Life as a Freelance WordPress Developer – The first 9 months

September 25, 2014 . by Aaron B

In the Beginning

When I launched AG design studio in January, I had some pretty mixed feelings. Sure, I was  excited about running my own business in my own way and confident that I would succeed.  At the same time, walking away from a regular salary to enter the, notoriously precarious, world of freelancing did seem like borderline insanity. So with winter fast approaching, I thought I’d pour myself a coffee, break out the choccy biscuits and indulge in a bit of reflection on what we’ve achieved so far and where we’re  heading in the next few months.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll remember that starting AG was a massive leap of faith. I’d secured my first client and I had some contacts locally but, other than that, I really was starting from scratch. I knew that the first year wasn’t going to be a walk (or bike ride) in the park and I was ready to tough it out. Amazingly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. In the 9 months we’ve been in business I’ve been completely blown away by our progress.

Amazing Projects, Fantastic Clients

When we first kicked off,  you may remember that I registered with the freelancing site People per Hour. To begin with I was really dependent on them for new leads but, as time’s passed, I’ve managed to attract more and more direct clients through my website and courtesy of other web design agencies. Given that PPH seems to be positioning itself at the cheap end of the freelance market, this is a great position to be in.

So, what have we been up to? Well, I’ve built a good number of custom WordPress themes for clients which is exactly the kind of challenging, creative work that I love. In fact, I’ve been able to work solidly with my 2 great loves; WordPress and WooCommerce (sorry Georgia). One of the great advantages of what I do is that I can work with clients anywhere in the world and I’ve been lucky enough to win some exciting projects and make some good friends in the USA and Australia.

No one could ever say that Freelancing is  boring. In the last 9 months I’ve designed sites for a pet shop in Dover, a Californian wine maker and a business that makes money out of marbles. All this via some fun involving iced coffee and chocolate stilettos! Every project is unique, and I get the biggest buzz ever out of creating solutions that are as original as my clients’ business.

High Points

So, as I tuck into my third biscuit (really need to put those away), here are my ‘best bits’.

  1. The freelance community are, for the most part, a very friendly and generous bunch, something I really appreciate. It’s great to be able to help out other talented freelancers by “sharing the love” with collaborative projects and leads.  Working for yourself can be a lonely business and it’s good to connect with other people in the same situation to catch up and share the highs and lows. I’ve also been able to mentor other WordPress developers and pass on some of the things I’ve learned,which is what WordPress is all about.
  2. Not wanting to go all “touch, feely” here but working for myself has definitely helped me to grow as a person. As an employee, it’s easy to sit back and wait for things to happen. As a business owner you have to be ready to learn new skills and to push yourself that little bit further every day. You’re the sales manager, creative talent, accountant and tea boy in your own business. Sometimes you have to step back and think “is this the best use of my time?”  If the answer is “probably not” don’t be afraid to look for someone else to help.
  3. Getting to the top level as a freelancer on People Per Hour. This was just one of those personal goals that became a bit of a mission…that’s the trouble when you’re super-competitive!

Not so High Points

You probably won’t believe this but I’m calling these the “not so high points” because I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’ve hit a few minor bumps in the road but I’m very relieved to say that I haven’t hit any real lows (touch wood). Yes, the hours are long and building a business is pretty relentless and yes you will test your partner’s patience to its limits at times  but, honestly, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Future Plans

After getting off to such a great start I guess it’s only natural that Georgia and me have been thinking a lot about the direction we’d like to take AG in. Knowing that there’s a real demand for bloat free WordPress sites, we’ve decided to take our first steps into the WordPress premium theme market.  So, I’ve been using every spare moment -well O.K, maybe not quite every moment but hey it’s been a great summer and a man needs to get out on his bike from time to time – I’ve been busy building the first of these premium themes, it’s lean, sharp and full of the kind of practical, straightforward functionality that my clients ask for.

Thinking of Going it Alone?

So, those are my reflections and, all in all, I guess you’d say I’m pretty happy with the choice I made. If you’ve got a great business idea and you’re standing on the precipice wondering whether to jump into freelancing, my advice would be to go for it. Verify your idea, allow your business to grow organically and make sure you’ve got the support of the people closest to you. All of that combined with  passion, self-belief and heaps hard work, will set you on the path to owning a successful and sustainable business.

Thank You

I’ve talked about self-belief here but it definitely helps when other people believe in you too.  So I just want to say thank you to my partner in business and in life, Georgia. Without her to support me, encourage me and give me the occasional kick up the backside, AG would definitely not have come so far, so fast.

Get in touch

If you’re starting a business, or just thinking about it and you’d like to talk to someone who’s been there give me a call.

Image by Richard Kelly