We often interview veteran freelancers who have the wisdom that comes with experience. But there’s a different perspective to be had from rookie freelancers—they’re still learning, but they’ve got that hungry spirit. There’s a fire and energy that can be inspiring for even the most jaded veteran.
Today we talk with freelance web designer Allie Nimmons. Her first taste of web design came with MySpace layouts (remember those?!). From there Allie taught herself web design and landed an internship at an agency. Then she moved into a full-time role and really learned the ropes. Allie launched her freelance business in 2016 and already has a WordCamp speaking gig on her resume. You can follow Allie on Twitter or check out her Web Designers Tribe on Facebook.
“I love that my successes and my failures are on me alone, and there is a direct correlation between how hard I work and how much money I make.” -Allie Nimmons
We talked about learning from others’ mistakes, treating clients well and the ability to define success.
How did you get started in freelancing?
I wanted to work in web design for a long time. After two years of self-teaching online and one year at an internet marketing agency, I had enough skill and know-how to strike out on my own. I was unhappy at the agency and when it came to a head, I sort of had no choice but to start freelancing or else find another 9-to-5. Freelancing was also more emotionally healthy for me and gave me more room to grow as opposed to trying to go to another agency.
What’s been the most important contributor to your early success?
Learning from the mistakes of others. I watched people who had good ideas and good intentions totally bomb at things like customer service, prioritization, improving current systems before bringing on new clients, and staying focused. I saw that going the extra mile and providing measurable value outweighed how flashy you could be or how many false promises you could make.
I made sure that the scales were always level between me and the client at every point and that they always felt included, valued, listened-to, and respected. This has saved my butt on countless occasions.
Especially when I first started out, no matter what kind of “learning on the job” mistakes I might have made, if I had the client’s friendship and respect and established that I wasn’t trying to swindle them, they always understood. I think in today’s world, transparency from company to consumer is key and more appreciated than ever.
What do you love about freelancing?
There are so many things. I love the power and the freedom. Not just to be able to work whenever and wherever I want, but the freedom to choose my clients and choose my workflows. If I want to make a change to my business, I don’t have to ask permission. And if I feel like a client isn’t a good fit for me, no one is making me work with them.
I love that my successes and my failures are on me alone, and there is a direct correlation between how hard I work and how much money I make. In every other job I’ve had, my biggest annoyances came from the challenges of working in some form of a bureaucracy, whether it was a creative job or not.
Where do you think you need to improve as a new freelancer?
I could definitely stand to learn more skills, but I definitely need to be better about following through on one endeavor before starting something else. While I want to learn more programming languages, I also want to learn more about user experience design and inbound marketing. Learning to prioritize how I grow and when is an important lesson I need to learn.
What advice do you have for veteran freelancers? What are veterans overlooking or missing that you notice as a relative newcomer?
I think veteran freelancers should realize that no one way is best. I’ve had people judge me because I prefer many smaller clients as opposed to two to three big ones a year. I also build sites from themes and don’t write my own code, which a lot of people don’t like.
I’ve also noticed that a lot of veteran freelancers don’t like sharing what they know with newbies or even their clients. I’m big on educating everyone. Anyone can learn to build a house or fix a car. But more often than not, we prefer to (maybe) learn the basics and then hire someone to do the majority work. I think things like web design are the same and everyone still wins that way. We are not always being hired for our skill, but for the convenience of passing the job on to someone else.