When I was in high school, I made web sites for realtors. This was back in the 90s when any sorta webpage would pretty much do. Looking back, there were a lot of areas I was lacking in.
One was simple business skills. First is finding a decent niche to sell your services to. That was pretty much handed to me given one of my parents was in real estate. Apart from that though, is marketing yourself. As a skilled developer, you have the ability to bring value to other people. You have to be able to convince these people of this simple fact. This is a whole different skill/world than development. It's a skill that is equally valuable in life though.
Anyways, a few random tips. Don't undervalue yourself, your skills, and what value you are providing to others. It's probably worth more than you think. As far as payment, work out what is agreeable to both parties. This again comes down to "business skills". Also, a good knowledge of your local laws is handy where as a worst case scenario.
Finally, take what work you can get that doesn't sound horrible to you. Any work is good work. In the "real world", most jobs are not dream jobs. It's one of those sad facts of life.
The more physical things we can get rid of, the better
I for one I'm quite happy to not have a closet full of 286/386/486/PIIs/PIIIs/etc boxes and peripherals... so much less stuff to store/maintain/move. It also makes you look like a sane person when you bring a woman home =)
They're still around?! I thought I recognised "Tom" squeegying my windows at a red light the other day...
You mean after selling MySpace to Rupert Murdoch at the height of MySpace's popularity? Seriously?
+1 to moding parent up.
You won't get far convincing a product owner that you should spend months writing tests for the entire system.
Convincing someone that you should write unit tests for all new functionality to help guarantee the bug fix/new feature will continue to always work into the future is a much easier sell.
Right after graduating I managed to get into the game industry as a programmer. The trick?
If you look on craigslist (I'm in the SF bay area so your mileage my vary) there are tons and tons of postings looking for cheap/free programmers in the form of internships. You gota put in your time there instead of putting in your time in QA.
Since you have been in QA a few years, you should talk to your manager about moving on to a jr level programmer position in your company. If they are willing to work with ya, problem solved. If not, time to move on ASAP.
Work smarter, not harder, and be careful of your speling.