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Experience from practice

Moving to Prague after school - what I was afraid of

18. 12. 2022

Obsah článku

In 2016 I graduated from the industrial school in Kladno. Back then I didn't understand how the world works - today I have at least a little idea, but I still don't know anything real. Back then I thought I needed to move to Prague, find a job, and start functioning on my own. It was hard. Much harder than you might think. At that time I wrote down 24 questions on the topics that bothered me the most, and gradually asked friends who already lived in Prague and knew how to navigate things.

The first year in Prague was extreme. I wasn't used to such high prices and having to work from morning till night every day, including weekends. But after many years, I finally made it, and now I can safely say that I am experiencing tremendous peace of mind, and financial and time freedom, among other things.

These are the 24 questions I couldn't answer before, and now I know the answer.

How much does an apartment in Prague cost, what are the options, can I afford it?

In 2016, the price of renting a small apartment 1+KK was around 10 000 CZK per month + about 2 000 CZK for utilities and other things.

Currently (December 2022) the price is around 13-15 thousand per month. It may seem a lot to you, but Prague is not cheap and far from being for everyone.

Only later in life I found out that there are also university dorms where you pay around 2-4 thousand per month. You get terrible quality though, so I wouldn't go for it. That's when I decided to go into business, not go to college, and make it on my own.

How much margin should I have?

It's hard to say. When I went to Prague, I had about 50 000 CZK saved. Back then it was barely enough, nowadays it is an extremely low limit.

Nowadays I don't have to worry about money much, but I have 3 principles that I always follow:

  • I have at least 3 bank accounts (checking account and debit card to splurge, savings account to put away a reserve, second checking account at a second bank in case something happens to the primary account).
  • The sum of all my money must never fall below 150,000 CZK. If that should happen, I limit my expenses to only the essentials and try to make up the reserve as soon as possible. You never know what will happen (especially when you are running a business). I consider at least CZK 300,000 to be the optimal reserve. In practice, however, I try to keep a bit more. I keep about 10% of my money in cash in case any problems with my bank account happen.
  • Absolutely always keep a reserve of at least 3 months salary/income. You never know what will happen. If you have overdue invoices, you will need the money.

Is a roommate a good idea?

Yes, it is. Not only because you'll get about half the rent, but also because you'll have someone to solve problems with.

Choose well. Don't give it to the first guy. Try to handle the first year on your own, it will help you adapt quickly to the new types of problems you will be dealing with. Leaving your parents is always hard.

How much money do I need to make at least monthly to survive?

Personally, I couldn't live on less than 50,000 CZK a month in Prague. Unless you work in IT, I don't know.

If you get hired by a company, ask for at least 40 000 CZK a month for a junior position, and ask if the income can rise to 50 000 CZK after a year of cooperation.

Do you think I know enough?

Back then I could code a website myself and write a small backend with a database. It was enough to create small websites. But in today's eyes, it wasn't enough. It was more for survival and with huge risks.

In what direction do I need to complete my education?

Personally, I recommend at least in the first year of business to go to a company you like and get hired or at least work externally on invoice. You'll learn what real companies solve for problems. How to negotiate with a customer, and that arguments don't work. What you learn in a company in a year, you will find out for yourself in maybe 5 years. You'll get a better perspective then.

If you're looking for a partnership, drop me a line, I'd be happy to help you with your selection.

Is it realistic for me to start working straight out of school?

Yes. Even most people work right after school, or at least while they're in school.

Am I the type of person who can be easily employed and can work right away? Why is that?

Most people can be employed straight away. The company will work you out. Personally, I tend to be unemployable because I like to blaze new trails instead of just doing tasks. You'll have to evaluate that for yourself.

Is it better to be employed or to be an entrepreneur?

From a financial perspective, it's always better to be an entrepreneur, but again, you pay in stress, responsibility and time. If you want peace of mind and don't like working 3 hours of overtime every day, get employed.

Where should I start working?

Search!

Or email me, I'll help. :)

What if I lose my job? How do you deal with that? Is the support enough to not have to sell the apartment?

Don't count on government support. That's why you need to have a financial reserve. You have to be able to keep your job. Usually, not many people will help you in life, so build up good habits from the beginning on how to handle problems.

Fortunately, I never owed anyone anything, and every rent was paid on time. I realize that this may not be the norm.

How easily can I get "broke"? Where can I find help?

Just make a few bad decisions, and you're there.

Usually, you'll have to solve most problems yourself. Work on good relationships and look for friends who have already made a difference. You'll probably need their help. Build up a reserve from the start. You may not need that new iPhone that badly. Paying for an apartment is more important than going out on a Friday night.

