Success Story: James Cross

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Having a specialist skill set can be a great base for a freelancing career. After unfortunately being made redundant, James Cross, a developer, made the decision to work for himself after discovering he could earn more as a freelancer. He’s been enjoying all of the benefits that freelancing brings ever since!

Could you give us a brief outline of what you do as a Freelance Developer?
I work across a range of subject spaces, but specialize in big data and cloud computing. I'm currently working on a long term contract with a top tier consulting firm - where I consult for their clients directly. The nice thing about freelancing is that I can also do additional work on the side, so last week for example I was in New York with another client teaching their developers how to build cloud native applications.

So far, what has been your freelancing highlight?
My current contract has been really rewarding - I get to travel a lot (If I want to), and they fly me around in business class and put me up in nice hotels. The money is so much better than full time employment too.

How have you dealt with any adversity you’ve faced as a consequence of starting freelancing (if any)?
My age can be a limitation - I'm only 25 and most contractors are older than myself.

What are you aspirations for the future?
My fiancé is finishing up a PhD in Machine Learning at Imperial College London. I would like to start a Big Data/Analytics consultancy with her.

Did you always want to work for yourself whilst you were at University?

Is your current career sector in line with what you studied at University?
Mostly yes - it gave me a good grounding

Did you choose to work for yourself straight from university or did you work somewhere else first? If you worked somewhere else first, what influenced your decision to start your business?
I did a one year internship at Goldman Sachs, followed by one year on their grad scheme. Then I moved to Noble Europe because I wanted to work with more interesting technology. My whole team was made redundant due to some internal company issues however I worked with a lot of contractors and freelancers while I was there. I was amazed that they earned so much more than I did, and that was motivation enough for me.

Did your University discuss freelancing/working for yourself/starting a business as a viable option post-graduation? Did they support your transition to freelancing?
Never - this was never discussed.

Would you encourage others to start a business? If so, why?
Absolutely - and I regularly do. I think if you're a self motivated developer who is happy to adapt to new technology, it's a great option. First off the money is quite a lot better (you trade money for job security and benefits like pension etc), but it's so much more flexible. I work from home at least 3 days a week, often more. Plus freelancing gives you the chance to pick projects that you're interested in. Nobody likes supporting 20 year old trading systems!

Is there anything you would change about your journey/career so far?
I was lured to Goldman by the money, and convenience of having a grad offer in my pocket before graduation. In hindsight I should have gone somewhere that challenged me more technically.

What are your opinions on graduate schemes, if any?
I actually think my 1 year placement was the best thing I did. The grad scheme is great if you havent done a placement, but the placement really helped me learn to write good quality code, organise myself better, and generally take a more professional approach to life and my studies. I found my final year at university to be by far the easiest, simply because I had learned how to approach things in a professional way.

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