’ve built up a large network of fellow designers and developers that send work to me when they are too busy and I send work to them when I’m too busy. I ended up getting hired by a design agency to work on-site 3 days per week in addition to getting a steady stream of freelance projects primarily through connections at Meetup.com groups. This also helps me stay updated on all the latest trends in design and development. If there aren’t any groups in your area, consider starting one!

  5. Sorry HTML5 is SO much more than new HTML tags and CSS3 features. If you haven’t written some basic software in JavaScript to do something with at least 3 of the new HTML5 APIs then you don’t know HTML5 sorry. Also some of the new tricks in CSS3 will take some time to learn e.g. not making new layouts with floats etc and using the new grids etc. Even though this stuff is only in draft it pays to get familiar with it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML5#New_APIs

    • While i do agree HTML5 is more than just tags (and i use the other features as well), a lot of companies simply throw “HTML5 knowledge” on their requirements but never actually use HTML5 for anything other than tags (and to seem modern). Or if they do, it’s for drag ‘n dropping. Some companies don’t even know what it means. If the company requires the use of the more advanced API, they usually list it (Heavy HTML5 knowledge).

      CSS3 definitely does take time but not THAT long! Especially when you only look at stuff integrated into browsers and some of the modern CSS (note, CSS, not just CSS3) uses:

      * grids with inline-block, and floats
      * CSS3 effects for creating buttons
      * subtle CSS3 effects (text highlighting for example)
      * typography related CSS3
      * selectors

  6. BadgerMuffins says:

    This is an awesome post, all of it is brilliant advice; craigslist is a bit useless here in the UK though the rest is pure gold. I need to stop looking for jobs that seem to be the “perfect fit” and just f’ing submit my CV (within reason).

    Cheers!

  7. One could also get trained to be a better PHP developer. One of the first PHP trade schools in the world is open to everyone. Learn at your own pace, in a group setting, or 1-on-1. See http://www.phpu.cc/ for the plan that works best for you. But first, you should come join us for free lessons and mentoring at #learnphp on freenode.net.

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