If I programmed websites, do you have a tip for potential customers?

I didn't get many good tips. Back then it was jobs under 10k per project, but it was always at least a month's work. A lot of clients disputed the quality, and wanted a free fix. I spent hundreds of hours communicating with them. On the other hand, you don't have many other options in life, and you have to work your way up from the bottom.

Sometimes I meet people who have experienced the so-called "lift", i.e. the hard-skills the company taught them on their project in a short time (maybe six months). But usually it doesn't work very well, and it's more of an illusion. In IT, and in business in general, there are no shortcuts. You have to work hard at it.

How many websites do I have to produce in a week to survive?

I currently do at most 1 project a year. Back then I could manage about 2 projects a month. But they were small websites.

Always be clear about the assignment beforehand. If you can't do it, don't take the project. Never. You'll always find a better offer. If you don't give it at all, get hired.

What do you think of the grid system? Do you like the principle of templating? Could people buy into it?

Back then, I built projects by buying a template on Bootstrap (Grid was modern back then), filling it with content and launching it. It worked fine. Nowadays, that might not be enough anymore. The demands on the quality of websites are increasing all the time.

How am I supposed to pay taxes? Should I start a company? If so, is it a good idea to get a friend to help?

Most of the information is on the authorities' websites. I recommend setting up a sole trader first and getting to grips with the authorities. Just pay your health and social monthly, the insurance companies themselves will give you instructions when you go to the branch in your city of residence. Once a year, a tax return is filed.

I recommend you get an accountant and give her a couple of grand and you don't have to deal with it.

Invoices are issued through an online tool. You don't want to do it manually.

Keep a record of all your income and expenses in a spreadsheet next to you, it'll come in handy.

If you don't know, email me, I can help.

Is the price of 3000 crowns per site liquidating or decent?

It's extremely low. Today I don't sell projects under a million crowns. Calculate how much you want to earn per month, how many hours a day you want to work, how many projects you can do in a month, and you'll come up with an hourly rate. Then, based on the hourly rate and an estimate of the complexity of the project, you will get an approximate price.

Always set a reserve of at least 15% that you don't tell the client about, and just offer the higher price straight away. Never go below your costs, even if there is no bread or rent to pay. It will ruin you.

Count on the case that you won't be able to finish the project, and therefore earn less. Overcharging a client because you can't keep up is rude, and they may not go for it. In that case, you could lose the job altogether.

Should I write out some simple price lists for individual services?

Absolutely. It will make it easier for you to negotiate the price. Clients don't like the obscurity and chaos of individual pricing.

Always communicate prices transparently. Don't gloss over the costs involved.

Should the cost of hosting and domain be part of the price or an extra item?

Definitely a separate item. The client should be able to walk away from you to another supplier at any time. It's also good for you if you meet an unsuitable client that you don't want to continue talking to. The source codes belong to the client (because they paid for them), so keep that in mind.

Always write up a contract for every item. You should also have what is called a framework agreement. Invest a few dozen hours to prepare a template, which you will then just edit.

What is the real reason for our collaboration? Does price also play a role?

I have asked clients this question. At the time it was mainly because of the price, because I was selling extremely underpriced.

Today I tend to be one of the more expensive contractors, and clients work with me because we actually deliver the projects. It takes thousands of hours of work to get to this level, and there are no shortcuts.

Always work with integrity. Don't blame your mistakes on anyone. It's a courtesy to fix your mistakes for free. Don't be taken advantage of. Set the boundaries of cooperation in your contract. Don't do 24/7 support for free.

If I were more expensive, would you find someone else to manage your site? How would the site have turned out?

That's when I lost almost all my clients because of the price hike. But you probably don't want to work with someone who doesn't have the money. Your costs will go up and you'll have to go up in price. Make smart choices.

Do you know of any full-time jobs, something just for me?

Email me, I'll advise.

Can you recommend me? If so, won't this be just idle talk out of politeness?

Most clients are more likely to not recommend you because there is no such thing as absolute satisfaction in IT. You have a huge responsibility to deliver their project, which will never be perfect because the complexity is so extreme that it can't even be perfect at that agreed price.

Collect referrals carefully. Present specific mastered goals rather than the opinions of people no one knows.

Will just "passive" income from web projects be enough for me? Would I rather run websites that make money or actively create?

You will work your whole life.

As my friend Marek Prokop once said, there is no such thing as real passive income.

Jan Barášek   Více o autorovi

Autor článku pracuje jako seniorní vývojář a software architekt v Praze. Navrhuje a spravuje velké webové aplikace, které znáte a používáte. Od roku 2009 nabral bohaté zkušenosti, které tímto webem předává dál.

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