Freelancers: do these 6.52 things, and you can retire in 3 years.

10 years later, their jealousy has gone too.


Maxime Topolov

3 years ago | 6 min read

Finally! — I could take out my inamorata to l’Arpège, a 🌟🌟🌟 Michelin restaurant. I got ago for a 12-months long placement, paid 600€ a day.

I roused 6 AM the first day, burning to meet the new team and yearning to play with a modern technological stack: serverless, microservices, Rust, and TypeScript — no more legacy PHP 4 code to maintain 🤤.

10 months later, excitement has gone.

I started to scan my inboxes. I need something in 2 months. Nothing. Refresh. Nothing. Checking LinkedIn, nothing. Maybe Facebook? I immersed myself in the bitter shame of updating my LinkedIn profile to “Actively looking for new missions”. Nothing.

Pouring in the 3rd glass of Cote Rotie, I imagined the decrepitude of soon coming to pitching my local butcher about the importance of a drive-to-store strategy supported by an aggressive retargeting display campaign. Would my butcher’s content get to the TikTok’s “For You Page”?

Falling asleep, I hark back to my ‘corporate’ friends being jealous of my freelancer’s profits when my computer, phone, internet, car, dinners, loft, and most of my jaunts became tax-free, “professional” expenditures.

10 years later, their jealousy has gone too.

While my rates continuously grew from merely 400€ per day to a solid 1,200€, I did not make any real betterment to my career. I had no paid vacations, no teams to manage, no strategic decisions to make, and still had to get the shit done, all by myself.

I became blazingly fast and efficient but continued to intensively scrutinize my Inbox(es). I spent almost 10 years of my life selling it in small chunks.

My rates increased proportionally to my reputation, skills, and efficiency, but I was selling only my time, while the value that my work engendered was captured exclusively by my clients.

To optimize my most valuable resource — time — I needed to suffuse some part of it into three new ventures, carefully analyzing the return of those “investments” :

  • My network & reputation: Obama is paid 400.000$ for one speech, maybe I could play a little bit with my own halo effect.
  • 1:1 vs 1:n. My work was paid by one customer who was the only one to benefit from it. How could I switch to a one-to-many mode?
  • Re-use: Once I spent 1 hour to produce something useful for a client, how could I re-use it for my following assignments?


I started to ask for recommendations and created all the recent projects on LinkedIn. I created several repositories on GitHub filled with the most interesting code from my previous projects. I started to write on Medium, cross-post on Twitter, created a Facebook page.

Each time I would finish a project, I devoted at least 2 to 3 hours creating detailed case studies focusing on my personal contribution to each project and sharing some work-in-progress stuff.

Once the case study was finished on Medium, I could easily re-use it on LinkedIn, Facebook, lop chunks and spread them as Twitter or posts. I started to answer on Quora, with extensive and complete responses and back-links to my posts, gathering views on my other channels.

I combined those posts to create long-format white papers. I got noticed and was invited as a speaker on some small local events, then national and international ones. Each of these sessions improved my orator skills and boosted my reputation.


With growing reach and visibility, I started to receive opportunities out of my core skills. I also became sedulous about my clients’ needs, all of them.

If they wanted to launch a new e-commerce project, I would call my friends running the best e-commerce agencies, recommending them.

One day I received a call from Franck, an old client. Recently, he became CEO of a real estate software editor which started a major refactoring project 3 years ago.

They were stuck in the middle of an extremely complex ERP project, millions of dollars frittered away, sprint after sprint. He exhorted for help. I refused, because of my other engagements, but recommended Sylvain, a freelance CTO I worked with for several years.

I didn’t ask for any referral fees for this 300K$ contract. We both know I’ll reap the benefits when I’ll need them.

Over the years I’ve built a large network of reliable partners for almost every step of a digital project (UX, UI, SEO, Security, hosting, all kind of CMS specialists, etc.). Each deal sent to my network can score a 5 to 10% commission, but more importantly, they nourish my network.

One to many

I began providing trainings. It was the easiest to start with and I’ve already had a long list of clients. 1200€ per head for 3 days of training. It was a good deal, as soon as I had at least 4 guys in the room. I recorded all my sessions to create later full courses on Udemy and Skillshare — few hundreds of free monthly dollars.

Content re-use

When I started my career, I didn’t pay enough attention to organizing my deliverables. If you looked in any of my project’s folders you’ll find it full of “client_presentation_final_V3–022315-V1–(1).pptx” files.

I was starting each new assignment ab initio. Research, content, code, links, files, I ended up with tons of material for each project.

Most of the knowledge is already somewhere at the reach of Google. But companies just do not know how to look for this content.

So I started by organizing myself and indexing all my deliverables: I created folders and defined name conventions, created lists of links, tagged everything. I also started to split my large documents and presentations into smaller pieces.

I invested countless hours in the creation of smart and reusable templates.

I’m able now to finalize some engagements within hours at a fixed price. For those jobs my effective hourly rate is impressive. I could bill a couple of thousands of dollars just for a few hours of work, mainly assembling, personalizing, and updating existing content.

The Holy Grail: reusable software components

Working on complex enterprise business applications, I was hopelessly muddled by the lack of re-use between projects.

I recall a one of the most famous luxury brands, where customers data was spread across MoveX ERP, Magento e-commerce, POS software, and Adobe Marketing Cloud.

For another client, there were over 10 different versions of cart management systems, dozens of mailing routers, and most of the business-related specific features were all duplicated across different technological platforms.

Components re-use and sharing are possible with Github, but they offer you a platform to share any code without guidelines on how to build it, no environment to run it, and without a clear understanding of how good or bad a piece of code is, and what functional problem does it solve.

But I saw a lot of positive ideas from for the front-end.

On the back-end side, I needed a platform where I could develop small services, solving one functional problem, isolated and independent.

Those services would be small enough to avoid forking but big enough to provide real added value. They would be running on a real live environment and not just cold code. So it would be very easy to test and re-use them for me or for any team.

They would be agnostic of languages and frameworks as the only way to use them would be their GraphQL API, I could re-use a service written in Go on PHP project without even knowing it.

I could set a price and sell them to my clients as a subscription, mixing their hosting, build price (breakdown on several months), support, and maintenance. I could even sell the most popular ones with pay-per-call plans.

I would also love to share the most generic and interesting microservices with other companies in a global public marketplace.

I started to imagine a large market of lego bricks of different colors and shapes, produced by people, teams, and companies all around the world. Used to rapidly assemble large and complex projects in weeks instead of months.

I think that, if we reduce the size of any software to a small service, isolated, and perfectly solving one functional problem, it could become a building block used by many and created by one developer or a small team.

The problem, there was no such a platform, so I’ve built one:

Want to try?


Created by

Maxime Topolov







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