This month (November 2015), I celebrate my 10th anniversary being an independent tester. I’m glad I took that step. It made me a better tester and a better person. In those ten year I have seen and encountered a lot of things.
The reason I started, was ….. money. My last job for an employer was working as a tester for a consultancy firm. I saw on the board that they charged me for €65 per hour. On my salary slip I saw that I earned about €21 per hour. So my question was, where does all that money go to. This kept me thinking and I started to calculate what I can do myself with having €65 per hour.
One thing I noted that besides the money, you must have something to offer. When things started to boil in my head, I was contacted by a person who wanted me to work for him. I told him that I was investigating to work as an independent. He offered me his help. I set up my shop and he provided me my first gig. Lucky? Perhaps. At that time, i.e. late 2005, business was booming as we recovered from the Internet bubble.
I got an nice hourly rate for the assignment, so I could do the things I wanted to do. No, not spending on a new Porsche. To invest in myself, the way I wanted to. I started directly with training and courses. I got my ISTQB Foundation and Advanced certification and PRINCE2 Foundation certification. I already moved to my second assignment via an agency for freelancers and independent consultants.
I realized that I needed to do more than that. The assignment I was doing, Test Manager, was okay, but I needed to be valuable. I started to browse the Internet and see where and how I could work on improving my knowledge. I did some more training and some reading on the Internet. I discovered the work of James Bach and Cem Kaner. This really got me interested as I liked the way they were working. I wanted to learn that and I was able to do that. The assignment provided me the room and I could go to see them at conferences. This was really interesting. I improved my knowledge about testing and test management. So for me, it was every year going to two training/courses and two conferences. Next to that reading about testing on the Internet. With one goal in mind. To become valuable.
This was somewhere in 2008. I think this was a good strategy for me. Why? As we had a booming period from 2005 to 2008, the financial crisis started and a lot of consultants were forced to leave there assignment. That did not happen to me. The work I did, made me somehow valuable for the organization.
As time went on I visited some conferences like STAR-West, STAR-East, Better Software Testing, CAST, Agile Testing Days, Lets Test, Test Bash, TestNet. I did some training too like Certified Scrum Master, Risk Management, Agile Testing, Session Based Test Management, Rapid Software Testing, Problem Solving Leadership. I also visited some peer conferences, like WOPR, STiFS, DEWT, TITAN. The reason I’m mention this, is that I could make the decision to do that. Why? Because, I’m was able to decide this myself and did not need some management approval for that. Only some time off, which I got from my customer.
Note that relation management is also important. My customer was providing me that, but also my wife. Hence, she started also her own shop as a pedicure at the same time I did. She knows what it is to be independent and having you own business. You need to be aware that you have to provide a decent income to support your family. Please keep that in mind too.
As you want to become an independent consultant, don’t do it for the money. Do it because you have something to offer. Something of value to some persons or organizations. People will recognize that. They want you to stay longer on other projects. The money you earn, invest this in your education. Learn as much as you can. You have the liberty to choose what is important at that time, because you can decide which training you will follow, which conference you can visit. Do this and become so good that they can not ignore you.