Drowning in a sea of experts

I am a developer in my early 40’s. I have been developing for nearly 17 years as a freelancer.
Also, I have bee battling depression. My source of help has been mindfulness meditation. It helps, but I do dip on occasion and fall back into depressive habits. (withdrawn, moody, silent).

I have a family, young kids and a wife.

These past two years especially have been hard, the recession has forced the demand down for freelancers. When I look at the skills in demand, they are all centered around front end technologies, whereas mine are in PHP.

I worked out how much i earnt on my last project, it was just above minimum wage. Despite the late nights and constant reading up on new and emerging technologies in an attempt to stay current.

The upshot of all this is that it is feeding into my worthlessness, and depressive tendencies. I cant provide for my family. I am looking at jobs, the salaries are so poor due to the glut of university graduates, it seems as if experience counts for nothing.

Right now, i feel like my life is circling the plug hole and i dont know what to do. My partner isnt any good at offering support, she is VERY practical, i.e. no room for emotions so i look only for people that understand to talk to.

Hi boobang,

Thanks for sharing. Sorry to hear times are tough right now. I can relate to some of what you are saying, although for me the issue is when I look for new positions they are looking for x number of years in a specific language in order to pay x amount. I have changed languages & frameworks in every position I have had, and have handled the transitions and have the overall experience, but this has limited my options unless I want to take a pay cut.

I definitely understand why this search would feed into depression. Just a few thoughts, for what it’s worth: Perhaps try finding a few recruiters that you trust to match your skill set to a position. I am sure there are companies out there that see the value in the experience you bring to the table. Also, if it is an option for you, try expanding your search to other locations that are looking for developers to work remotely. We are blessed with the ability to work from anywhere and often the usage of some languages is more prevalent in certain areas.

I hope you find something soon.

Take care,


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Its a sense of feeling trapped in a profession i no longer enjoy. I cant see a way out.
on top of that, i have just had a conversation with someone who has come back from filming in india, this person landed the contract through another parent at their kids school. Also, another company next door, they have just advertised for staff due to increased workload.
yet here i am, bug fixing someone elses work, which i can guarantee at the end no one will appreciate.
i just cant see a way out.

where are my lucky breaks? i network a lot, speak to people, advertise and market myself. yet i get the bottom of the barrel clients, ones with no money (and in many cases, manners!)

@boobang I have no experience as freelancer. But last year I switched employer and in my search I just looked for the vacancies that got me excited, that could bring me to a higher knowledge level and where my experience could be put to good use. In that search, I looked at the vacancy requirements in the sense of what I could bring to the table, not what I didn’t have. I just applied for the job if the project/team of the vacancy got me excited, even if I didn’t match the requirements. And I’ve let the recruiter decide if they found me interesting and fitting for the vacancy or not. Because the IT is vage. You will never know everything that’s being asked (“required”), most of the stuff you learn on the job. It’s just a question if you know enough to fill the vacancy in a useful way.

What I mean is, if you’re an awesome backend PHP’er and have “some” frontend experience, you can still be very useful for a full-stack vacancy. Just your expertise lays at the backend, the rest you can learn on the job. A team full of frontend of full-stack engineers has its limitations, adding a experienced backend engineer to such a team will greatly improve the backend stuff the team developers. In a world of full-stack engineers, you still need expertises in the different areas (frontend, backend, security, infrastructure, design, etc).

To find the higher grade PHP companies, check out who sponsors and speakers of PHP conferences and meetups in your area and outside it. Companies doing dynamic languages like PHP are often the hipper kind and often support working remote, making location less of an issue.

If you really do not enjoy the profession anymore and are looking for a way out… do you have any clue what kind of profession you would/do enjoy?
If so, than you can try to work towards that. I’m sure there a different ways of doing that and it probably also depends on the profession you want to switch to. But just go for it. Make a roadmap and go for it. In its simplest form you can just start applying for jobs in your new profession, even in a traineeship/apprenticeship way… if that is available in that profession.

I hope this gives you some ideas and you’ll find something better soon.

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Hmm, I can’t relate to your situation as I do have a degree, but let me tell ya, that degree didn’t prepare me at all for the actual professional field. I’m also finding a lot of devs that get hired into agencies are guys that taught themselves. These days I get recruiters spamming my inbox for skills I don’t even have! But this is what’s helped me in getting that recruiter stalkeridge to happen.

Marketing Yourself.

I attended a WordCamp last year where I heard an entire presentation by a WP freelancer Boone Gorges, Free Software, Free Labor and the Freelancer. Even if I wasn’t a freelancer, a lot of the concepts in his talk opened my eyes and made sense to me. I started a dev blog as a result and am still at it! It’s getting me recognition little by little which in turn, becomes job opportunities.

What Boone talks about basically, is when we’re all this anonymous developer that no one knows, there’s really no way for people to know how skilled you really are or if you’re really in demand aside from your resume. And everyone has a resume so it’s easy to get lost in there. So in order to charge more for your work, you have to create that demand, that credibility that you’re an expert in your field, and once you become that trusted source, the work will not only come in, but you can charge more because now you have that credibility.

You can gain this credibility by contributing to open source projects, working on side projects you can put online in your portfolio, participating in coding groups or support forums for certain platforms, start a blog, and so on. The goal is to get your work out there, and be able to point these things out to potential employers or recruiters to show that your work is solid, that you’re a credible person to hire. It’s hard work to do this, it doesn’t happen overnight, but I’ve been inspired ever since that talk, and having my blog is helping me immensely.

Also have your LinkedIn profile up to date, with a photo, and be active on at least one social network. Looks like everything is online these days and it’s not always enough to just know someone who knows someone.

I’m also surprised that PHP would be low in demand. Here in NY, especially when it comes to platforms like Drupal and WordPress, recruiters LOVE PHP. Are you applying to remote positions as well? Perhaps this can open more opportunities.

Also make accounts on sites like hired.com or see recruiting companies that will keep your resume on hand, so job opportunities can come to you. Work Bridge got me the job I was at for a few years before I moved on, they were great.

Anyway, I hope I wasn’t too rude or anything since I can’t relate to your situation exactly. But I hope I’ve helped a little. I agree that jobs are placing way too much emphasis on a piece of paper, and that’s everywhere, not just dev jobs, it doesn’t make any sense. So perhaps having a strong online presence in some form might help. Good luck!

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