Actually, title should be my first nine months as a freelancer because I started my full time freelancing on August 1st, 2015. I was privileged to talk about my freelancing experiences in WordPress Helsinki Meetup. Thanks for having me, it was great to meet you all and have couple of beers! And I really appreciate all the questions you asked.
— WordPress Helsinki (@WPHelsinki) May 5, 2016
If you prefer checking the slides from the talk, you can get them here. Otherwise keep on reading.
Some of you might already know that I’m a math teacher. It’s the best occupation I could ever have and I like it for a several reasons:
I’ve been teaching 15 years, and students were asking me aren’t you tired of teaching the same courses over and over again? Well, yes and no. There is always new students coming and the challenge is always as interesting. Let me also translate the last picture in the comic below.
– Aren’t you tired of playing the same song over and over again?
– You can take a nap while playing!
I’ve already thought about WordPress freelancing couple of years. So my decision definitely didn’t come out of the blue sky. And I had already build public themes since 2012. I also had some client work while working as a teacher.
I was getting ready mentally and financially.
Do I really need to say more. I just love Bill Hicks way of doing comedy. Here is another great example about army in the world.
Like I said before, I had prepared myself several years before I had the courage of trying full time freelancing. Here is a short list what I think you should consider before starting freelancing.
You need to have connections, connections, and connections. And then you need to have connections.
I got my first freelance job from my brother. They wanted new website, and I was the perfect fit for the job. After the project was done and I had already invoiced, “funny” thing happened. My brother’s boss called him in his office and conversation went like this:
– So, your brother build our new website?
– Hmmmm, site does look nice.
– But there is this one thing I’d like to discuss.
– Okay, what?
– You are in the board of your brother’s company!
– What, I am?
– Oh yes you are, and that’s not good. I mean it’s not illegal to hire company where you are in the board. But it sure is unethical.
– Yes Sir.
Here are other things how to get freelance jobs in one form or another:
I asked one of my client (which is the best one I had so far) questions about freelancing. More detailed Show Case post is coming soon. I’m just going to copy paste all his answers, they really resonated in my own thoughts.
We had a clearly defined need – we needed somebody who was capable of handling the technical implementation but design,copy etc. came from elsewhere.
It’s also important to keep in mind that many agencies actually house an army of freelancers. Even if you went for a big agency, you might end up working with the same person, only with a bigger price tag.
The price & quality are right. These folks are able to offer services at a reasonable price without the administrative overhead etc.
Assuming that you pick the correct person you also get high quality.
You have to live with the personnel risk. If something happens to your freelancer or they decide to quit the business, you’d better have a backup plan. Then again, with widely used platforms such as WordPress, this is hardly a problem.
If you pick the wrong person, you might end up with a pile of “exotic” code that is hard for anyone else to maintain and you can only hope that it works in the first place.
References. You had a decent portfolio + we had a personal recommendation regarding your tech skills. Plus, we liked you as a person. In a team & project such as ours, it’s also important that the chemistry works.
Also, your price was right. It wasn’t absurdly high but not suspiciously low either. Professionals take pride in their work and price themselves accordingly.
References, a good portfolio and word-of-mouth are very important.
Important for web techies: your a site may be horribly UGLY.
If you include a site in your references, please also include a short description of what you did for the site.
You have to be able to keep up with the pace of technological development. I think this is one of the biggest challenges when flying solo as you basically have to do most of the research in your non-billable spare time.
Do *NOT* become a freelancer unless you’re passionate about what you’re doing. The agencies and monsters like Tieto have jobs for people who “only want a job”.
My best marketing tool is to put 110% on every project. I have failed to do that several times but that should be your goal. Work on details, communicate and teach clients, be active, and make no compromises.
By the way if you’re reading this, I’m marketing myself at this very moment.
Other than that I really don’t have any marketing plan but I do trust word to mouth marketing. Twitter is my only active social media.
The first thing to do is sign a contract. Always sign a contract. It will help you if something bad happens and you don’t get paid. And it’s a good guideline for the project.
I include at least these details in the contract:
I have also tried to sell maintenance contract for 100 euros per month. But none have taken so far! It might be because I’m a freelancer, not a several people company. Anyways, my maintenance contract would include
Communication and working with people is pretty much always the hardest part in any job. Your laptop is the easiest colleague. It’s your job to communicate and educate the client so work on those skills as much as you can.
No matter what happens, finish the job! But things can take time and are hard to estimate.
I don’t why here in Finland we don’t talk about the money. I’d like to make an exception and lay down all the numbers. I got nothing to hide.
While teaching I used to create sites for 600 euros. Now the same kind of site costs 4000-6000 euros. I didn’t have hourly rate but now it’s always 60 euros. Here are more detailed facts from time period 1.8.2015 – 2.5.2016.
In this site I have earned 4 553,82€. In WordPress.com I have earned about 3000€. I have also paid some designs and invoices via Paypal, so I don’t really know the end result. Paypal drives my book-keeper crazy!
My client already had good points about freelancing, and here are my own thoughts.
Keep on learning new stuff. Basically that’s your job. I started to learn WordPress in Themehybrid.com. I can highly recommend it to everybody.
Some learn by reading. In that case I suggest that you follow all (or some) Make WordPress blogs. For WordPress news join Post Status and read WP Tavern. I personally try to read something new in every morning.
Others learn by doing. Go ahead and build cool stuff and remember to share what you have learnt.
I will go back to school. But only for a half year and I don’t have that much courses. It means that I try doing two jobs for half year, and then switch back full time freelancing. I have no idea how it will work but that’s another story to tell!
At this point I want to thank anyone who have helped me during my freelancer journey. I do salute you!