Do you already know how to code?

Introducing Code For Cash, the new book about "How to get your start as freelance software consultant". Encompasses finding clients, risks, pitfalls and challenges, and everything else.

Code For Cash is written for people who already know how to code. Save for the sections on legal and tax ideas, its information is applicable to developers worldwide.

What's the story here?

Hi. My name's Zack Burt.

10 years ago I wrote a lame Facebook app that ended up being a viral sensation and I started getting offers to do programming as a contractor. Consulting's been the #1 income channel for me over the past decade, and despite no CS degree, it's also led to full-time stints in individual contributor and leadership roles at hot startups in San Francisco and NYC. Yet, it's by far my favorite income channel because it enables me to have a much freer lifestyle so I may work on other projects as I choose. I charge $150 hourly and regularly turn down work because I like protecting my freedom.

Picture of author
That's me! Zack Burt!
Zack Burt bio

I met someone named Jay El-Kaake via reddit a few months ago. He posted in a Rails thread about how he was looking for help with a project and I replied. We set up a billing agreement and really enjoyed working together.

As we got to talking, we compared our shared experience of telling fellow developers how we do consulting and them telling us how interested they are into breaking into that field. So in addition to collaborating on webapp projects for clients, we wrote a book about it.

True story: we made thousands of dollars together before we ever met in person. He took his girlfriend to NYC for Christmas and we met up at Artichoke Pizza in the East Village.

Picture of author
That's Jay!
Jay El-Kaake bio
Jay pronouncing Jay's name ►

Anyway, the book covers client hunting (in-depth descriptions of the 15 channels that have worked best for us), nonpayment resolution, communication, and best practices that we've learned from over 20 years in the field.

See what real programmers have to say

The benefits


  • Travel: I personally have enjoyed going to France, Sweden, and traveling throughout the US, including picking up and moving to Hawaii, on a whim, to learn how to surf (your ability to succeed at surfing is like 90% dependent on your endurance as a swimmer).

  • No need to go into an office (but in the book, we discuss challenges and benefits of WFH or renting an office space, including tax considerations and socializing)

  • No need to wake up at a specific time unless you have a meeting– stay up as late as you want, or go out on weeknights. Another benefit to being on your own schedule is whenever you need to go somewhere crowded, like a barbershop that always has a line, you get the advantage of going in the middle of the day without needing to ask permission.

  • Develop new skills and hobbies. For me this means writing books, traveling, learning new languages (I've studied French and Swedish), working on startup ideas, learning sales skills by working as a commission-only salesperson, and going to the gym regularly.

  • Being able to fend for yourself and generate your own income enables you to avoid people whom you just don't want to work with.

Higher Effective Hourly Rate

This one doesn't need much explanation: it's generally understood that consultants charge more for a variety of reasons, including:

  • don't get benefits of FTE, such as health insurance
  • expected to handle their own QA and project management, and as such are doing the work of multiple people
  • need to spend time looking for work, so when they are working, they need to charge more

Therefore, if you simply add the skill of "client-finding" (or "client-hunting" if you want to be a little more primal) your effective hourly rate will skyrocket, usually anywhere from 2x-4x, without incrementing your technical skillset.

Giving a concrete example, at my last full-time job, I was making $150K + equity; now consulting, I make a base of $150 hourly (and I try to structure in a bonus deal wherever possible). This effectively doubles my hourly rate because I've become extremely efficient at soliciting business.

The drawbacks


Sometimes you can go for a stretch without finding clients. Sometimes your clients will jam you up out of nowhere and avoid paying you (we discuss, in-depth, multiple techniques for dealing with this, including positioning yourself where asking for a retainer is something they can't deny and conflict resolution methods that force them to open up their checkbook or initiate a wire transfer).

The flip side of this is you become, in the words of Nassim Taleb, anti-fragile: shocks to your system make you a stronger person.

Need To Develop New Skills

You have to learn how to find clients and sell them. You have to get your own health insurance. You have to pay your own taxes. You may have to open a separate bank account. You may have to form a corporation. You have to handle billing. You have to be responsible for building your own social life rather than having your life handled by your company.

