Freelancer Insides - Mauricio Gelves, Freelance Web Consultant

18.06.2018

A passion for travel and a talent with computer science has given Mauricio Gelves the ability to work as a freelance web consultant. He's spoken and helped companies across the globe, and in this edition of Freelancer Insides, he'll share his journey and successes in the freelance business.

Hello Mauricio, we’re very happy to have you here! Firstly, can you tell us and our users a bit about yourself and what are you up to these days?

Sure. My name is Mauricio Gelves, I was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina and I have lived in Madrid, Spain since 2010. I have a degree in Computer Science and I have worked as a Freelance Web Consultant specialized in WordPress since 2016. My working life focuses around this; I'm constantly participating, attending, organizing and giving talks in different CS meetups and WordCamps from Spain and the world.

When did you actually decide to become a freelancer? What was your inspiration?

To be a web programmer you need creativity and that, in my case, comes from my passions: sports and travel. But of course, to be able to travel you need time and the 15 or 20 days offered by most of the companies per year were not enough.

Since I was very young, a sense of suffocation has made me look for possibilities of uniting these two passions of mine. I tried several things, and after 2 failed attempts I have achieved it! Today I can consider myself a "digital nomad," always full of energy to offer solutions to my customers problems.

What misconceptions do people have about what you do? What advice would you give to those starting in WordPress? What is your best tip in WordPress development?

A habitual and very wrong concept that people usually have about me is to think that I spend my life on vacation. It’s quite the opposite. In order to enjoy the free time I show in my photos and videos, I have to work more hours than I did as a a permanent employee. But of course, this is not reflected in social media networks.

My best advice to those WordPress developers who are just starting out would be to study and learn the roots of computing (algorithms, protocols, design patterns, database, etc). Technology changes fast, but the base is almost always the same. There is a lot of free information on the web, both in Spanish and English, and almost any other language. There are also WordPress eventsaround the world. Take advantage of the resources at hand!

My best tip for the WordPress development: Take advantage of the code that other people have already written(the well-known plugins and themes) to accelerate the process of web development. However, use it in a proper measure and keep in mind the people that will take on the project after you.

 Technology changes fast, but the base is almost always the same.

What do you love most about your work? Is there one particular project that you are especially proud of?

I love the variety of projects that I can work on; they’re changing every two or three months. Each contract request that I receive hides a new world to discover. For example, at this particular moment I am optimizing a very well-known website for girls, as they describe it, "with a size considered superior to the usual", but I’ve also worked in websites active in very different fields: rock magazines, technology magazines, online gambling, a luxurious brothel in Canada, the sale of products derived from marijuana…. In short, you never know where you will end up writing code.

One of the projects that I am most proud of is the MondoSonoro magazine since it involved a great deal of migration work, the definition of a new data structure, the layout development and the final implementation with WordPress.

In your opinion, which are the main benefits of working as a freelancer? What are the challenges?

The biggest benefit of being a freelancer is freedom, and at the same time is the most complicated part of being a freelancer. I enjoy being able to control my time and run my business in my own way, but at the same time you need your working routine so that freedom doesn’t become counterproductive. It is clear that not everyone could be freelance. Everything is a matter of establishing a habit.

How do you find new clients that are interested in your services? Is there any marketing strategy that you’ve proved to be the great? Any experience with a “crazy client”?

I did a so-called marketing campaign that goes throughout my career as a freelancer. I sent a short and concise email to all my acquaintances detailing my plans and the services that I’ll be providing when I decided to leave the company for which I worked. After that, if you work well, the clients will come to you without you having to looking for them.

But if you ask me for a marketing strategy, I would say that you need a web page where potential clients can find details of what services you offer, a quick way to contact you, and besides that, make sure you show the world what you can do through articles in blogs, podcasts, videos or photos.

What does a typical work day look like for you? Are there any apps or websites that you could not run your business without?

I try to get up as early as possible so I can enjoy the afternoon. Sometimes I achieve it, sometimes not.

Depending on how I feel when I wake up, I decide from where I am going to work. I don’t have a particular place where I work from, it can be in hotels, bookstores, co-working spaces, coffee shops, at home or a friend's office.

