In this new episode of Changing lives, we'll meet with Alex Belov an experienced WordPress developer who's specialized in several areas like Woocommerce, jQuery, custom post type, responsive design, PSD to HTML, just to name a few.
During the interview, he'll share with us his insights and thoughts about:
- freelancing and what's good/bad about it
- his past working experiences
- why he decided to go freelance (and apply for Codeable)
- what type of clients he works with
- how being a Codeable expert changed his life
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Want more stories from WordPress developers? Check them out here:
Changing lives #1: Spyros Vlachopoulos.
Changing lives #2: Nathan Reimnitz.
Changing lives #3: Alexandra Spalato.
Changing lives #4: Raleigh Leslie.
Changing lives #6: Bogdan Dragomir.
Changing lives #7: Ray Flores.
Changing lives #8: Zach Nicodemous.
Changing lives #9: Oliver Efremov.
Changing lives #10: Bruno Kos.
Changing lives #11: Surendra Shrestha.
Changing lives #12: Marius Vetrici.
Changing lives #13: Mitchell Callahan.
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Matteo: Hi everyone! This is Matteo, from Codeable. Today we are here with Alex Belov who will share with us his story and experience working as a freelancer. He will also tell us more about working as a Codeable expert, letting us know how this experience changed his life as a freelancer. Hey Alex, thank you for joining us in this episode of Changing Lives. We really appreciate it!
Alex: Hi Matteo! Thank you for this opportunity.
Matteo: You're welcome. I'm really excited to know more about you and your story, and of course, your experience. So, why don't you just start by saying in which part of the world you are right now, where you're from, and most importantly, how long have you been a freelancer?
Alex: Ok. Right now I'm in Thailand, the north of Thailand. The city is called Chiang Mai. Maybe somebody knows this city. This is not a beach city because we don't have a sea here, it's just a big city; and I really love it, it's a really cool place, it’s a nice place to live in. I live here with my family – my wife and my small boy. My son is just 9 months old. But actually, we are from Russia, from one of the Russian cities. My wife and I were born in the city Chelyabinsk, it's in Russia.
About 5 years ago we moved to Moscow the first time; and all the time before Codeable I worked for fashion retail companies. In big and international companies, but that's why we moved to Moscow because there was more opportunities both my job and a job for my wife because she is an engineer, and yea...
Matteo: Ok. And how long have you been a freelancer?
Alex: My freelance career started like a hobby, because I always have a regular job, like 5 days in the week I go to the job. And the evenings and the weekends I sit at the computer and work with websites. So, I think about 7, maybe 8 years; because it started from something very small...
Matteo: Yeah, yeah. Like a side project and then...
Alex: Yeah! Small side projects my own size. But after that I found some small clients, and I have more and more clients, and after that I understand that it’s really cool and that I really like it. It was really cool.
Matteo: About that. So you said 7, 8 years, right? Quite a lot of time. Would you mind telling us what do you like about freelancing? I mean, you said you had a 9 to 5 job, going to the office on Monday and then leave on Friday. But what do you like most about freelancing?
Alex: You know, it’s not about 8 years of freelancing, because I had a job 5 days a week. So, it was like a hobby before maybe a few years ago when I got really big clients with really big projects and I started to learn many things to get it done. So, what I like really like now that I have the opportunity… At first, it was my dream to live some time in Thailand and now we have this opportunity, we’re living here and it’s really exciting because it was really my dream. I think even this is enough to get some freelance jobs, you know, and even more, if it's Codeable, of course, because Codeable is a really amazing place.
What I like in freelancing is that I really have a lot of time to decide my family, and now it is really important. I have time for everything and I can set my schedule for every week, for every day, and I know that I have time to get work done and I have time to spend some time with my family also.
Matteo: Yes, ok. I totally agree with you. Because freelancing also, to me, is like you have your agenda and you can customize it to spend time with your family or your hobbies; and of course, we have things to do and work on, but freelancing enables us to do this. So, even though you are at the beginning of this interview I'm going to ask you a million dollar question. Are you ready? So, what do you think it takes to be a good freelancer? Can anybody be one? Just to clarify this question – on the top of my head I think dealing with clients is just a natural to many. So, tell us about it. What does it take to be a good freelancer?
Alex: I can tell you about my experience and what I do to get successful tasks and clients. I think the most important thing is responsibility. That's why I have a lot of returning clients, some regular clients for who I did about 10 tasks already, or even more. So, it’s responsibility, and also to get this done you must have some good time management skills. So the two most important things – the first is responsibility and time management. It's not time management like a science. It's very easy, actually. It's just to understand what's important and what’s not important and not urgent for now. For example, I have a motorcycle and I have a car, so I can go at any time very far from here. But I know that I have a task, and I always choose a task; and family understand when I’m sitting and working about 16 hours for a day. It’s not always, of course, but if needed I always sit in and do my tasks. I think it’s responsibility first.
Matteo: Responsibility and time management. And time management is like giving priorities...
Alex: Yes, of course, it’s priorities. And it sounds very easy but it’s actually really difficult for some people because we all have many things to do every day, a lot of things. But you have to just forget about most of them and just choose 20% of them to get it done, it’s most important.
Matteo: So true. Let me ask you this: what made you look for something in your freelancing life, like Codeable? I mean, was there a specific reason like you didn't like your previous working life? Did you feel unfulfilled in a way? Or, what else?
