Refactor Your Career
I raised my rate 467% in three years
Hey there! I'm Elliot Bonneville, a contracting web developer living in Rhode Island and working remotely. I love coding, and I don’t plan on ever stopping.
At one point, though, I wasn’t so sure of that. After four years without any significant raises, I needed to make more money.
I knew that something had to change. I tried launching a startup, running a digital marketing business, and even technical writing.
It wasn’t long before I found out that all of those other jobs made me miserable, and all I wanted to do was code (sound familiar?). I hated spending every day drowning in meetings and dragging JIRA tickets around, cold calling lawyers, or trying to teach people over Zoom.
So I went back to programming.
But when I learned my wife and I were expecting, I realized I had to figure out a way to make more money while continuing to do what I loved. I knew it was possible, because other people did it – but what I didn’t know was how.
It took a lot of frustration, anxiety, and coming within 24 hours of missing our rent payment, but after some truly desperate times...
I doubled my rate.
And then I doubled it again. And then I raised it some more, just for good measure.
It turns out, getting more money for the work you love to do isn’t all that hard – you just have to know how. But...
The devil’s in the details.
If I told you all you had to do in order to double your rate was:
- Change jobs frequently (without being seen as a job hopper)
- Be willing to walk away from offers
- Have a specialty
- Know your true worth
- Be confident on the phone
- Negotiate aggressively
...would you believe me? Well, it’s all pretty reasonable stuff. But just from that list, can you actually go raise your rates? I couldn’t. A lot of people talk about these things online, but what they were saying wasn’t enough.
And that’s why I wrote this artisanal hand-typed book. It’s the guide I wish somebody had handed me six years ago. I share everything I learned along the way, like how to talk to recruiters, whether it’s better to bill as a corporation or as an individual, and how to negotiate aggressively and with confidence.
Fair warning, the advice in this book isn’t for everybody. The person I was six years ago may not be the person you are today.
This book is for you if you...
- Have at least two or three years of programming experience
- Love software development, but see work as a means to an end
- Would like to stay at an individual contributor level
- Are actively looking for ways to make more money
- Are willing to go outside of your comfort zone and learn hard new things
It's not for you if you...
- Are a brand new software developer or haven't found your first role yet
- Value what you're doing and/or who you're doing it with more than the money
- Are comfortable with your current income or are not motivated by money
- Aren’t willing to consider contracting as an alternative to full-time employment
Okay. Still with me?
Here’s the deal: every developer has two jobs: writing code, and finding people to pay them to write code. Most developers know about the first job, but far fewer developers realize they should be working the second one too.
What does that second job look like? Well, as the old sales adage goes: good marketing and a bad product beat a great product with bad marketing.
Learn to market and sell yourself, and you will make more money.
Please note that is this a beta release, and as such is not representative of the final product. I'll be doing high-level restructuring and additions / deletions in response to feedback as it comes in, so expect typos and grammatical errors in this unpolished version.
Table of Contents
- Why I wrote this book and who I am
- Who this book is for and who this book is not for
- What this book is about
- Chapter 1: I 5x’d My Rate In Three Years
- My story in brief
- $30/hr: inbound via Stack Overflow
- $30/hr to $35/hr: referral
- $95/hr: inbound via Stack Overflow
- $60/hr: social networking
- $110/hr: I post my resume online
- $120/hr: recruiter
- $140/hr: recruiter
- Chapter 2: Quit Your Job
- All raises are relative to your starting salary
- After a certain point, your company can’t afford you any more
- For every company that will pay you 200%, there also exists a company that will pay you 400%
- It’s very difficult to be paid your true value
- Don’t be a job hopper, be a contractor
- Chapter 3: Talk With Recruiters
- Recruiters are an important resource
- Recruiters look for the highest return-on-investment candidates
- Only talk to high-level recruiters
- Confidence is a proxy for value
- Become confident on the phone
- Read sales books and learn sales
- Chapter 4: Learn To Negotiate
- Recruiters agencies profit when you lower your rate
- Charging more makes you worth more
- Be prepared to bargain
- Compromise on other things besides rate
- Play multiple offers against each other
- Offers are limited-time-only
- Don’t ghost recruiters
- Chapter 5: Optimize Your Online Presence To Generate Leads
- Optimize your resume
- Instant resume disqualifiers
- Optimize your LinkedIn profile
- Have a lot of connections
- Set your location to a major tech hub
- Make your profile page stand out
- Get recommendations from people you’ve worked with in the past
- Resources for further reading on LinkedIn optimization
- Chapter 6: Don’t Work With Startups or Household Names
- Don’t work with startups
- Taking equity is becoming a micro venture capitalist
- Empirically, equity is not as valuable as it seems
- Startup benefits are the cheese in the mousetrap
- Don’t work with household names
- The Goldilocks Zone is big companies that aren’t FAANGs
- Talent begets talent; therefore, go where talent is not
- Smaller companies are more able to negotiate
- Live in a low cost-of-living area, work in a high cost-of-living area
- Chapter 7: Start Your Own Contracting Company
- Billing corp-to-corp results in higher earnings
- Set up your business correctly
- Read low-risk contracts yourself
- Contracts are negotiable
- Payment terms
- Termination clause
- Non-solicitation clause
- Non-compete clause
- Non-disclosure agreement
- Never give notice before you sign the paperwork
- Chapter 8: Build Your Network
- Do astonishingly good work
- Build relationships with colleagues and bosses
- Stay front-of-mind with contacts as time goes by
- Your network has a half-life
- Look for mentors
- Chapter 9: Improve Your Mindset – Yes, You Can Charge More
- Employers want business value, not engineers
- Many limits are self-imposed
- Be wary of plateauing and local maxima
- Confidence and skill do not increase together
- Chapter 10: Don’t Be A Commodity
- Find a niche
- Dig yourself moats
- Build credibility
- Ask yourself if you really believe you can raise your rates
- Decide on your career story
- Update your resume and your LinkedIn
- Start talking with recruiters as soon as possible
- Negotiate well
- Do astonishingly good work
- Network and build credibility
- Let me know
I have a no-questions-asked refund policy. If you decide this book wasn't what you were expecting or you're not 100% satisfied with what you find, just shoot me an email and I'll send you a full refund.
Can't Afford It?
If you can't afford this book or you're out of a job because of COVID or related problems, just shoot me an email and we'll work something out.
Access to beta ePDF and ePub files + access to the Refactor Your Career Slack group.