Hey all, Nathan here, Founder of Silva Web Designs.
I just thought it would be a good time to share my experience since becoming a full-time freelance developer with the hope that other people will take the same route of action when they feel ready.
How did it all begin…
I actually started coding when I was 13 years old. I always had a massive interest in web design/web development and basically anything computer related. When I was really young, my main interests were Skateboarding and playing Counter-Strike.
So, I decided to add Google Adsense to my website. This was actually my first ‘job’ since I was earning decent money just from ad placements on my website.
Moving forward, I completed a BTEC, HND and BSc in Computer Systems Engineering to get the qualifications I thought were required to land my first job. Looking back I wish I just did an apprenticeship as the hardest job to land is your first job. That being said, even though I have a degree in computing, I actually learnt virtually nothing in my degree in terms of coding, other than the basics like
echo 'Hello World!';.
Everything I’ve learnt to this day has been through online research, following tutorials and practising everything in my own free time. The way to learn code, for me, is actually writing code.
Anyway, I finally landed my first actual job at the age of 21 as a Web Developer / Technical Support Assistant. I mean, if you know web development, you might be inclined to anything tech-related.
The job was great, it was a company that provided data terminals and software for taxi offices that managed their entire business operation. Just like Uber, but on a super small scale. I would never forget this job though, it taught me so much.
Whilst at this company, I started working freelance (self-employed) in my spare time, with the ultimate goal of working solely by myself one day. My logic was; build up clients, earn some extra dollar on the side and get yourself to a point where you can make it a full time living. At this point, I didn’t feel quite ready, so I switched jobs and started working at a Digital Agency with the main role as a Web Developer.
This was an awesome transition, I got to do what I love all day with the added bonus that I had great designs provided by the graphic designers, so all I had to do was code. I still continued freelancing whilst I was there as I still wanted to reach my ultimate goal: working for myself.
After two years at my previous company, I decided to leave the job and move abroad to Portugal. It was something I always wanted to do and I thought if I didn’t start the freelance life then, I never would… and what better way to do it than by moving to a sunny country with great food, right?
At this point, I already had a few clients that would provide me with work. But it wasn’t enough and so I joined a few freelance platforms such as PeoplePerHour, UpWork, TopTal and Fiverr. I mean, I was on a few platforms like these before but, with a full-time job, you can’t commit the time needed when clients have some strict deadlines. As I became active on these platforms, getting constant work every day, I thought “woah, why the hell did I not do this before?”
I was always busy, in fact, so busy at first that I didn’t have time for myself to do other things I enjoy. Moving forward again, I learnt a lot about business/project management and everything else in-between to gain the work balance and everything else I needed to become successful in being full-time self-employed.
Two years on…
It’s crazy how much more you can learn when you dedicate yourself to working freelance as a full-time job. I went from applying for 20 jobs on freelance jobs a day to never having to apply for a job again. If you do an awesome job for someone, they remember you and keep coming back for more!
You get to a point where you have to either refuse work or say you can do the job but you can commence the work on ‘x’ day, and if you did a great job previously, they’re quite happy to wait.
Honestly, I wish I had started freelancing earlier, but it’s one of those things… Unless you take the leap of faith, you’ll never know! If you have the dedication to be successful, you’ll never go wrong. Freelancing can be very stressful, but at the same time, it can be the most satisfying thing you will ever do.
That brings me to the main point of this article; would I go back to an Agency job after living the freelance dream?
To answer the above question, I can confidently say NO. I’m not going to lie, freelance life can be tough and you need some real motivation to succeed. But I remember looking back, I worked at an agency that charged around £20,000 to £40,000 for a website when only an account manager, designer and developer were involved. I thought this was crazy!
Basically, I was making my manager rich and that’s when I first thought… I could do the same job for a very small fraction of the cost with no overheads. A no brainer, right?
Anyway, we don’t charge crazy agency prices but we deliver a job either up to the same quality or better than most digital agencies would provide. Have a read through this post and you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
In a nutshell, though, freelancers have very little overheads, no ‘big’ bills to pay so we can offer the same services at a very reduced price. Unfortunately, not everybody knows this.
I’ve learned a lot over the years. I’ve also realised that I can’t do all the work myself, which is why we now have a team of remote workers to cover everything for our clients so that we always deliver the best job possible. We have two pro web developers, two genius web designers, a multi-lingual copywriter and we make awesome stuff together! You can check the Silva team here.
To sum up, I don’t think freelancing is for everyone, but if you have the dedication and passion, you will make it happen! It might be hard to begin with, but trust me, it gets so much better in the long run! I’m 99.9% sure I’ll never work for another company again. Make your dreams come true, take the leap, DO IT! You know you can.
That pretty much wraps up everything here anyway, if you want any advice on how you can become a freelancer, either drop me a comment below or send an email to [email protected].
Ciao for now.