[thelist] OT - do programmers/designers know *everything*?

Tom Dell'Aringa pixelmech at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 23 15:19:00 CDT 2002

Roger, I am 36, and have a family to boot, so I know where you are
coming from. I also worked freelance out of my home for 2 years so I
have some experience, like many others.

I also agree, nobody knows everything. Anyone who tells you they
never look at a reference (online or book) is lying to you -
especially in the web world where it is a must to know multiple
languages/markups etc.

Having said that - you should be *proficient* in your core skills.
HTML should be a core skill, and you should rarely be looking up
stuff, IMO (but sure, it happens.) And either JavaScript or VBScript
too, you should be profiecient at, in my opinion - depending on if
you lean towards MS stuff (VB) or not. This means, you need to be
able to write functions off the top of your head to *start* with.

I find myself going to my JS references to either double check
something I have written, to *verify* something (i.e., did I use the
correct reference or keyword, did I get the structure correct from
memory since I don't use it much) OR, to reference something I don't
use much (such as regular expressions.) Lastly, when I'm writing
something I have never done, thats the other time I ref. stuff.

But outside your core competencies, don't expect to be able to write
stuff off the cuff all the time. Like someone else said, when you
code in something 30 hours a week you get real good. But when you
code in something 3 hours a week, not so good. I know Java to a
point, but ask me to write a Java program and I'm all over my books.
But I can look at Java code and basically know what is going on
(include JSP in that.)

Some things, like CSS are still emerging technologies, too. Expect to
be referencing stuff that changes or has poor standards and lots of

As far as money goes: Let me be a little more frank than others. Back
in 97, 98 I made roughly $50,000, give or take as a GROSS. Luckily,
my wife worked at the time because that was not enough. I think after
taxes and all, I made around $28k. Not great. The trick about
freelancing is this:

A: You need to be able to sell work all the time in addition to doing
it, to keep work coming or

B: You need to garner clients that provide continual work.

Both are tricky. I got to the point where it was either start a real
business and hire sales people, or get a "real" job. I chose a job. I
got with a startup as the boom was ramping up and made decent money
then ($70k when I left). For awhile, I did even better with Scient,
BUT whoah have things changed!

I was unemployed for 8 months until early this year, trying to
freelance. I even tried those online place where you can bid for jobs
- they are - IMO - a joke. You got kids and foriegn folks bidding on
jobs for TEN bucks an hour or even less. On 500 dollar jobs. Any big
jobs, you never seem to be able to get considered for, and they are
still being bid DIRT cheap - so even if you got it, in the long run
it wouldn't be worth it.

So, I searched and searched (with a headhunter) till I finally got a
contract job in Las Vegas, where I had to move from Chicago. (Had no
choice, losin the house!) Here I do (D)HTML, CSS, JavaScript, small
JSP building front ends for back end stuff. I get around $21 per hour
plus a per diem, but you can only collect that for one year. Will
they hire me? Who knows.

Its a tough go. If you don't have a family, its easier. My
suggestions to you:

1: Get solid on core stuff: HTML, CSS, JavaScript or VBScript (both
if you can!)

2: Learn at least one server side tech (ASP, JSP, PHP). I put PHP
last because there are more "real" job opps in order I put them.
Note, MS stuff seems to me to pay less, and more people all over it.

3: At least understand relational databases and how they work, and at
least understand basic SQL - its not hard.

Everything I suggest above, I learned on my own. You can do it, you
just have to knuckle down and code a lot.

Best of luck to you!

(sorry for the length all)


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