The flip side of this is that it forces you to develop leadership skills and your personal growth skyrockets. When you return to FTE status, it is far more natural for you to receive requests to serve in leadership positions rather than in Individual Contributor roles.

Max Income Potential

Although consulting can certainly make you feel cash-rich in comparison to being an FTE, it can be addicting and it can feel like a trap: you get caught in a local maximum in terms of income. You make good money, and your lifestyle does improve significantly. But you're never going to make money that changes your life and transforms you into a super rich person unless you move to a third-world country.

The flip side of this drawback is that because your time is now your own, you now have the financial security and free time to invest your time in speculative startup ventures that may yield extremely high returns.

What's In The Book

Legal Advice

Richard Burt, a leading San Jose, California business attorney contributed a chapter on legal advice for building your written agreements (contracts) with your clients. I highly recommend him if you are dealing in California.

In this chapter, you will learn in detail regarding

  • scope of services
  • payment terms
  • getting paid
  • limitations on liability
  • intellectual property issues (such as protecting your background technology – or tools of the trade, such as shell scripts and other snippets you wish to repurpose from job to job)
  • work for hire
  • confidentiality agreements
  • representations and wararanties
  • indemnification
  • attorney's fee clauses

No legal knowledge is assumed, so after having read the book, you have a solid foundation of legal knowledge for building your contracts.

Sales 101 For Developers

Not every business person can learn how to code, but almost every developer can be taught how to successfully sell!

We teach essential sales skills, including:

  • when (and how) to dress for business vs. when to dress like you're a developer
  • how to close a deal
  • why being prepared for each meeting results in you being more likely to win the deal
  • the basics of BANT qualification (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)
  • subtle signifiers that help you win deals
  • techniques for addresing the five standard objections
  • and more!

Skills You Can Use

I literally map out the skills that are most important for you to develop to thrive in the business of software consulting. I give you the step-by-step concrete paths to achieving competence, but I also explain some of the abstract theory. For example, not only will you be able to copy my craigslist ad that I've used to find lucrative clients, but you will understand why it worked and how to write your own variation.

Dealing With Problematic Clients

Most clients are great, but unfortunately, from time to time, you will come across clients who are just plain bad. Either they make unreasonable demands, they try to convert you from an expensive consultant into an enslaved full-time employee, or they simply withhold payment in efforts to try to either steal or renegotiate the price they pay for your work.

We discuss a variety of techniques, including how to prevent these issues from arising in the first place, but also we share war stories of how we achieved successful resolution of such conflicts. A variety of remedies are spelled out with crystal clarity.

Informal Conversational Style

My writing style is truly conversational. And if there's anything in the book for which you want greater clarification, it's no problem; my Skype, text message and email contact information are included in the book. And everyone who purchases the book receives an invitation to our Slack community.

How To Find Clients
Step By Step

For most people, getting started can be as simple as finding your first client, coming to terms on an agreement, getting to work, and getting paid (sometimes in advance– using a retainer, strategy described in the book)! In the book, I discuss over 15 channels that have been effective for me to find new clients; they generated results, meaning cash in my pocket. It's concrete advice: very "do it like this".

You also get a full 30-day plan for finding clients. You can repeat it ad infinitum once you complete the initial 30-day stretch – it is a business playbook.