Alex: I can say that I really didn’t like my previous job at all because I built my career for about 8 years to get a good position in the retail industry. But I don’t know, I started to do something new as freelancer because… Actually, it’s difficult to explain I just feel like it’s what I like to do and what I can do well. So, it’s important to do with the heart you know, relieve depression.
Matteo: So, it was like a natural choice for you.
Alex: Yes, it was some kind of natural choice. It was not so fast, it was really slow. But when I got a message from Pierre, you know, it was a really changing moment of my life.
Matteo: Yes. We'll get to that. So how did you hear about Codeable? I mean were you looking something online? Did you stumble upon an ad, a blog or whatever? How did you hear about Codeable? Do you remember it?
Alex: Yes! Actually, I remember it very well, because I sent about 200 requests to different companies. They were not Russian companies; they were international companies or big European or US companies. And I got some responses, but Codeable’s response was very different. I can explain later why it was like this, but it was very different and...
Matteo: If you don’t mind you can explain it right now. If you don’t mind.
Alex: Most of the responses were corporate emails, like "hey, we are so glad you sent your request. Yes, we are interested to work with you..." But messages from Codeable were always more human. I feel like it was written by people, by somebody from the company. So, it was more personal
Matteo: Closer to you you'd say, on a personal level.
Alex: Yes. It was a very personal approach, and I felt that it was really what I wanted and accepted this invitation.
Matteo: So you submitted your profile, and then?
Alex: Yes, yes! I submitted the profile and I got a message from Pierre that I was only one from 35 contractors.
Alex: ...Invited and I was chosen. But I know in quantity there are about 100 or even more people waiting on Codeable's list.
Matteo: Yeah, yeah.
Alex: So, it's cool. We are growing up.
Matteo: Yes, a lot. And how long have you been a Codeable expert? Can you remember it?
Alex: Yes. I remember it very well also, because my son was born on the 3rd April this year 2015, and my first message from Pierre was 10th of April.
Matteo: Oh! Close!
Alex: Yeah, really close. So I've been working in Codeable from April previous year.
Matteo: Ok. So, it's more than a year. No, almost.
Alex: It's not a year, but it’s about 8 or 9 months.
Matteo:Yeah. And how are things going? Do you like it?
Alex: It’s better from day to day. Every day is even better. I love it. I really love it, and it’s true. I already have more than 350 tasks completed.
Matteo: Whoa! That's amazing! Really! Congratulations! You really... Wow! Would you mind sharing with us a little bit more about that. I mean, do you have one shot clients, or were you able to create recurring clients? And, I don’t know what kind of tasks have the customers asked you about? If you have anything to share with us it would be really appreciated.
Alex: Sure! I always prefer to build some long term relations. So, I always tell my clients ‘yes, I’m really interested in working with you in the future; and I always leave link for them to hire me again when I perform the task. And many of them are returning, and I really love when it happens because at first it’s really easy for the client to get one expert to work with his project, and even more if it’s a really big project – a development from scratch or supporting later. It's really important. And I have a lot of clients from different countries – from Brazil, from South Korea, from U.S and Australia who send me tasks a few times per week and a few times per month. So, yes I try to calculate and I get about 80% of my clients returning back.
Matteo: Ok. That’s amazing!
Alex: Yea. Not only with one task, mostly it’s many tasks, not only one.
Matteo: Let me ask you: when you look at your past freelancing life and you fast forward to today, how have things changed? Are they any different?
Alex: My tasks in the past were only from Russian clients; and for me, it’s very important to communicate with different cultures with different people from around the world and now I can do it. It's a very, very different experience, you know. So, yes, it's different at first because the projects are really different, clients are really different. And now, I have more serious tasks than before. Because I started from really simple projects, simple word press custom themes, but now I can do my own things with word press.
Matteo: Ok. We are almost at the end. But here is the question, the last one. I know some other contractors like you, who have been working with us after some time have been able to, let's see, buy... some guy bought a motor cycle, other guys had more money to travel the world around. So, how about you? Did you do anything like that? Are you planning to do anything like this?
Alex: I did. We moved to Thailand. That was the first thing. And second thing – I always wanted to get a motorcycle, and yes, I bought a motorcycle here. I have a Kawasaki R6N. Yeah, I really love this bike. Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of time to drive in it every day, but I try to do it often. So, these are two things that I have already done, and I have some important goals, some important targets for my future; but yes, just plans, so I’m not ready to share it now. But of course, we have great plans and I hope it will be in the future.
Matteo: So, all this moving from Russia to Thailand and buying this new motorcycle and who knows what’s coming in your way. But how did Codeable help you out in achieving this?
Alex: Yes. It was became a reality because I had a lot of time to prepare this moving and I have a lot of time right now to manage my tasks and prepare right here. So, Codeable gives me this opportunity every day, and I already said many things to the Codeable team and they know that I’m really grateful for that.
Matteo: Yeah. We know that. So, Alex, it was amazing! When you tell us, in a way thanks to Codeable, that you were able to move from Russia to Thailand, that was wow, mind blowing! I think that's enough for today and it was super interesting hearing your story, Alex. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Alex: Thank you!
Matteo: And, once again, I would like to thank you for spending your time with me, with us. I wish you a great day and talk to you soon.
Alex: Thank you Matteo.