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Ready to "Go Pro"? Leaving the 9-to-5 Routine

Although the title may lead you to believe that this article only
discusses issues involved with leaving your "other job" to become
a free-lance Web builder, don't be mistaken - A Web builder's job
is hardly ever finished, and the normal work-hours of "9-to-5"
will soon become a thing of that past, if you're ready to take
that big step. Web builders can frequently be found in their
offices at odd hours of the morning, and often on weekends, so
don't be too surprised if, once you're full-time in this
profession, you get a call at 2:00 a.m., asking you where you put
such-and-such a file, or what the password for some odd FTP site
is. Computer professionals in general are well-known for their
rather free working styles and hours, as well as often times not
seeing the light of day, for weeks on end. This becomes
especially true, when you have clients in foreign countries, who
operate on time zones different than your own.

Many of you out there are not yet employed full-time in a Web
professional capacity, but are more likely starting out, either
as hobbyists, freelancers, or part-timers for organizations that
have limited Web development needs. But, as time goes on, the
urge to develop bigger, better, and more sophisticated sites will
take its toll, and you may be called upon to make a decision as
to whether to try your hand at Web building full-time or not. In
most cases, builders want to give it a go, and make a full-time
career out of the Web industry. One thing in particular that will
be a challenge, is convincing prospective employers that you have
enough experience, and skill to fill the position being sought.

So, how should you prepare for this, and when is the correct time
to make your move into the Web industry, as a permanent career
switch? To say, "Seven months, two days, and 14 minutes after you
build your first site is the correct timing" would be an
impossible thing to do. Bringing it down to specifics is not a
science, but more like an art, and you'll have to rely a lot on
your own instinct, as well as the self-confidence you have in
your own abilities. Look at the position you're applying for, in
regard to the skills you possess. If you find yourself
consistently not possessing the skill-set sought, then you need
to spend more time honing your knowledge in these subjects. At
some point, you'll see that certain advertisement and say "Hey! I
fit all of those requirements!". Bingo! You've just realized that
the time has arrived.

While you're waiting though, there are several key things that
need to be prepared. First and foremost, get yourself together a
good resume, in HTML format PLUS a text-only format. No Web
development company is going to take a potential job candidate
seriously, when they haven't even taken the time to prepare their
resume in an online accessible format. Likewise, Web companies
have a tendency to request resumes be submitted via e-mail, and
that means having a resume ready in text-only form. When creating
that HTML resume page, make sure that it is one of the cleanest
pieces of code you're created in your entire development history.
Make sure that every browser can access it, without error
messages, that layers don't show up in 3.0 browsers placed on top
of each other at every turn, and that it downloads quickly and
efficiently. Creating dynamically generated, dHTML pages, with
hi-resolution graphics that take 10 minutes to download is a sure
way to NOT impress a prospective employer, and a bad reflection
on your design style and judgement.

But your work is not finished there. Aesthetics aren't everything
and your content will need to back up, what your page design
infers. Pick up a copy of a book, such as "The Damn Good Resume
Guide" (Yana Parker / 1996) and Harvey Mackay's all-time great
"Swim With The Sharks: Without Being Eaten Alive" (Harvey Mackay
/ 1996). Read them, study them, memorize them. Learn what sells
you and your job skills. When the time comes to present yourself,
you'll be glad you did.

Onward with the preparation... Every developer who possesses a
personal portfolio, will have a much better chance of getting the
job position they seek. If you've built any type of site, be it a
personal site, or something built on a freelance basis, make sure
that it is available for viewing by potential employers. If the
site was built as a temporary or time-limited site, make sure
that you retain a copy of it, and it is available somewhere,
online. A note though, if you do include personal sites in your
portfolio, make sure that they represent an image of yourself
that is both professional and desirable to prospective employers.
In these cases, it may be better to suppress references to your
hobby of collecting sharp weapons, or your on-going campaign to
convince authorities you WERE actually abducted by an alien.

In closing - The final thing to take into consideration, is to be
sure that you are getting your real worth, when being offered a
position of employment as a Web developer. Do your homework,
research the job market, pay scales, and comparable items that
are specific to your geographical location. Don't just accept any
position offered, without first considering what your OWN
requirements of the employer are. The industry is highly
competitive and the right skill-set can mean a huge difference in
the compensation and benefits packages offered.

"Wait!", you're saying, "I don't want to be a full-time employee.
I want to be a freelancer!". Well, in this case, we have one
important piece of advice for those of you wanting to become full
time freelancers... Stock up on instant noodles. You may need
them in the early days. But, that's another article, and another

About the Author
Steve Cartwright
Website Designs (UK) Ltd
Cyber Aspect - Publishing