I was reminded today of just how much opportunity there is in the world. I met with a new friend and potential client to discuss two websites he wants to build. Our talk focused mostly on his business, but we made a number of digressions into general business in Asia, incorporation, visa issues and a number of other topics of concern to expats.
...don't work for free.
After a nice hour long chat we finally came to the point of the matter: Project details and compensation. The offer he gave was an all-to-common one: Build this "small" thing for free and their will be tons of paying work down the road. I can't speak to the experience of other developers, but this is something I hear all too often. Potential clients like to lure people of various background to do some up front work for free with a promise to deliver paying work down the road. Projects like these can be tempting for new developers, but they rarely pan out. Doing free work, regardless of the promised riches down the road, is generally a mistake and at best it means taking on unnecessary risk as a developer. If the project works out, you might get paid later or you might not, but even if you do there's really no reason to wait unless you truly believe in the project (i.e. you think it's the next Facebook). Business if full of risk, but working as a developer/freelancer/consultant should not be risky work.
So, for the time being that particular project isn't going to be on my todo list but it was an insightful conversation nonetheless and we ended up talking for two hours. What really stood out to me was another proposal that my friend made, which was to go into apparel sales here in Taiwan.
The idea of selling apparel in Taiwan would have seemed like a novel idea a day ago, but after listening to my friend talk about the opportunities in the market and the success he's already had I must say I'm intrigued. I don't plan to start selling apparel tomorrow, but I was reminded of something that I truly hope I will never forget: Opportunity is everywhere. As a developer it's so easy to get sucked in to the world of code. After all, if you can code you can literally build anything you want. But from a business perspective it is really only one small slice of the much larger economy, and there are all sorts of opportunities elsewhere as well.
Good conversation should be thought provoking, and todays meeting certainly hit the mark.