At the moment, I am writing the answers to this interview from the cafeteria of a 5-star hotel. And isn’t that expensive? Only a few euros more than what it will cost you any other place, but the peace of mind you enjoy, the facilities that they offer and the high-speed Internet connection make the higher price completely worth it. Over time you find these little tricks of having a digitally-nomadic lifestyle.

As for my favorite pieces of technology:

  • WordPress: Of course, I’m passionate about this tool and also convinced of this Open Source tool present in 30% of the internet.
  • Todoist: Tool to organize all my work using the technique GTD (Getting Things Done).
  • Google Drive: For storage, documents and spreadsheets in the cloud. Primordial.
  • Asana: Ideal tool to carry out a project in a work team.
  • Photoshop: I use it a lot to generate all kinds of images: for Tweets, for webinars, for graphics to include in my articles, to promote talks, to touch up my photos, etc.
  • Spotify: Essential working music.
  • an iPhone: It's not an expensive phone, it's your "portable office."

Besides development, you love travelling,and you’re lucky enough to be called a digital nomad. How is it to be a one? How long do you spend in a new place? Is everything planned in advance or do you just buy one-way tickets?

I searched for all my means and I worked very hard for years to be able to say, "I am a digital nomad." I can tell you that these last years have been the best of my life. I’ve been in countries and cities that I would never have known had I not been a freelancer. I also feel very fortunate to have friends all over the world thanks to the WordPress community.

I particularly prefer "roundtrip" trips for several reasons: I love Madrid, the city where I live, and I miss it after a couple of weeks away from it. Also, returning home recharges my batteries to continue travelling. Moving from country to country requires a lot of mental energy and sometimes I have seen myself saying "I need vacations within my holidays." When I visit a new country, I try to be there at least two weeks. This allows me to more fully enjoy the place I’m visiting while working on my current projects.

If all my projects are doing well, I usually take long weekends for discovering new places. I do not have a very detailed plan of my trips, but I do a mini-investigation to map out places that I do not want to miss during my stay in that country.

Which challenges did you face when you first hit the road? Could you share any tips for freelancers considering going remote? What’s your favorite city/country to work from?

There are complications, but they can be easily overcome:

  • The Internet is not always easy to find: This can be solved by buying SIM cards from each country for "connection emergencies".
  • Lack of electricity: Carrying a power strip in my backpack saved me when I had been in coffee shops with only one outlet and had to share electricity with others in the coffee shop.
  • You can’t always go out for a walk: On several occasions I had to stay working while my friends went hiking. Your schedule won’t always match up with friends who have permanent, 9-5 jobs, and that’s okay. Just understand that you could potentially have to say “no” to a few plans with your buddies.

You have to be strong and understand that work comes first. Then you learn that even if you only leave the apartment once for lunch in a new city, it is a privilege that the vast majority can’t enjoy.

I still do not have a favorite city in which to work, but I have heard from many digital nomads about the co-working spaces on the beach in Bali. I'll go someday.

You have to be strong and understand that work comes first. Then you learn that even if you only leave the apartment once for lunch in a new city, it is a privilege that the vast majority can’t enjoy.

Last but not least, is being your own boss what you expected? What are your future plans? Would you give up your freelance life to start as an employee?

Being my own boss is everything I've wanted. I treat myself very well and sometimes I even give myself a raise. And although sometimes I work more hours than I can even count, it doesn’t bother me, because I know that these are the steps that allow me to continue living this dream.

Become a company employee again? I never say never, but at the moment I do not see it as an option. I have rejected very good job offers to keep this lifestyle.

Freestyle! Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?

We are fortunate to live in a time in which technology offers many new possibilities for work and leisure. If you want to be a freelancer, you are in the right place at the right time.

Just like any decision you will have your positive and negative points, but if it is what you are really looking for I can tell you that the effort is very worthwhile.

Here is a talk I gave at the WordCamp in Bilbao (in Spanish) about becoming a freelancer in “10 simple steps.” Hopefully it will help.

 

Where to find Mauricio:

Mauricio Gelves
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