I learned from my previous CSS fiasco, and when I was approached by a client who had a site that was for artists, with a really wacky, custom theme, I told them the same thing: here's an estimate, but we'll do it hourly. They did the same thing as the previous client, where they kept changing requirements, and being nitpicky about pixels here and there, which spiraled their costs out of control, but as I explained what happened to this client, they just tried to push back and get pieces ripped out.
When I was lowballing bids to get projects, I bid out a project at around 700 dollars if I remember right. These guys had a site that they wanted to enable doctors that were studying for the MCAT to get flash cards. It was a great idea, and I had a way to handle the flash card piece of it already thought through. I got going on the basic layout and theme, and these guys got so picky in every single detail of the CSS, it was a huge mess. We had agreed on a soft estimate for the cost of the site, but I was still charging them hourly.
As I was starting picking up small jobs to keep busy, there was a point where I had bid out 10-20 projects and didn't get any of them. I just didn't have any experience. So I started lowballing projects just to get some stuff on my resume. One of these was a pair of sites for one person. They owned a Hostel and a Used Car lot, and were wanting to do sites for both companies. The hostel they wanted something that would manage days that they had availability for, and they wanted something to manage inventory for their cars. They were semi straight forward sites.
Right out of school, I applied for some auditing jobs, some consulting jobs, and a couple analyst positions. Nothing really struck my fancy. The interviewers kept pitching their company, and it just sounded so boring. I had been doing some consulting through school, so I just kept rolling with that. I went and applied for some work with a couple sites like ifreelance.com and guru.com. I got a few gigs, and was working about 20 hrs per week, making about what I would have at one of the companies I had interviewed with.
While I was still in school, I connected with a professor who connected me with a buddy of his who was working at a large insurance company and doing some of their internal learning course development. He had developed some software that enabled people to author courses in Microsoft Word, and export them with the click of a button so they would be saved as Scorm packages. Scorm is a spec that lets you take your content with you from LMS to LMS. It was an awesome setup, and my job was to make sure that a system like Moodle would work with his packages that would get exported.
Right after I got married, my family went to Cancun for a family reunion. I was right in the middle of my Junior year of my undergrad program, and it included a huge group project called Intex. We were developing a system from scratch that would handle tickets for events. Included information about the Venue, and availability, and all sorts of features. We were coding it in Java. During this week in Cancun, I was still supposed to work on my part, and I had my laptop, and would just sit on the beach and code.
This project is going to sound pretty stupid. Heads up. I was in a marketing class, and was doing some testing on different email addresses. At the time, we were given free versions of Microsoft Exchange, so I had that set up on a box that I ran at my house. This was before Outlook Web Access was a thing. And I wasn't using POP3 or IMAP because I had tons of addresses set up. In hindsight, I should have had them set up as aliases, but oh well.
At BYU, I studied Information Systems Management. I ended up doing the 5 year integrated MISM, where you do your bachelors and masters degrees together, and end up only doing 3 years of undergrad work instead of 4. Kind of crammed it all in as a compressed curriculum. It was perfect for me.
This is totally unrelated to technology. Someone brought this up so I thought I'd write a paragraph about it. When I was in high school, my buddy Alma had an older Volvo, and we drank more Mountain Dew than water, and we rigged his car up with a cooler in the trunk, and plastic tubes that ran through his trunk into each of the seats in the car, with valves on the end so you could just suck on the tube and get Mountain Dew at will. Turns out it was almost always warm so we didn't use it very long.
When I was at the end of middle school and going into high school, my Dad bought a super expensive flatbed scanner. If I remember right, it had the best resolution at the time. Something like 150 dpi was pretty awesome. We had tons of family photo albums, and my job was to scan them all. The scanning software let you scan the whole bed, as a preview, and then you select the area you want to scan at full resolution, and then you hit scan. It took around 30 seconds to do the full resolution scan.