Make it rain, make it rain!

January 2011—the very beginning of my career.

I’ve just landed a gig. A real one. The one that pays! And man am I excited about this one! It's the first real project that I will be working on, in exchange for that thing called money.

The owner of a small restaurant asked me to make some updates to his website. He hired me as a designer, but most of the stuff he needs is in the realm of coding - basic HTML and CSS. Nothing fancy, but still quite a challenge for me at the time.

"Can you do this for me?"

"Of course I can!"

I don't really know what I'm doing, but I roll up my sleeves, and for the next 5 days I barely move away from my computer. With some help from the internet (thank God for Stack Overflow) I get it done. And the client seems satisfied!

The task was simple. I knew that. I was just lacking both the experience and the very basic knowledge in the field. Still, a lot of my time and effort went into this one. So now the question is how do I charge for it? Let's see—I worked for 5 full days, and to make things simple, I should charge 100€? Or is that too much? It's a bit too much... let's make it 90€. It sounds better.

I send an email, summarizing what I did and I close with the price—"... 90€, I hope that's fine. Please let me know."

Then I wait.

The response arrives almost immediately—"This is not worth 90€!"—It catches me off guard—"You will get 40€. Come over to the restaurant tomorrow at 1 pm, have a drink, and pick up the money."

OK... this guy seems to know how this game works way better than I do—40€ it is.

The next day I'm getting ready, putting my business pants on, figuring out the best way to get there. The restaurant happens to be on the other side of the town, and It's freezing cold outside, so I decide to take the cab.

I get into the car, dressed like I'm going fox hunting in Siberia, and 30 minutes later, after a nice chat with the driver about world politics, I'm at my destination... sort of. The place is right on the river bank, so the cab can't take me all the way to the end. "Sorry, this is the furthest I can get. You'll have to walk a bit." - the cab driver says. "That would be 6.5€." I round it up to 7€, I get out of the car and I start walking... hopefully in the right direction.

Finally, I'm there. My hands are freezing and I can't wait to get inside to warm up a bit. The waiter greets me, and I introduce myself - "Hello, I'm here to see the owner. About the website."

"Oh sure. Why don't you take a seat? Have a drink. I'll let the boss know you're here."

I sit down, and I order a coke (still drank that shit at the time).

15 minutes later, the waiter comes again—“I’m sorry, he'll be with you in a minute. He got held up in a meeting.”

"Would you maybe like something to eat while you wait?"—the waiter asks.

"Hm... why not eat something?"—It is a restaurant after all. Besides I'm getting really bored.

"And one more Coke please"—I add.

The pancake arrives before the owner does, so I dig in. Halfway through my meal, I see this huge figure slowly approaching. it’s him.

I stand up to greet the man. I introduce myself, with my mouth full - "Hewou, I'm Bowan, nice to meet hou."

He sits across the table and we spend a few long seconds just looking at each other.

"So, who do you root for?"—the boss breaks the silence, confusing the shit out of me. That's a pretty weird way to open a business meeting—I think to myself. But what do I know—It's my first one!

For some God damn reason, we spend the next 15 minutes talking about basketball. Not a single word about anything work-related. And then, in the middle of my sentence, he just waves his hand. He looks me in the eye, and he gives me the envelope. I put it in my jacket. He stands up and I follow. His left arm lands on my shoulder heavily, and without breaking eye contact he pets me on my cheek with his right arm—"Pleasure doing business with you."—we shake hands, and just like that, the boss is gone.

My meal is done and it's time to go. The waiter takes my plate and he hands me the bill... It catches me by surprise—I thought this was on the house, but I guess it's fine.

Two Cokes and a large Pizza—17€. Wow! That's not the number I was expecting—but I'm not too keen on arguing. I give the last 20€ I have in my wallet to the waiter... and he never comes back with the change.

It's already 3 pm. And that means rush hour—I can't get a cab. So I end up enjoying a brisk 20min walk at -10c to the nearest bus stop.

It takes ages for the bus to arrive and once it does, it's packed like a can of sardines. That's Belgrade in the winter for you.

...

5pm. I'm finally home.

I take my clothes off, I get my hands warm and I go to the only room with a printer—my office. I gently open the envelope and I look inside. There's 4000 dinars in it - the equivalent of roughly 35€ at a time. Quite a common way to round down the conversion prices in Serbia - you know, just to make the math simpler.

I take the money out of the envelope. It's 5€ less than we agreed. I look at my wallet and the 30€ I had in it are no longer there. All things considered, it turns out I worked 5 days for 5€, but it doesn't really matter. I bend the money in half and I proudly put it in a metal can from an old Fossil watch.

It's the first time I got paid for making websites.

Disclaimer: Some names, dates and locations might have been changed in order to protect the privacy of the real people involved in this story.