We’ve been talking with WordPress freelancers, taking stock of how far they’ve come.
“My enjoyment of being a developer is really only a love for solving problems—mostly searching for that aha moment when a solution finally works and makes sense.” -Kirsten Cassidy
Our conversation covers solving problems, making your own mistakes and pushing yourself to the next level.
What was your greatest success as a freelancer?
I would be hard-pressed to choose just one successful project. Upon close scrutiny, almost all my projects have their share of successes and failures.
My enjoyment of being a developer is really only a love for solving problems—mostly searching for that aha moment when a solution finally works and makes sense. In this regard, there are few absolutes and an enormous grey area of possibilities. Success is usually determined by whether or not a client likes the solution and its implementation, but often time is the final judge of whether it was successful or not.
Maybe it would be easier to say that I have become more successful at asking the right questions. I have also learned to keep an open mind and not to fixate on a single idea being the correct one.
What was your greatest failure as a freelancer, and what did you learn from it?
I have had my share of failures as a freelancer although none of them have been catastrophic. Most of them have little to do with the code I wrote or the solutions I proposed. I have been lucky in that almost all of my clients have been basically good and reasonable people. I’ve had a lot to learn about managing my time and remembering that even if I enjoy what I do it is still a job which merits getting paid. I’ve learned about the hazards of taking on too many projects and letting clients set my schedule. These are all things I read or heard about as potential dangers of freelancing, yet I found myself doing them anyway.
At the beginning of my career, it was often my clients who had to insist on paying me more because of the time I was devoting to a project. I was having such a good time learning a new skill that it seemed wrong to get paid for it. I knew this shouldn’t be the case, but part of me was afraid that if I charged too much they might find someone else, and I would be the one missing out. As I gained experience as a freelancer and as I became more confident in my skills, I somewhat naturally began charging what I was worth. I can’t say I regret undercharging though as it allowed me to gain this experience. Sometimes things have to be experienced firsthand, and it is inevitable that mistakes will be made.
Time management and work-life balance are other areas I have and continue to struggle with. I read articles about working too much and the pitfalls of working late at night, but I can’t say I’ve ever followed much of their advice. Sometimes working long hours gets out of hand and my family complains. I’ve learned to make time for them and set limits for when my clients can contact me. On the other hand, I’ve had to learn to tell friends and family to respect my working hours even in periods when I work from home as that does not mean I am free to chat or go out for long lunches.
Looking ahead, where do you need to grow as a freelancer?
I feel there is a limit to what I can do on my own and that, as a freelancer, I need to push those limits. Not from any desire for self-betterment, but just to stay pertinent and not get really bored. Certainly to be challenged.
I have worked as a sole developer on projects where I was responsible for everything, from design to analytics. I have found that in order to grow as a developer, I need to set limits and better define what I am good at and what can be done within a certain time period or by someone else. Although being a jack-of-all-trades has its appeal and has allowed me to explore a larger terrain in web development, I now enjoy working in teams and being able to push myself further in certain areas without being bogged down with tasks that either don’t suit me or that I simply don’t enjoy.
I no longer feel the need to be good at everything, so I can concentrate better on what I am good at and what I do enjoy.