Life as a Freelance Web Developer

Just some of my projectsComputers have been a part of my life for quite some time. At the age of 12 I had already built my first website. By 17, one of my best friends and I had taken on our first “official” web development project. By 19, I had caught an interest in something called “CSS” along with this new little blogging platform called “WordPress”. Things took off from there. In between a large number of Internet ventures, I continued small amounts of work as a web developer through parts of 2005 and early 2006. In the summer of 2006, my life took a dramatic turn and I found myself turning to freelance work as a way of paying off a rather large debt I’d placed upon my shoulders.

In December of 2006, I rebuilt JonathanWold.com from the ground up and announced my availability for freelance work. In January 2007, the work slowly began trickling in. Through February and March, I did freelance work from abroad during my 68 day volunteer project in the Dominican Republic. I was greatly blessed and in addition to vastly improving my skillset as a web developer I was able to meet some wonderful clients who’ve since become close friends.

In April of 2007, after arriving back home from the D.R. and settling in, I took up freelance work again and boy, it came. JonathanWold.com brought in over 10,000 unique visitors in the month of April and that boiled down to anywhere from 5-10 requests for work a week. A second WordPress tutorial in early May brought that number up even higher.

Now, this would seem to be a wonderful thing! I would receive a request, carefully go over the details of the project, ask questions, etc, and then give my potential clients a proposal. But see, there was a challenge in the midst of this blessing. Somewhere around 90% of the proposals I’d send out were accepted and, being the optimist that I am, it didn’t seem to be a problem at all. I would simply do the work. But then, I began to have the “experiences”..

The feeling, as I imagine it, is best described as being handed 5 ringing telephones at once. All of them are important and you care about each one of them.. but what do you do? “Thank you for calling, please hold.. ” “Thank you for your call, please hold..” until you end up with five “please holds” and no answered call. While not exactly like that, the feeling was one that I experienced off and on even up to this past week. With each time, I’d take a careful look at all I was doing and do my best to finish up the projects I’d already started. But when you’re working on anywhere from 10-15 projects a week, finishing up a project without neglecting the others can be a very difficult thing.

Even through all that, though, I’ve been greatly blessed. A tremendous amount of work has been done and for the work that has been delayed, I’ve been blessed with very patient clients : ). Thanks guys.

But, as I realized with full force yesterday and today, there’s a point where it’s too much and I’m unable to give each project the attention it deserves and requires for a job well done. I believe in putting my absolute best into work and doing 15 minutes here and another 30 minutes there because there’s no time left in a day is not the way to go about it.

So, I’m learning my lessons

As much as I’ve enjoyed all the work and learning experiences, one very strong downside is that it’s taken time away from my entrepreneurial projects and, most importantly, my personal relationships with family, friends, and my Creator. Working 10-15 hours a day and just managing to crawl your way into bed once everything is wrapped up is not a way to work and stops you from really giving a project your best. Thankfully, I only had to have a few days like that to learn my lesson.. *grins*..

What I have learned? Well, let’s see:

  1. Say “No Thank you” – When you’re stuck and trying to make your way out of an overload, it’s extremely important that you deliver on each of your commitments. So, when a new project opportunity comes along, as enticing as it may be, if you already have projects that you’ve begun, you owe it to your existing clients to say no to future work and rather put your best into finishing what you’ve already started. There’ll be more work later.
  2. Avoid the “No Thank you” to begin with – Much more importantly than saying “No”, is to be good to your potential clients and avoid being overloaded from the beginning. The challenge I’ve had with my system as it stands is that people can look over my work, learn more about what I do, and then they’re encouraged to contact me with their project. There’s nothing said about the possibility of me being overbooked. There’s no mention that I may have not have the time to give them 100% of my attention. And so they contact me. It’s my responsibility to make sure that if I’m not available at the moment that my clients know that and it’s important that I provide an alternative. Which brings me to the next lesson.
  3. Share – It took absolute overload for me to realize that a person can have way too much of a good thing. Finally one day, after thinking about it for some time, I was blessed with an idea.. Matt! One of my closest friends and long time business partner, Matt Geri, is also a very talented designer and programmer. I realized that he’s more than qualified to do the same work as I and I know from experience that he would also care for and put his best into each of the client projects. And that got me thinking.. though I enjoy the work and I will continue taking on freelance projects for as long as I’m able, I can do clients a lot more good if I’m able to share their project with those whom I know and trust. Then, instead of me being overwhelmed by taking on a bunch of projects on mine own, I can take a few myself, put my best into them, and share the rest with those who I know will do the same.

And that brings me to the close of this crazy week : ).

Next week I’ll be working very hard to finish off the work I’ve begun and, slowly but surely, as those projects are completed, I’ll begin opening the doors on a few new endeavours.

As far as freelance work is concerned, my plan is to take on no more than 1 or 2 new projects a week. For people interested in having work done in the weeks that I’m unavailable, I’ll happily set aside time when I am available or share the project with Matt and whomever else I’m working with.

What’s next?

New Niche Project -This next week, I’m planning, with the help of my family and several close friends, to launch into an entirely new niche market. It was inspired by a comment at our breakfast table just about a week or so ago which went something like, “Hey! We should sell this online!” – I’ll be documenting the entire process from start to finish and sharing that, along with the results, right here.

The Launch of WPMastery.com – “WP” is a way of respecting the hard work of the “WordPress” developers by honoring their request not to use the term “WordPress” in a domain. WPMastery.com will be a source for WordPress tutorials, themes, and plugins. As the same suggests, the quality standard will be the highest it can be and as such, this is a project that I am definitely not taking on alone. I’m eagerly looking forward to it : ).

And more. Each new week, as we each give it our best, will bring with it a fair share of trials and challenges, but as we move steadily forward and overcome, we grow stronger and become better able to take on whatever comes next.

Have a wonderful weekend and I thank you for stopping by! : )
-Jonathan

2 thoughts on “Life as a Freelance Web Developer

  1. James Coombs

    Hey great to see you back :D!

    good lessons there too :) I’ll have to check out WPMastery as well :).

    – James

    Reply
  2. Bo

    WPMastery is a great idea. I had an idea of starting a WP forum just because I found current WP forum is a bit annoying. If I ever start a WP forum, it will be on making money with WP, not WP in general.

    Anyway, I’m excited about your new project, because I can send my readers to your site when they have questions on WP :)

    Reply

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