I've recently made the transition from the world full-time WordPress development for a digital advertising agency to full-time freelance. Six months ago I joined a freelance WordPress development platform called Codeable which is very similar to the GoDaddy Pro Marketplace and my successes there helped me get to a place financially where I was able to comfortably transition away from the security of a full-time job.
I'm posting here to share my numbers with fellow WordPress developers in hopes that some of you experts will also explore the Codeable platform alongside the GoDaddy Pro marketplace. To me, it seems that being an active expert on multiple platforms might help others make the same transition I did successfully.
My Personal Income Reports
January 2016 = $10,433.19
December 2015 = $7,559.49
November 2015 = $13,453.75
October 2015 = $9,834.35
September 2015 = $13,841.66
August 2015 = $6,483.15
I’d also like to mention that the intent of this article is to inspire, not to boast. This is my personal story, my journey, in becoming a freelance WordPress developer. My goal is to show other developers what’s possible through various marketplaces and hopefully inspire someone to pursue a fulfilling freelance career of their own.
I want to make sure we're on the same page about a few other things here as well.
First, this isn’t some magic get-rich-quick, overnight success, pyramid scheme, fantasy nonsense. This is real income produced by completing real work for real clients. I earned this money by working for it, not wishing for it.
Second, this is not a best case scenario by any means. The data found above is from my time spent as a part-time freelancer for Codeable. What I really mean by “part-time freelancer” is that I still had a “real job” (at least that’s what my parents call it) building websites from a desk nine-to-five.
I’ve had conversations with successful developers all around the world who’ve made freelancing their full-time job and have managed to earn quite a bit more than me in the same time-frame…
Anyways, I'd love to hear some of your stories about making the transition from having a "real job" to living your life with full time freedom (freelancing).
Looking forward to chatting with you guys!
Interestingly, my transition to freelance was initiated by my employer. At the time I had a salaried job as a manager at a high-tech company, and among other things was managing the company intranet. I wanted to cut back to 30 hrs/week so I could be at home after school with my kids. I volunteered to be an individual contributor, give up my office, take a pro-rated salary, etc. The answer was no, that everyone had to be salaried (implied: so we can pay you for 40 hours and you work 60, rather than pay you for 30 and you work 30).
I went back to my desk to plot my exit strategy. I was already doing some freelance web work on the side, although more for fun than profit... my kids' school, a local non-profit whose board I was on, the local pizza place in exchange for free pizza ("will work for food"). Mind you, this was in the late 90's, not quite the same environment as now! But work came in, and for the first year or two, I actively looked for work.
After that, everything has been referral and/or personal networking. And I mean EVERYTHING. It is definitely possible to build a freelance web business this way, and I had the advantage of being one of the first (if not the first) freelance web designers in our city (and now I'm the oldest web designer in our city, by a long shot). I happen to be a strong proponent of hiring a local web designer -- it builds relationships, increases networking, provides better service in that I can meet with clients in person, visit their office, etc. And I can chase them if they don't pay their bills 😉 Of course people successfully many run a virtual business and can take clients anywhere. I'd say 90%+ of mine are in the SF Bay Area where I live. The ones who are out-of-town are relatives of clients, old college buddies, or cases where it really made sense to make an exception.
I do think that if you want to build a referral-based business, there are some strategies to put in place, and it takes work. Here are some that worked for me:
I managed my kids' school websites all through high school (and then for 5 years after my youngest finished HS) -- many clients were school parents. I also speak at career days for various ages. I've had clients who were spouses of teachers whose classroom I'd appeared in.
I am actively involved in a number of community events/activities/groups (local chamber of commerce, was on the steering committee for the city's 50th anniversary celebration, work with many local non-profit organizations...). Exposure has been critical to my success.
I have donated various items/projects/services to local charity auctions. Great publicity, plus helping them raise money.
I made it a point to hang out at the local coffee shop and other venues where I got to know many people. In addition, I meet clients there, and then other people see me working there, come by to chat, etc.
I built some key partnerships with what I call my "power partners" in our local area -- the best is probably the printer I use for all of the print collateral I design for web clients. I bring him business, he sends me clients. [shameless plug: I write for the Garage, here's an article about this very topic: https://www.godaddy.com/garage/webpro/design/finding-your-web-design-power-partners/]
I wrote a book -- although this was one of those bucket list items I had in mind for ages, it also let me do some local speaking engagements, get local press, etc. And it happens to be mighty helpful for clients (who get a free copy).
I taught a class for 10 years at the local Community College (Women in Science & Technology, 1 unit seminar course). All sorts of interesting leads came from this, even though my intent had nothing to do with drumming up business, and everything to do with promoting women in tech.
There are other strategies but I think you see my point. This won't work if you have a national business and look for clients anywhere-and-everywhere, but it certainly has worked for me!
Great topic, @NathanReimnitz. Throwing my own experience in here:
My first run at freelancing was during college, probably eight-ish years ago at this point. I needed some extra income and had an interest in web development, which, evidently, was a good combination. (Woo!) A few of my instructors were also acting as marketing consultants, so they handed me some easy project work. It was a good flow.
I took a second run at freelancing a few years ago. I was in a marketing/account management role for a small web shop. A former colleague had referred someone to me for some contract work. Wanting a change, I decided to register a business name and take on the contract as the first client. Unfortunately it didn't last, and that led down a frustrating and stressful path.
Freelancing takes a lot of commitment. Schedules are hectic. Cashflow is unpredictable. You're simultaneously building and working for a business. And if you're not treating it like a business, you're going to be in trouble.
If I were to do it all over, I'd definitely do things differently. I'd have an accountant and lawyer from the get-go to manage the books and advise on legal matters. I'd limit the scope of my projects and focus on packaging solutions with higher margin. I'd work on building my sales pipeline through something like the Pro marketplace. I'd want the entire thing to run like an efficient machine.
Anywho... freelancing opportunities still come my way on a regular basis. Like @hartsook, most of them comes from my involvement in our local WordPress community, and like @webdiva, other opportunities come from personal connections. I tend to hand them off to local freelancers or agencies that I know, or pass them along to our local WordPress community.
If you are into Wordpress development a great resource is a guy from Australia named Troy Dean. He has some excellent tools and his blogs are out-of-site good!
Great resource, Nathan, and thanks for sharing your success story!
Coding has interested me since I was quite young, but my passion is writing. I've had "real jobs" before, but was unemployed when my freelancing career began. I started content writing and editing on Fiverr for exposure (quick articles for $5 each).
Soon after, one client wanted me to post the articles/content onto his WP sites. I took to the interface very quickly, so he had me do more with the WP sites, and eventually I began novice WordPress development. I sharpened my HTML/CSS skills, joined Elance (now Upwork), and clients started pouring in. I was told most of my life that freelancing was too difficult to break into and too unstable, so I never dreamed of trying it. Now I'll never look back!