Consultant's Corner: Freelance is freedom
In this article, ProData Consultant and Solution Architect Mateusz Miernik shares his thoughts on freelance life and reflects on why freelancing is the ultimate career path.
Welcome to the Consultant’s Corner series, a blog for independent IT freelancers. Here you can find out what fellow high-end IT consultants are up to in their current or recent projects. Read about trending technologies, and get inspiration from the freelance journey of other like-minded IT professionals.
Why did you become a freelancer?
It is a good question. Maybe I should start by saying that it really depends on where you are a freelancer. In Poland, becoming a freelancer is still a very open definition, I think. For instance, if a friend asks me what I am, I would reply freelancer, and most would think of it as being self-employed on a B2B contract, which in this case, means short term contracts, and a certain degree of instability when it comes to consistent work.
"... as a freelancer, I can choose what I am doing and with what technology and this is a huge motivation for me."
I became a freelancer because of the freedom it provides. Essentially, I get to choose what I want to do, and when I want to be doing it. For me, it is essential to make a living doing what I love and what I mostly think about, and not to have a project that I know is killing me inside. But as a freelancer, I can choose what I am doing and with what technology – and this is a huge motivation for me.
Furthermore, I find that freelancing and working as an independent consultant increases the cash flow! And if I am doing what I love, in addition to making good money, then it is hard to complain.
What is the best part about freelancing?
What I really enjoy when it comes to freelance work is the technologies that you can work on, as well as the often large scope and scale of the projects. Right now there are so many technologies out there, so limiting oneself to only one is not good. You need to develop yourself on all levels, whether you are a software developer, system engineer or, in my case, when it comes to creating the proper architecture. But I enjoy this aspect of the job, and I think that this feeling is common amongst other geeks in tech.
Another benefit of freelancing, is the chance to meet many recruiters from companies like ProData Consult who have many assignments, which provides an opportunity to work with the latest technologies.
What does it take to be successful as a freelance consultant?
This is a tricky question, and there many different answers. The definition of success varies and depends on who you ask. The most straightforward and simple answer would probably be: to deliver according to scope or task and be able to tell the client “OK done”.
As an infrastructure engineer, most of my tasks revolve around infrastructure parts in hardware and software solutions and creating dedicated solutions for the clients’ specific software, i.e., containerization and automatization.
For instance, I am currently part of a migration project where we are deploying an entirely new infrastructure for a client. It sounds ok, but under the surface, you have to deal with a lot of legacy and many existing tricky solutions made by other administrators or developers. It is a challenge to move it from prehistoric 2003 OS to a modern 2016/2019 OS, which would be the equivalent of going from the Noah’s Ark to the USS Enterprise in Star Trek.
“... I always overdeliver if possible, and I have found that this helps me build better relations with the client.”
Therefore, as a consultant, you need to have an open mind. Be open to the development process. Usually, I like to arrange special meetings with the client to present how we will approach the project, as well as let the client know that we will be delivering full documentation at the end of it – as a professional should.
I like to be very organized – sometimes to the point where I can get a little carried away – I usually create a backup system for the solution or provide the client suggestions on the best practice way and how to handle a task or the project. Essentially, I always overdeliver if possible, and I have found that this also helps me build better relations with the client.
Making the client happy is a vital part of the job. And because I am a very chatty and extroverted person, my meetings tend to be much more than just hardcore “cold” tech stuff. No matter where the client is from, I have found that the topic of food usually “serves” as a great conversation starter or finisher, as everyone usually likes to eat. So, this is my little tip.
What is crucial for you when choosing new projects?
When I am looking for my next project, the technology stack in question matters a lot. Moreover, it is important for me to have the possibility to work remotely and not exclusively in the office. Lastly, we have the purpose of the company in question, what is the company doing and does it excite me?
Greenfield vs Brownfield projects?
This is a tricky question, but for an Infrastructure Architect like me, the projects I am involved in would probably fall in the Greenfield category as I am able to choose architecture, platform and the technology that fits with the infrastructure environment.
What do you look for in a consultancy partner?
It is essential for me that the consultancy partner has a healthy backlog of freelance opportunities because it is an indicator that the company is good at getting clients. Moreover, it provides a little more security in my freelance career, as I can better focus on the job at hand, knowing that my chances of landing a new assignment are higher, once I finish the one I am working on.
How do you keep your skills up-to-date?
I like the quote: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.
Keeping my skills up-to-date comes easy for me as I am fascinated with technology. I love to play with technology, participate in technical meetings and talk to other tech geeks about tech! I am always aware of and keeping up with the latest developments in the market. And I have found that it helps build relationships as well. There are many online tech communities, where fellow geeks are willing to help you out if you are stuck with a tech issue, and these discussions are a great learning experience.
Mateusz Miernik is an experienced Solution Architect with more than 11 years of experience in the IT and production sector. He has excellent practical knowledge of virtualization, cloud, infrastructure, and IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL).
In his most recent project, his duties included operations on the client's infrastructure, creating dedicated documentation, and cooperating with network vendors. MM worked with the following technologies: Windows Server 2003/2008/2012/2016, VMWare, VMware ESX, VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, SQL, Active Directory (AD), Oracle DB, Postgres, Dynamix CRM, IBM Cognos, Cisco, HP Networks, Microsoft MDM, Togaf 9.2.