In this new episode of Changing lives, we'll meet with Justin Frydman, a full stack web developer and systems administrator with 20 years of experience. Justin has specialized in many areas such as Website Optimization, Server/VPS Optimization and Tuning, Plugin Customization/Custom Plugin Development, just to name a few.
During the interview, he'll share with us his insights and thoughts about:
- why he became a freelancer
- what elements someone who wants to start freelancing should be paying attention to
- how it feels to be a part of a community of WordPress professionals for a remote developer
- 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 #5: Alex Belov.
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.
Changing lives #14: Puneet Sahalot.
Changing lives #15: Onur Demir.
Changing lives #16: Jonathan Bossenger.
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Matteo: Hi everyone this is Matteo from Codeable and today we’re going to meet with Justin Frydman who will share with us his story but he will also tell us more about his experience as a WordPress freelancer. But that’s not all: he will also tell us a bit more about working as a Codeable expert, letting us know how this experience in a way changed his life.
Hey Justin, thank you for joining us in this new episode of Changing Lives! We really appreciate it.
Justin: Thanks Matteo... really, really happy to be here, very, very excited to do this segment.
Matteo: Awesome, let’s get started.
Justin: Let’s do it.
Matteo: So why don’t you tell us which part of the world you’re in right now, where you’re from and most importantly how long you’ve been a freelancer?
Justin: No problem. So I’m in cloudy Vancouver Canada, which is for those of you who don’t know, just a couple hours drive north of Seattle on the West Coast. I’m originally from Calgary Alberta, which is just a city outside of the Rocky Mountains East of here. I also lived for a year in Australia and a couple years in Germany in between there. And why I became a freelancer so many reasons.
Matteo: Before going to that, how long have you been one?
Justin: How long have I been a freelancer? I would say my first freelance project was when I was in high school where I built the website for the elementary school on the street, from us yeah ,they didn’t have one and this is way back in the day when we’re using GeoCities and thing like that. You guys remember that?
Matteo: Yeah I remember that!
Justin: Yeah in between that I had salary jobs, big companies, small companies but I’ve been freelancing full-time since around 2010, so 7 years.
Matteo: Around 7 years, okay appreciate it. So let’s go into more detail. Would you mind telling us what do you like about being a freelancer? Why did you choose to start working by yourself, gamble on yourself, other than end up in 9-5 jobs?
Justin: I was always doing side projects anyway but it just kind of came about when I was living in Germany and I was there on a school visa learning Germany. I had a couple companies back home that were interested in giving me work so I just got started freelancing for them from there to earn a living. Aside from that, I mean I mostly was sort of a contractor freelance to agencies. I wasn’t doing a lot of direct to client work, I was mostly working with a project manager or another developer from another agency to do their overflow of work or just do projects for them. So yeah, I mean after a while it was pretty nice but then I ran into some of the same problems as a salary job where you can’t really pick your projects, you’re not playing to your strengths and you’re doing some of the work you’re not super passionate about.
Justin: That’s a similar problem you run into when you’re in a salary job, you can’t really say "Hey I don’t want to do this" or "This isn’t the best for it".
Matteo: Of course.
Justin: The same thing with the agency contracting because they’re basically like here is the work we need you to do and you’re like "okay, I need to get paid so I’ll do it…" regardless if it’s strong suit for me or not.
Matteo: Okay thank you, thank you for that. We're at the beginning of this interview, I know this is a super tough question. Are you ready?
Justin: I’m ready.
Matteo: What does it take to be a good freelancer and do you think anybody can be one? To justify my question dealing with clients, dealing with tight deadlines, budgeting or planning your time and resources isn’t natural for many. What do you think? What does it take to be a good freelancer?
Justin: First you can try...
Matteo: Yeah sure.
Justin: But to be a successful one, you have to be better than that. Aside from being able to do the work like you said, there are a lot of other elements to being a good freelancer. So the way I think about it is you have to wear many hats like you’re in a startup and you have to wear them all well.
You know when you’re speaking with clients online, you have to have the best communication you can possibly have, I’d say that’s 90% of the work almost is communicating, dealing with expectations, getting a clear picture of the project all these things. Hat number one is sort of the sales project manager hat you’re wearing and you’re like "Hey you know what is your project exactly. Here is some solutions I think we can do and then you’re like let’s work together" so you put on the developer hat next and you actually do the work. From there you put on the Q&A hat and test the work and after that, you put on sort of the client support hat and deliver your work and be there to answer any questions, explain the detail of what you did. All in all, you have to wear all those hats really well to make a unified…
Justin: Solution, yeah exactly! That’s what I think it takes and I’ve been learning a lot since I’ve been on Codeable. Like I said, I was mostly working with agencies so doing direct client work has been a newer experience for me and I’m really loving it. So learning a lot there.
