Since 2015, I have been a software freelancer. I have been frequently asked about where I work, to which I respond that I work from home. I am asked if I have my own business and company. My reply is that I work alone on contract with companies and that I don’t own a company and do not have employees. I explain that opportunities of such nature are abundant in fields like photography, carpentry and weaving, and thankfully in software.
To my own surprise, I have often caught myself replying, “Not a business, I’d rather say I have my own practice*.” I have heard several individual professionals, mainly doctors, lawyers and chartered accountants who use the term ‘practice’ to describe their occupation. It is a wonderful term in my opinion, something that perfectly describes almost everyone’s occupation, whether working alone or with a company, whether a sweeper or the prime minister.
We are never done getting better
It is important for everyone to get better as his/her career progresses. This is especially true for software where things can change overnight. Whether you are a beginner or have an experience of 10 years, there is always scope for improvement and getting better at every field. No wonder that occupations are actually ‘practices’.
Also, this is why more experienced professionals make fewer mistakes, are more creative, handle problems better and can command more money for their work than beginners can. They have practised for so long and have become better over the years. There is no substitute for experience. You cannot replace a professional who has 10 years of experience with ten candidates who have worked for 1 year each. Sheer numbers will not produce the same quality of work.
We need to get better
Your job is a practice. Your performance is appraised every year. Your company will judge whether you are valuable to them and worth retaining. It is important for you to get better as you spend more time with the company.
While companies have the luxury of replacing employees with better ones, there is no such advantage for people who work alone. They must ensure that they get better as they advance in their career. Otherwise they will stop getting clients.
Both cases show that your career is a ‘practice’ in which you should keep getting better as you learn more.
We grow better with experience
As beginners, we make several mistakes at our jobs and freelance stints. Some mistakes are small, while others are big, costing us our job or clients. Yet, we carry on. As we gain experience, we get better. The most experienced among us can do our work so well that others think that we are artisans.
As a simple example, if you struggle with making dosa or pasta, you will wonder in awe at the fluency with which road side vendors and restaurants conjure up the perfect dosa and pasta.
Isn’t it proof that our work is practice? The more we do, the better we get.
It is weird when I refer to my freelance career as a practice. But it makes perfect sense too. Whether you are a freelancer or someone with a job or someone who owns a business, your occupation is a practice. And practice makes perfect.
* Please note that I have used the variations ‘practise’ with an ‘s’ and ‘practice’ with a ‘c’ in this post. This is NOT a typo. I am Indian and our English is a derivative of British English. In this form of English, the word ‘practice’ with a ‘c’ is a noun as in ‘Practice makes perfect’. But the word ‘practise’ with ‘s’ is a verb as in ‘I practise every day’. This difference was dropped by American English which uses the letter ‘c’ in both forms of the word.