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Michael Plant- PHP Web Developer from Cornwall, South West England

Michael Plant started freelancing 18 years ago when it was just becoming a popular way to work in the UK. He relishes his work as a PHP Web Developer as it gives him the opportunity to travel to wherever his contracts take him. Michael’s advice for new freelancers is not to worry too much as there is always another contract when the current one finishes…

1) Thank you Michael for the possibility of an interview. It’s a pleasure for us to have you in our inside series. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Currently a freelance PHP Web Developer, I started freelancing eighteen years ago writing online help and then developing web sites with PHP. I live in Cornwall, South West England, but travel to wherever my contracts take me. I spent two years in Germany and three in Switzerland and love to visit new countries. I try to mix in with whichever culture I visit and have had some wonderful experiences abroad.  

2) If you would search for your profile on Google, which are the three keywords you would type in the search bar?

I think the three words that best describe myself are PHP, Developer and Freelance.

3) What was your inspiration and when did you actually decide to become a freelancer?

I started freelancing when I left the Royal Navy. I wanted to control my life and freelancing gave me the opportunity to choose what I did and when. I also relish the opportunity to work and gain experience from so many different opportunities.

4) We’re sure freelancing has changed a lot over the years. Nowadays it´s very popular all over the world but how was it 18 years ago? How have you experienced its “boom”? In your opinion, what has changed for the better? And what for the worst?

I started freelancing when it was just becoming a popular way to work in the UK. A few years after starting freelancing, the Government of the time introduced tax measures, which if a freelancer was not able to prove they were a genuine business, meant they were taxed prohibitively. This measure is now is largely bypassed, but I believe it hindered the flexible work advantage that the UK had at the time.

5) Was it difficult for you to start freelancing? Did you face many problems? Could you share with our readers the most important lessons you learned on the way?

I found freelancing very easy to start in. It was easy to set up a Limited Company and find contracts. I found myself finishing one contract on a Friday and starting the next on Monday. Some very early lessons were realizing the unscrupulous tricks some agencies use to the freelancers detriment.

6) Let’s go for a question which might be interesting for all newbie freelancers, how do you find new clients that are interested in your services?

I find most of my contracts through agencies and do get a lot of repeat work. I have my own website, which has led to some leads, but I find most clients use agencies to do the hard work for them.

7)  Do you use other freelancers or companies to provide skills that you don’t possess or to delegate tasks that are not related to web development?

When clients approached me directly I have taken on other freelancers to help in projects where different skills were required. It has been quicker and cheaper to use other freelancers than trying to learn the skills myself.

8) How do you set yourself apart from your competitors? What makes you special?

I am always improving my skills and try to give added value to every contract I take on. I also try to build robust and straight forward code with plenty of comments and documentation. If another developer can look at my code and maintain or make changes straight away, then I consider it a job well done.

9) Apart from your professional life, what are your hobbies and interests? How do you manage workload with personal life? Do you use any specific apps or software tools for self-organization?

I recently started a tea room in a small harbour town in South West Cornwall. My wife manages the tea room, but I enjoy working there at the weekends. There are so many interesting customers who come from such diverse backgrounds and countries, and it is a pleasure to meet them all.  

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 best advice I can give to anyone who is thinking of starting a freelance career is that there is always another contract when the current one finishes. They must have enough skills and knowledge to "hit the ground running", but they should not worry about finding another contract. Also, you are always only as good as your last contract, so give one hundred percent on every contract.

Where to find Michael:

Link to profile: Michael Plant -
Link to website:
LinkedIn Profile: Michael Plant
Skype: mick.plant

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Pic: © Michael Plant
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