1) Hello Andrew, thanks for taking part in our freelancer insides series. Firstly, can you tell us bit about yourself and what are you up to these days?
Hi. I'm Andrew, a freelance web developer from Europe. I'm helping my clients to solve their problems using technology (mostly on the back-end). I'm freelancing since July of 2013, so it's almost 4 years now.
2) So, where did your interest in technology come from and when did you know that it was going to be your career?
I think I was around 12 years old when I knew that programming is that I will be doing for my life. One evening while being bored I found a page with some problems to be solved through programming. I chose the hardest one of them and started looking for a solution. The only thing I knew about programming was that it started with "Program", had "Begin/End", and you could do arithmetic operations. After an hour or two I had a working solution. From that point on I knew that programming is what I need to do. I dabbled in it from time to time, but only got serious after finishing college and finding that making web applications is what makes me happy.
3) What was your inspiration and when did you actually decide to become a freelancer? How long have you been freelancing now?
I'm always inspired about finding solutions for problems. It's very rewarding to break the problem into many small pieces and when put them in such a way where you can get something useful from it. Especially when you haven't slept for 3 days and then find the solution to the problem :D
I worked at a web agency for almost 2 years, but in 2013 for my birthday I decided to give myself a new challenge by going on my own. I´ve been doing that for almost 4 years now. What I really enjoy about it is that freelancing allows me to choose my working environment so I can do some experimentation to find the best way of working.
4) Was it difficult for you to start freelancing? Did you face many problems or ever wanted to give up?
I did spend a couple of months thinking it over, but the decision to start made sense and was an easy one. I had some experiences letting me know that I will enjoy working remotely more (office is just too distracting for me, plus commute is a waste of time). I don't need the supervision and most of the time I know the best choice for solution.
There is always some kind of the problem lurking around the corner. When you start freelancing you have to wear a lot of hats (marketing yourself, preparing contracts, communicating with clients, looking for clients, sending invoices, making sure you get paid for those invoices, etc.), it can drain your energy fast if you're not ready for it. I still think that the biggest problem (and the reason to quit) in those periods when you have no clients. Those periods are great for working on your side projects or learning something new, but after some time anxiety starts to creep in (e.g., "What if I will never find another client?").
5) Now tell us, how do you find new clients that are interested in your services? Could you share any marketing tips and tricks with our freelancers?
I'm still trying to figure this one out / working on it. It depends a lot on what projects you're looking for and your rate. I'm looking for specific projects, so the choices are limited. Like most would suggest the good source for finding clients is your network. It's also very important to market yourself (helping other people, writing blog articles, contributing to open source, etc.). You could also always try some services that provide leads or have job/project postings, but depending on what you're looking for your results will vary.
6) What does a typical work day look like for you? Do you work a “normal” 9-5?
That changes on a day by day basis and depends on criteria like where my client is from, or if I'm traveling, and so on. My normal day is made of 6 working- hours. I found that it allows me to get more done (when you have less time you focus on what is important). I try to put emails and other kinds of communication towards the middle/end of the day as my priority is always to do as much focused work as possible. A lot of planning is happening during the day using calendar and notebook.
7) You work remotely with clients worldwide. What advice would you give someone looking to start working remotely? Do you use any specific tool to communicate with your clients or for project management?
I would advise to first find out if they are someone who wants/can work remotely. If you're working in the office right now ask your boss to allow a week (or some other time measurement) to work from home. I know people who need the office environment as much as they need water for survival. People like that would have a hard time working remotely, so everyone should first wet their toes before jumping in.
Personally I find office environments very distracting, so I can get much more done working from home for example. Tools change from client to client. I'm personally always very glad to keep communications using email. Email allows to keep it asynchronous, keeps the record of what we talked about, and it can be limited to once or twice a day for best results. Slack is a good choice for some chats, but my thinking changed and I'm starting to dislike chat application for communication (way too distracting and too easy to lose good ideas).
For calls I use Skype or Google Hangouts. Each client often has his own preference for project management application, but if he does not have one I'm often suggest to use Trello. I used to try all kinds of tools, but my focus shifted over years and now I try to keep it as simple as possible.
8) Do you use other freelancers or companies to provide skills that you don’t possess? If so, what is it like to work with other freelancers?
It might be good to get some partnership with a front-end developer, as I'm not very good at visual design stuff. I didn´t have the opportunity to try it yet, due to the projects I choose. If I had to look for one I think I would start by looking through my network or some of the communities I'm a member of.
9) What are your future plans? Will you continue working as a freelancer and offering your consulting services or would you like to switch to full-time employment?
Recently I started to provide reports to clients about what I have done during the week. There was some very good feedback on that, so there are plans to work on a project which would simplify it. I would like to keep freelancing, but the doubt always comes between projects. During travels I did some reflections on my business and decided that I would be fine with switching to full-time employment as long as they could provide some things that are important to me (remote work, good pay, 6 hour work day).
10) What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting a freelance career? And what does it takes to be successful as a freelancer?
The biggest advice in my opinion would be to not start freelancing before having your first client. I see a lot of people that are thinking about just quitting their job and starting freelancing. Don't do that. Make sure you have enough work for like 3 months and/or enough savings for 6 months. Freelancing can be hard enough (at least until you figure most of the stuff out), so you don't want to add the stress of thinking if you will have enough money to feed yourself tomorrow.
Where to find Andrew:Freelancermap.com Profile: http://www.freelancermap.com/profile/Andrew Marcinkevičius
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Pic: Andrew Marcinkevičius