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Web Development: Freelancing vs. Working for an agency

Words byGeorge HieronOctober 3, 2017

It has now been four weeks since I started working at Atomic Smash, and having previously been a freelance WordPress developer I thought I would use my first blog post to highlight some of the differences I have noticed about working as a solo developer, versus developing as part of the Atomic Smash team.

Firstly, some background; I started to pick up web development just under two years ago whilst working at Knowle West Media Centre as one of a team of eight Junior Digital Producer, because we were required to build a website to showcase the results of our research work there. As a linguist, I enjoyed learning programming languages as they posed a challenge very unlike human languages, and when KWMC was looking for a web developer to work on a freelance basis for their Eight scheme, I stuck with it and gained lots of experience developing for them for the past year and a half or so.

And now here I am at Atomic Smash! It’s been a great first month, and I’ve already had quite the variety of tasks to do, from chipping in with current WordPress builds to creating some custom HTML email templates.

One of the most notable things about working in a team like this, is how all members of the team have contributions to make in order to streamline the team’s workflow, many of which are covered in this blog. This makes the process of development feel as though it is never in danger of stagnation, which is important in such a modern industry! Certainly I have already learned plenty of new tricks, such as using Twig and Timber (check Colin’s blog post on that), and the Atom text editor with the Pigments package, which is definitely filed under ‘things I never knew I needed until I used it’.

Screenshot of code using Pigments

An example of how Pigments makes colours easier to read and remember.

Another thing that is great about developing as part of a team is simply having other people, developers or otherwise, to bounce your problems or ideas off of. Beyond the ‘rubber duck’ factor, it’s nice to be able to have help from other developers on hand when you get stuck, rather than jumping straight onto Google and trawling through some old Stackoverflow posts to find the solution to your woes.

Being freelance also has its merits of course. I can’t say that getting the bus to work in Bristol has ever been a joyous experience, and being your own boss of course gives you complete control over your own time management. The feeling of freedom that you get from being able to choose your own hours really is great. Not feeling well this morning? Put in more hours later. Have to run to the post office? No problem! This freedom extends to being able to work on whichever bits of the build you like at any time, though of course it’s always better to put some kind of logic and order into that. It’s also nice to get away with working in your pyjamas (not that I ever did that, of course! ?).

However, whilst working from home can be great, it can also be a double-edged sword, as I would sometimes find myself working much later into the evening than I should. Having a fixed routine is starting to feel nice. On top of that, it’s good to work in a social environment; it’s definitely helped me avoid the cabin fever of working alone in my box room of a home office!

After my first month I feel like I’m now adjusted to the workflow of being a full-time, 9-5 developer, and I look forward to continuing my work at Atomic Smash, getting really stuck into their current builds and moving onwards and upwards with my development skills.

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