Matteo: Yeah, we'll get there.
Justin: Yeah, for sure.
Matteo: Okay, yeah I get that wearing so many hats could be a challenge for somebody.
Matteo: But it’s… it's also, you know, something that every day you feel challenged so maybe you really need to step up your game.
Justin: I’m learning every day and I’m really stepping it up. I’m learning new things from the colleagues at Codeable… but, I mean, it comes down to some common sense, like treating people really great, treating people the way you want to be treated. Yep, finding clients that are passionate about their projects as you are and really stuff will work them self out. Everybody is really on the same page and I really like it so…
Matteo: Couldn’t agree with you more.
Justin: It’s awesome!
Matteo: What made you look for something in your freelancing life like Codeable? Was there a specific reason like you didn't like your previous jobs? The way you were working before? Were you "missing out" on something in your professional life?
Justin: Yeah, like I said, I was remote freelancing for agencies right and, through that, I was never ever really getting any community. So I didn’t have really many people to talk shop with and knowledge share and grow and things like that. When I found Codeable I heard there was a community
on background here like people help each other. I’m home here by myself, you know, my wife is at work, I need to you know shoot the stuff with other people as well.
The other major thing was, like I said, I had no control over the projects I kind of was so it was still kind of a salary job, it was out of requirements out of the agency like here is the next project for you, I was like okay. This isn’t the kind of projects I totally want to do but I’m going to do it, I need to get paid and things like that, but at Codeable I’m able to pick and choose the projects and the people I’d like to work with so I can really play to my strengths rather than my weaknesses and I can also look at new things that are being posted and learn those things on the side and try to improve my personal things like that.
That was the main reason I just wanted control over the process, the deadlines, the client expectations those were all just fed to me before now I can actually control those things and really give that full experience which I think was lacking at some my previous client areas.
Matteo: Since you brought it up, what type of project do you see yourself strongest at? I mean quick projects like those that can be done probably in a day or more complex ones that might keep you busy, I don’t know, for a week?
Justin: I’m doing both somehow. I initially started out doing as many small jobs as I could possibly get because I still have a lot of existing work so I could only pick up the one to two-hour jobs and I really enjoyed them. I love the website optimization jobs… It’s a real passion to make people’s sites fast and how appreciative they are when you’re done because they can see the difference when you’re…
Matteo: Yeah, the result.
Justin: It’s really nice to have results-driven work when you’re like here is your before stats and after and regardless of the metrics they are their site they can see how much faster it is. I really love those because people get to know… having a fast website is very important these days. I love tinkering with it and love getting it as fast as I possibly can.
Justin: On the other hand, I’m also working on a huge job right now like a monthly job I picked up through a great client by optimizing his website . He’s like “Can you do this? I sure can!". I just moved on from that. I’ve been working on that and that’s been going on since November. Yeah, I’m doing all and, in between, I’ll pick up a few small jobs here and there a few of my repeat clients if they need something and break up some different work into smaller tasks, yeah.
Matteo: Do you remember how many projects you worked on and completed a rough number maybe?
Justin: I think I’m at 106 now.
Justin: I just recently broke 100 and I’m really happy about that.
Matteo: Yeah great!
Justin: Thank you, I’m excited about that!
Matteo: Of course it’s a huge achievement. How long have you been a Codeable expert?
Justin: I got my certification in August 2016; so that’s around 5 months ago. Like I said, I was really still completing other work and other obligations I had other contracts. I was just picking up a few small tasks here and there and just trying to build up my numbers and try to meet clients and get to know community but taking it slow. After things started going, it snowballed like crazy and there is just no stopping it, just getting preferred and repeat work.
Justin: Yeah it’s incredible, I can’t say enough about it! As long as you put the work in… you know it’s a little slow to get started if you’re sort of new to the system. But everybody goes at their own pace so take your own time and it just starts happening. Just work on your own experience with clients and work on delivering the Codeable promise and quality work and the rest just seems to happen.
