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Old 23-01-2018, 10:46   #1
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Programmers afloat a business idea

Once I was living in the carribean. I built a data center for a company. A short time before the company went bankrupt, my wife met a guy at a restaurant who was the director of a government agency that needed a database upgrade. So when my old job ended I contracted with him to write their database app. I made a really good wage for a short time sitting on my boat in St Thomas harbour doing it.
Unfortunately since I knew no one else who needed such work,that was the only gig I got doing that.

So here is the idea. Myself and a few other floating programmers get together an pool money. Hire an agency to get us "remote" software writing gigs which we can do as we have internet connectivity.

My question how viable is such an idea?

Your input is appreciated.
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Old 23-01-2018, 10:55   #2
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

Sounds like a cool idea. As a PHP/MySQL programmer myself, would love to hear input of others.
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Old 23-01-2018, 10:57   #3
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

I've toyed with the same idea being that I place dozens of engineers a year in my work. The problem is... clients love to see you sitting in a chair. The whole work-remote thing is slowly going out of favor because of the following factors:

1) They have moved operations to low-cost areas in the USA, meaning office space is not the cost center it once was.

2) So much work that was previously done is highly automated. Data centers no longer require hundreds of workers to run, now they need maybe a dozen. Same with programming.

3) Development is now highly collaborative and quick paced; companies have had mixed results with remote workers in this type of environment. Yes, there are plenty of companies that succeed in this area but they are rarer than is popularly thought.

With that said - I do believe there is a market for remote/senior/experienced IT workers that is untapped but you are not going to be making the same wages you make onsite. Instead of $70-$90 an hour or more as a consultant ($150-$200) you are going to maybe maybe in the 30's or less.

A good site that you can already look into is guru.com but as you say selling yourself is the tough part.
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Old 23-01-2018, 11:59   #4
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

I've had the same thought, Tom. I'm the senior lead web developer, US-wide, for a large insurance company and planning to retire in three years. I'm not looking for a full time gig. I'd be quite content spending a couple of afternoons a week when in wifi range maintaining the existing websites for small and medium sized companies. If I only cleared $300-400 per month, that'd be just dandy. There has to be a market for those services, too. It'd be awesome to have a group agent who sourced such jobs, and bigger, for us. Let me know what you come up with.
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Old 23-01-2018, 12:42   #5
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

I can't judge whether this is a good business idea or not. However, if your goal is to find projects for which you are qualified and allow you to work remotely from your boat, I think that there are are number of job sites out there that post contracts. Plus, there are numerous vendors out there that make their living bringing the right talent onto projects.

I also agree that face time with the client is important. However, sometimes the occasional visit to the client site is all that is needed.

Good luck on your quest.

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Old 23-01-2018, 13:13   #6
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

I too have made some money while living aboard through programming. However, it was only through good networking contacts I had before I left. It was also somewhat proprietary code that required a good knowledge of the client infrastructure.

I have also thought of doing general programing as a business. Unfortunately, I then found the websites offering high quality Chinese programmers for SOOOOO CHEAP. The idea died there.

However.. I have since found a small niche that earns me some beer money remotely. I use headhunters back home to find me piecemeal work in this niche!
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Old 23-01-2018, 13:32   #7
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

You need to have solid F2F relationships IRL and make enough to hop on a plane at least a few times a year to maintain them.

IMO directly with clients, not middlemen.

The pitch/interview/early project phases may require lots more F2F, depends on the type of work.

Ongoing maintenance/tweaking devOps would I'd think be a good niche.
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Old 24-01-2018, 05:44   #8
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

The points you folks bring up are valid.
The jobs that first job was found for me by my world. Then ivisited the office for a week or two while starting. The fun part, writing software on my boat was fixed and enhancements to the database done after the relationship had been established.

I also think that it might be hard to run an agile environment this way.sincr that is the thing now adays.

Oth if we figured out a way to create software dependably this way, we still need someone to find the business and keep the customer happy while the software is created and maintain relationships while the ship board staff is out sailing.��
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Old 24-01-2018, 07:56   #9
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

there are existing business that do web site design and employ contract html programmers remote to the business address.
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Old 24-01-2018, 08:26   #10
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

But then you're competing with very sharp youngsters in countries where $300 a week for fulltime is hitting the jackpot.

You need to create and cultivate the personal relationships to take advantage of our undeserved privileges!
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Old 24-01-2018, 08:34   #11
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

You might want to consider freelancing as an alternative.
In my experience, most standard consulting engagements require a lot face time with an in house team for design and turnover.
The freelancing market has developed for small to medium projects for companies that are two small for an IT staff, or for projects that are not "in their wheelhouse". The advantage is that the purchaser is ready to provide the basic documentation and requirements up front.
Some that I have used include Upwork and Fiver. Do a google on freelance boards and you will find a bunch. The big boards handle some of the tax issues as well as providing online training
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Old 24-01-2018, 08:51   #12
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

There are several large converted freighters, filled with Indians,
Europeans, etc.., throughout the world that do exactly what you would like to do.

Very possible option for you. Contact the big outfits in Europe. Banks, outsourcing, etc...

You will need a reliable and fast internet connection at all times.
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Old 24-01-2018, 08:53   #13
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

The key to this is legacy technology expertise, think things like COBOL, FORTRAN, DB2, etc. This is an area where the inexpensive Chinese and Indian programmers generally can't compete as most are brought up on the latest and greatest technologies. If you are adept with legacy mainframe systems, yes they really still do exist out there, or legacy technology in general you may find some work. I know of a few COBOL programmers that pretty much name their price and work terms as independent consultants for large financial and insurance companies that still rely heavily on core infrastructure that is over 20 years old and no one under the age of 50 at this point knows anything about them. If you know these and have a grasp newer development models and technologies you really have something of value and can pretty much name your terms.

I can also say being on the other side of this hiring developers, it almost never worked out when they weren't able to be at the office at least a couple of times a week. Too much discussion would happen over coffee and too many changes to specs would occur without going through "proper" channels that they nearly always missed the mark on deliverables. It also gets old very quickly when they miss meetings because they had poor or no cell service in whatever neck of the woods or ocean they may be in at a given time.
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Old 24-01-2018, 09:00   #14
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

It's definitely possible to do this. Your idea of funding an agency to find you work is basically the idea of running your own contracting business. I would go about it in a much more low maintenance way. There are numerous software contracting sites that digital nomads already use to do this. Digital nomads aren't that different from sailors - they're travelers by land, so they might have wifi a bit more often, but have similar travel timing constraints and prioritize flexible work arrangements.

There's Upwork, Mechanical Turk, and others. Yes you might be competing with people willing to work for lower wages, but finding a niche and doing quality work you can make decent money (at least what I've heard from blogs - Google for these terms and you can find hundreds of stories).

You'll find much more information by searching for traveler / digital nomad accounts than asking on cruising forums - ie, the 20-40 cohort has got remote digital work down - or at least writes about it more on the Internet.

https://skillcrush.com/2014/10/10/si...g-remote-work/
https://www.indeed.com/q-Remote-Cont...oper-jobs.html
http://www.sidehustlenation.com/blog/
http://typicalprogrammer.com/the-joy...e-programming/
https://expertvagabond.com/paid-to-travel-world/
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Old 24-01-2018, 09:52   #15
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Re: Programmers afloat a business idea

I think the "cost of entry" into this business would be a few years doing it from land, building up a client base and slowly move it offshore. I can't see many programming opportunities on a "when you get around to it and have a good signal" basis. Maybe a better idea would be to write books for Kindle Unlimited. You could hardly be any worse than many of the so called writers on there these days.
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