Clients telling me “I Know Python” is a major red flag to me.

3 min readNov 7, 2020

I do freelance python development in mainly web scraping, automation, building very simple Flask APIs, simple Vue frontend and more or less doing what I like to call “general-purpose programming”.

Now, I am reasonably skilled in python, I believe. Don’t write OOP and class-based python unless I am doing more than 100 lines of code. Most often write pretty simple stuff but most of the time goes into problem-solving.

But I despise freelancing. 1 out of every 3 comments/posts I make on Reddit is how much I hate doing freelancing.

So, today I am going to rant about one of the more “”fun”” things of freelancing, client telling me they know python.

Whenever a client tells me that they know python, I try to ignore them but often times I have to entertain the idea anyway because jobs are scarce. I keep telling myself “maybe this will work out great” but it doesn’t.

It never goes right. Here is the thing. If you do what I do you will realize the code is often quite simple. Most of the effort goes into problem-solving. So when the client sees the code and me getting paid by the hour, “They are like I thought you are best darn python developer I could have written that myself!”

My immediate impulse is to go on a rant and call that person something rotten. But I have to maintain “professionalism”.

Then there is the issue of budgeting. I do fixed payment contracts for smaller engagements. But oftentimes these python experts will quote me something that is at least one-fourth of a reasonable budget. And by reasonable I mean non-US reasonable budget which is already one-fifth of a reasonable US programming project budget. But anyway they quote that because they know how is easy it is to do my job.

There is more because this is rant by the way. So, clients with python knowledge will say to me “I have this python file…” which is the worst thing to say at this point. They think they have done the “majority” of the work. But here is the way I see it-

a. Either they have just barely scratched the surface b. They have a jumbled up mess c. They had another dev look into the project who already failed d. They had to do a “code review” of their previous freelancer and they ended up stealing the code

There is no positive way to imagine this problem. I have seen too much crappy code and too much of arguments like “they had done the work for me, so I should charge near to nothing”.

People don’t know exactly why senior devs get paid so much money. Junior devs write code, senior devs review code. That is why they get paid more. Making sense of other people’s code is a risky and frustrating thing and it could be incredibly time-consuming. And moreover in most cases building upon a codebase is more difficult than writing it from the scratch.

Doctors rant about “expert” patients earning their MDs from WebMD and I am seeing the exact same thing happen to me with clients knowing how to write loops in python.

Python is easy to learn, programming these days is easy to learn. But people are not paying programmers for writing loops and if statements. They are paying them to solve problems. Knowing the alphabet doesn’t make you a poet. And yes in my eyes programming is poetry.

Originally was published on my reddit account as a rant.
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I rant about programming, freelancing and other stuff. | @anyfactor