Complete Table of Contents

1. Finding Clients Making a popular app for a hot space Ex-coworkers Dealing with Non-solicitation/Non-compete Clauses IRC & Chat Rooms Referrals Craigslist Gigs Craigslist Ads Hacker News Blogging Open Source Social Media Doing work for free Meetups Giving Talks at Meetups Network at Meetups Meetup Mailing Lists Super early-stage startups WeWorkRemotely and Craigslist Job Ads Referrals From Existing Clients 2. Choosing a Rate What are you alternatives? How many hours/week are you getting? How is your cash flow? How interesting is the project to you? How much do you want the money? How efficient are you? What are their alternatives (i.e. market demand)? How much management do you need? Example Rates When Not to Lower Your Rate How to Raise Your Rate Work on Quality Become a Better Solution 3. Keeping Yourself Educated Continuing Education Channels Read Things Follow Software Techies on Social Media Listen to Podcasts Go Through Online Training Attend Meetups Do Some Pet Projects Ancillary Skills To Learn For A Programmer 4. Closing Deals Meetings Addressing the Five Standard Objections "It costs too much” BANT Qualification Budget Authority Need Timeline Contracts Non-Disclosure Agreement Scope of Work Development Agreement E-Signatures Code Samples and References Non-technical Client Asking for Technical Things The Code Sample References
5. Being Productive The Quick Bird Gets The Worm Being Productive Leads to More Accurate Estimations The Effective Bird Keeps The Worm Three Books to Read on Productivity Getting Things Done by David Allen 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina 6. Relationship Building Basic Tips 7. Legal Ideas Have a Written Contract Scope of Services Payment Terms Getting Paid Limitation on Liability Intellectual Property Issues Work for Hire Confidentiality Agreements Representations and Warranties Indemnification Attorney’s Fee Clauses 8. Dress For Business Basic Outfit Tips For Both Genders Tips For Men Tips For Women The Key is to Dress Respectfully 9. Getting Paid Invoice Often Tracking Time Payment Info to Have Prepared Payment Terms Invoice Factoring 10. Dealing With Clients Who Don’t Pay Prevent Buyer’s Remorse By Reinforcing Value Deny Access to Unpaid Services Clarify and Deny Access to Ongoing Services Managing Negative Emotions Mediation Lawyers Settling in Court Collection Agency Tax Relief 11. Must-know Tax Tips 12. Communicating Effectively Proper Spelling, Capitalization and Punctuation Communicating With the Client Write Everything Down Communicate Important Engineering Decisions Setup Processes That Make Communication Easy When in Doubt, Communicate Communicate Deadlines at Risk Managing Expectations Underpromise, Overdeliver Buffer Your Timelines, Then Buffer Them Again Politeness
13. Going Back to a "Regular" Coding Job Interviewing Day-to-day Differences Dealing with clients that want to convert you into FTE BATNA Going Back to Freelancing 14. Additional Resources Books and Soft Skills Our Slack Community 15. Step-by-step guide to finding your first client (30 day, 30 point plan) Introduction: How To Use This Section Day 1: Update LinkedIn Day 2: Build A Blog Day 3: Craigslist Resumes Day 4: Find Meetup Groups Day 5: Hacker News Day 6: Hired Day 7: Toptal Day 8: Day 9: Set up a blog Day 10: Dream Client List Day 11: Create a Twitter Account Day 12: Write a blog article. Day 13: Twitter engagement Day 14: IRC Day 15: LinkedIn content marketing Day 16: Make a YouTube Video Day 17: More Blogging, with syndication checklist Day 18: Craigslist Market Rotation Day 19: Blog Content Day Day 20: Blog Research Day! Day 21: Guest Post Outreach Day 22: Portfolio Day Day 23: Blog Content Day 24: Blog Content Day 25: Blog Content Day 26: Find Your Following On Twitter Day 27: Craigslist Gigs Hunting Day 28: Quora Day 29: StackOverflow Day 30: Meetup Talks 16. Ending Note Appendix A. Acknowledgements Appendix B. About The Authors Zack Burt Jay El-Kaake Richard Burt Appendix C. Why Consulting Freelancer or Consultant? Challenges of Freelancing The Rewards of Freelancing Freedom Money Autonomy Tax Benefits More Responsibility Social Life On Romantic Relationships

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Get a step-by-step guide to finding clients and making money. If you get this book, you are going to be rescued from a world of pain through information that took me ten years to discover, and you are going to receive the business acumen to make a success of your chosen way of living.

You can read the book cover-to-cover in hours and its contents will permanently change your approach to the business of freelance consulting.

It's $9.97. Buy the book now.

Click here to order from me directly and save 30%, plus you get DRM-free versions of the book in ePub, mobi & pdf formats. Money-back guarantee: if you buy directly, read the book & don't like the book, send me an email with at least 500 words on why. I guarantee a full refund.

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