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Sunday 6 April 2008

Arranging my holidays as a freelance

It might seem strange that after my first week as a freelance, I already talk about holidays, but I think it's more than normal. For example, I have developed a tool to manage the production lines of a company, and if that tool stops working, they're in big trouble. If this happens when I'm on holiday, in the middle of the mountains where a GSM is completely useless and internet connection is even more utopic, they're in HUGE trouble. Although I would enjoy my hollyday, ignoring what happens, my return would be that more catastrophic.

As it is not possible to find a solid solution in the last weeks before leaving, and although no holiday is planned yet, I am already putting all pieces in place. The first one is

If I want someone else to be on call and the point of contact of my customers, that someone should have all what is needed to also solve the possible problems, know the history with the customer, etc. The best way to achieve that is to extensively document all what is done: source code, infrastructure, requests from the customer, etc
Although source code comments should be a natural reflex, I hadn't found the tool I wanted to use for the rest. But this is now ok: I'll use Dokuwiki. It's really the perfect tool for that task: simple formatting; storage done in text files, making the content available in any text editor, and making integration with source code control tools easy; tons of plugins; file attachments; private wikis possible.

A positive side effect is also that I'll build a knowledge base I'll be able to use for future projects.

But if documentation is a necessary condition, it's not sufficient. You also need

Someone you trust
If you share all your documentation, contacts, etc, you'd better be sure that person won't short-circuit you and steal your customer. Although I want to build a relation of trust with my customers, making such a move more difficult, I'd rather work with someone I trust.

And I have the chance to know the right person! It's been some time now that I work closely with Bart from Zeropoint.it for MyOwnDB and other things. This collaboration has let us build a relation of trust, to the point that I'll contract Zeropoint to care for my customers during my holidays. Zeropoint has a team spread over Belgium and Pakistan, providing customised IT solutions in all domains you can imagine. With the good documentation I'll provide them, I'll be able to go on holiday with peaceful mind!

So if you're ever going freelance, one of the first things you should think of is your holiday! Isn't that great?


Anonymous said...

Ha! Great minds think alike :-) I've been using TWiki for similar reason's. In the meantime it became a central tool for all administration: documentation, CRM, making proposals, ....

And yes, backup is important. Though I'm having a tougher time finding good sysadmins proficient in Windows and *nix environments.

Good deals on contracting would be important also. Ping your lawyer.

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