Matteo: So let me ask you this… you partially already mentioned something about this already but how are things going on here at Codeable? You were talking about community; you were talking some other improvements or like things that you love to have found here at Codeable. Do you have anything you would like to share with us?
Justin: I would just like to say that the community and the staff are just incredible. I talked with you know yeah David, Chris and Raleigh these guys are just awesome. We talk on a daily basis, Per catches up with me at least once every 2 weeks to say I’m doing a great job. I find that awesome. It’s really nice how many of us here like 200 and something now?
Matteo: Around 255.
Justin: Right, Per still finds the time to private message me and say “Hey you’re doing great” you know always looking out and I really think that’s amazing. On top of that, we have this Slack community: I’ve made some true friends on there. I’ve had really great advice from people like Nate, Raleigh and just that sharing atmosphere has been a mind changer.
And the paid for it sort of thing at Codeable exists. So I have done the same thing: I see some new guys coming in and struggling a bit. I’ll private message them and I’ll say "Hey don’t worry about it, here is how things kind of work, give any questions I’m here I’ll help you out as well".
Matteo: You’ve almost mentored them like in the beginning.
Justin: Yeah, because I got mentored in the beginning and I got advice on things like "Hey, I’m not a great sales guy. I’m so confident in my work but how do I express that to people?" which I’ve now figured out. You know, I figured that part out but the startup was really weird for me right.
Matteo: Yeah of course!
Justin: Look at all these great tasks posted every day and you’re like "I can do that, I can do that but how can I be the one to do that?" Tough question, you know. We’ve figured it out it’s only been 5 months so… it’s crazy how fast things move.
Matteo: Thank you for sharing that Justin!
Matteo: Let me just take a step back to a wider topic. If you look at your past freelancing life, the one you were talking about before working with agencies mostly, and then you fast-forward to today when you’re more in charge of your path. How have things changed for you since you joined Codeable? Are they any different?
Justin: They are very different. First of all, I work a lot more…
Matteo: If you wanted to work more that’s the perfect sentence.
Justin: Yeah, I’m getting lots of quality projects now, ones that are more suited to my needs and more suited to my strengths. Even though I have a wide sort of skill sets there are certain things I like doing more than others. But I definitely love the PSD to WordPress jobs and I love fixing people’s plugins troubleshooting websites; those are the really great projects in my mind but they are also the most difficult ones to estimate. I just can’t predict how long fixing a bug will take on someone’s site. But I think the thing that’s changed the most is just that I’ve met some really great friends, Codeable has put me in front of these amazing clients.
I have amazing repeat clients already which are just incredible. You can really find those clients that fit your personality, it’s somewhat trial and error, but it happens you just get up there and do projects and then you build rapport with people and there is a whole bunch you like to work with and they like to work with you.
Matteo: That’s great!
Justin: Like I said, the thing that was lacking the most for me was...
Matteo: The community...
Justin: Community… so now I have people that I talk with on the daily basis! We’ll talk about technical problems, maybe we’ll talk about client projects, you know this thing that I was definitely lacking before and this thing that lacks for any sort of remote freelancing that doesn’t have … colleagues to do this but now you have that virtual colleague environment and it makes a huge difference.
Matteo: We’re almost there. I guess you must be quite happy about this new freelancing life. Let me ask you one last thing. I know other experts like you, who have been working with us for quite some time, have been able to travel more (which is my favorite thing), were able to improve their business with, I don’t know, better software, gear or even put down a new deposit for a new house. How about you: did you do anything like that? Are you planning to do anything like this?
Justin: Honestly, not really.
Justin: To be fair, I’m a pretty frugal person. I’m not looking to spend a bunch of money when my wife and I do spend a lot of money it is usually just on traveling. I think if anything we would sort of the next trip will be a little more blown out and a little more, we’ll get a better hotel than usual like that and relax because she works hard too. I think it will just be a little more enjoying the time we have enjoying that as much as possible and making new experiences and seeing new countries that’s one of my favorite things to do for sure. What more can you ask for?
Matteo: Yeah, when you can travel and see the world and do the things you like, what more do you want?
Matteo: That’s fantastic!
Matteo: Justin it was super amazing hearing your story and thank you for sharing it with us. I would like to thank you very much for spending your time with me and all of us. I wish you a great day and talk you real soon.
Justin: Thanks a lot Matteo! Thanks a lot for doing this. Take care.
Matteo: Take care