When Topher approached me to contribute my story on HeroPress, I was overwhelmed. I felt that I had lots to learn before I could even think about contributing. I decided to decline. As I was preparing to write to him, I decided to browse through the site and that’s when I came across a line at the end of the HeroPress about page “Everyone can be a hero to someone and everyone should be a hero to themselves”. This line motivated me to change my decision and honor Topher’s request.
The story I have to tell might not be new. But when I meet my old buddies who comment that “I wish I could also quit and freelance, but the time is not right”. I want to tell them that I too once felt the same. It does feel like a monstrous feat, but after I took my first steps towards acting on this goal, it seemed achievable. Though the decision and the journey after quitting wasn’t swift, but it was definitely enlightening. I hope another soul contemplating traveling the same road might get motivated to do the same. Then I had done my good deed of the day :).
In my early phase of career I started with coding on C & UNIX network programming for about 6 years and mainly managing UNIX projects. After 9 yrs of project management (and a total of 15+ yrs of experience) I realized that I was no longer in touch with the technical world. The everyday firefighting and project management had lost its initial charm. I felt that the excitement was missing in my work life. Meanwhile at my home front, I was struggling to keep up to my own expectations. I wanted to spend more quality time with my children and be around when they needed me. I also didn’t want to quit my job because I wanted my independence and an outlet for my creativity. Freelance seemed one option which I wanted to explore. It could let me balance my professional & personal aspirations.
Freelance seemed right but then which skill to hone? Project Management was what I was working on last, but I wanted to code. I didn’t want to go back to C/UNIX programming as with the 9 year gap the technology had changed a lot. Back in 2003 I had created a website for my then company in my free time. For this website I had learnt HTML and enjoyed the creativity of playing around with it. I had enjoyed that self driven project and decided to pursue web development. During my research on HTML and the changes from 2003, I came across WordPress. I found it easy to understand, I could install and start working without any additional investment. If I got stuck at something, searching on the web could easily direct me towards the solution, as someone else out there also had found the problem and solution thereon. I was surprised at the way people went out of their way to help people in the WordPress forums and the meetups I attended.
I felt that I was always walking from one challenge to other. Some of them are :
What content to put on my own site?
Am I good enough?
Will I get paid?
How much to quote for?
Will I get projects to work on?
Will I have a satisfied customer at the end of the project?
Will I be able to deliver the project on time?
If I get stuck at some task of my project, what do I do without a team member/senior to go to?
What will I do?
And I am sure if you planning to join the freelance bandwagon, you will have your share of the similar questions. I am sharing my experience and my approach towards some of these solutions.
I first researched on what is the best hosting provider in the market and ensuring that I do not spend more than what is required, I bought my domain and hosting. I easily installed WordPress and decided on the theme. But then came the big problem – what do I write about? I started with contents for “about me” and “contact me” pages. But what about the rest of the content? I had a lot of ideas for content, but it was all over the place. Just at the right time, I stumbled across MindMap – and it helped me clear my mind and get me focused towards my goal and helped me get things done. I read a lot and slowly starting filling up the content. My site is not what I planned in my MindMap, I would say I am 50% there, but I have a plan to work on. I found that working on my own site, was the best thing I could have done. I realized how difficult it is to come up with content. But, tweaking my theme to work with my expectation, helped improve my confidence a lot on the technical front.
Once I got my site running, I desperately wanted to starting working on clients projects. I was lucky to get contacted for work because of my site and linked-in. But the next challenge was – How much to quote for? Searching on the net gives you a rough idea. But even if I took the lowest rate from net, it felt like I was like fleecing my customers. I was ready to work for free, because I felt I should prove that I am good at my work. That’s when I was advised very rightfully that free work doesn’t hold value to the clients. After open discussion with my first client, we agreed that the amount would be decided after I worked with the client for 1 month. Fortunately after one month the client was happy and we mutually agreed on an amount. After couple of months, I gained more confidence and realized I need to work on my proposal template. I asked a couple of friends I had met at the WordPress meetups and got a good advice of how to plan for quote etc. Some even shared some proposals they used for their client. This helped me with the legal wording and the general structure of the proposal.
WordPress meetups helped me a lot by connecting to people & an opportunity to learn from their experience. Initially when I attended the Pune WordPress meetup I felt I was sitting with people talking Greek and Latin :). But I kept on attending and reading up on words I didn’t understand. I was really surprised at the effort others took to help solve my queries. I felt convinced that I was traveling the right road but the destination seemed light years ahead. The 2015 Mumbai WordCamp (my first WordCamp) gave a spike to my learning curve. Networking with the people at the WordCamp helped me get the offline help when I needed. This is when I also realized I now had an opportunity to give back. I was so thrilled that my lack of experience in WordPress (though by now I had learnt basic Greek and Latin – but not fluent) was not a limitation for contribution back to the community.
I am proud to be one of the organizers to the Pune 2015 WordCamp. Being part of this Pune WordCamp organizing team is an important milestone for me. As the Mumbai WordCamp helped me, I am hoping the Pune WordCamp helps similar newbies work towards their WordPress journey.
I will be forever grateful for the friends who have helped me in my journey, I promise I will give back to the community what can. Not sure If I will be able to balance this equation ever but then there is no harm trying. Right?
For Me : I always felt that I have been lucky that if I came across a challenge, I have been getting the right help and guidance. Each challenge and its solution helped me progress further ahead. But as I write this post, I will have to also give credit to the effort that I put in to get the right help and not give up at a difficult turn. I know that I will enjoy my journey along with help from WordPress community. I also know that my mind map still indicates there is lots more I need to achieve. Once in a while we all need to take a step back and admire and enjoy our work.
For You : The motivation to work towards a solution is with you and only you. As someone very thoughtfully said “You are only wired to fight your battles and nobody can fight them for you.” The happiness and joy you feel when you win your battle is one of best feelings you can have. Remember “If its important for you – then you will find a way. If it is not – then you’ll find excuses”. When you take the first steps, you realize that it’s not difficult to carry on with the journey. But If you keep thinking about the journey, it will never take off.
PS: If there is any way I can help you in your freelance journey, please drop me a mail with details @ firstname.lastname@example.org. You can help me by paying it forward to others !!!
@Topher : Thanks, your request forced me to pause my journey and look back the distance covered and realize that I enjoyed the ride. I am sure you will continue to nudge others to pen down their experiences and leave directions to guide others in their journey.