In this new episode of Changing lives, we'll meet with Mitchell Callahan an experienced WordPress developer and co-founder of SAU/CAL, a WordPress agency focused on WooCommerce development. Mitchell and his team have specialized in many areas like Custom API Integration, Custom Plugins & Themes, Gravity Forms, MailChimp, Plugin & Theme Customization, WooCommerce Subscription, just to name a few.
During the interview, he'll share with us his insights and thoughts about:
- what he likes about freelancing
- how he was able to scale from being a freelancer to a web agency owner
- what vision and core values drive his company
- how being a Codeable expert changed his life (and his business)
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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.
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Matteo: Hi everyone! This is Matteo from Codeable and in this new episode we are going to meet with Mitchell Callahan, who will share with us his story and experience as a freelancer. But that’s not all! In fact, he will also tell us about working as a Codeable expert, letting us know how this experience, in a way changed his life. So, hey Mitchell! Thank you for joining us in this episode of Changing Lives, we really appreciate it!
Mitchell: Hey man, thank you Matteo. I'm just doped to be here, so light it up! Let’s do it!
Matteo: I’m really looking forward to know more about you and your story. So, to get the ball rolling why not just start by saying which part of the world you are right now, where you’re from, and most importantly – how long have you been a freelancer?
Mitchell: Yea! So, right now I’m located in Toronto, which is like the biggest city in Canada
Mitchell: Yea, yea. It’s a dope spot and the rest of my team is all around the world. How long have I been in the game? Probably... It's been about. It's March 2011, so just about 5 years or over 5 years.
Matteo: Ok. So, you’ve been a freelancer for quite some time now. Would you mind telling us what you like about freelancing? Why did you decide to start working by yourself and not ending up in a regular 9 – 5 job?
Mitchell: I think my answer is pretty much the same as everyone else’s. It’s that freedom. I mean, you’re still working with other people but I can be anywhere in the world and I can set my own hours. I wake up and have my coffee and I just sit at my computer. I’m not worried about the commute or going to some office who knows where.
Matteo: That’s empowering. Right. Even if we are at the beginning of the interview I’m going to ask you a super tough question right away. Are you ready?
Mitchell: Ok. I’m bracing myself.
Matteo: What does it take to be a good freelancer and do you think that anybody can be one? Let me explain this question a little bit more. Off the top of my head - dealing with clients isn't natural for many. Also, if you’re not good with planning, for example... Or maybe you’ll likely face some bumps in the road. So, tell us about it. What does it take to be a good freelancer?
Mitchell: I think the one thing I always tell people is the customer experience – you really want to make them enjoy working with you. And that means a lot of things. So, it’s about setting your expectations, so they know what they’re getting into, they feel reassured, they feel safe and confident... And something that really works well for me is just being completely honest and transparent and really communicate, over communicate! You can’t say enough. So, I would really hone in. Of course, you have to have a great product because that’s a part of the whole package. But really just hone in on delivering a great experience and people always come back.
Matteo: Yes, yes. I so agree with you man! But, I also know that you’re not only a freelancer, you’re also a web agency owner. How cool is that, right?
Mitchell: Yea, yea! It’s a different mindset. Instead of thinking about solo, you are thinking about how you can I really scale this up and bring more people and let it grow.
Matteo: Would you mind sharing your experience in that? I mean, how were you able to scale from being a freelancer to a web agency owner. What are the challenges involved in the switch, for example?
Mitchell: Well, first, the company is called SAU/CAL. We’re a distributed team.
Matteo: Nice shirt.
Mitchell: Thanks brother! Likewise man. I try to get my hands on one of those Codeable tees, but it’s exclusive man, you know. The time slot... if you order in that window you can get it... I like that scarcity man.
The key to scale up is the same, you know. Once you get more business there are too many pieces that you can’t handle. Once you’re a developer you want to develop. You don’t want to worry about sales, managing your cash flow, accounting and your legal. So, for me it was just really establishing kind of like a culture and our values (what’s most important). So, when people come into my life that have those values, you bring them into the team. And that becomes such an enjoyable experience to work with.
It's all kind of (I don’t want to say reactionary), but you get the additional sales, sign up for something like Codeable, get more jobs than you can handle, and then you adapt – like ok, I’ve got to bring another guy, let’s do this!
Matteo: Let me ask you this: what made you look for something in your freelancing life, in your web agency path, like Codeable? Was there a specific reason?
Mitchell: Yea! In order to succeed people often say you have to figure out all the wrong ways to do something, or you just have to have really good success at one thing. That’s another way to kind of know what the right way of doing something is.
And, for us, we did all these mistakes - like, we were targeting people with very generic marketing. Like, 'we’ll build your website'. It's just so generic and it's really not unique. The beauty with Codeable is that Codeable is only for WordPress, and we’ve only ever been developing for WordPress. But, we never, ever stated that, and what Codeable really taught me was knowing your specialty, knowing what you’re good at and really just communicating that. It’s so specific. It’s not generic.
That’s why Codeable has been so awesome for us, because it allows us to work on what we know and what we’re good at. It’s just the ideal customer! So, it’s been a really awesome experience for us.
Matteo: It’s kind of you to say that and super interesting, of course! Do you remember how did you hear about Codeable?
Mitchell: I heard about Codeable because most of the development work we do is WooCommerce, and WooCommerce has a program called Woo Experts. But, before it was called Woo Experts it was Woo Workers. And on the Woo Workers page, at the very top there was this banner for Codeable. And I was like man, who are these Codeable guys? They get all the spotlight up here!
I made that mind shift a while back, and I was like why do I look at Codeable as a competitor? That’s just silly. So, I reached out, had a chat with Dave and I realized we need to be working on Codeable or with Codeable! So, we contacted you guys and it’s been awesome ever since. I just love your whole team. I’m really glad we did.
Matteo: Do you remember how long you have been a Codeable expert?
Mitchell: I think it’s about 6 months now.
Matteo: Six months, ok. There’s also something interesting in your story because you’re not just a Codeable expert, you also participate in what we call Codeable Pro. Would you mind sharing your experience with this program that we have inside Codeable?
Mitchell: Yea. Codeable Pro is awesome. I remember when I heard about it, they were like 'you got to prove your work before you can hop on there!' I was like – I’ve got to get this Codeable Pro man! And so, we did our first couple jobs and they went well and we’ve since graduated.
And, Codeable Pro is really just instead of doing individual tasks it’s about the project approach. It’s bigger things that require more resources that a single freelancer may not be able to handle on his own. And so, as an agency, that was a perfect fit for us. So, it’s been fantastic.
Matteo: So, through Codeable Pro you’re also targeting different types of clients, right?
Mitchell: Yea. We’re dealing with more businesses, not so much like... (well, everyone is kind of a business which comes from Codeable), but just bigger companies with bigger needs.
Matteo: Well, thanks for your explanation.
Mitchell: I mean, it’s clear. You could probably explain it better. You’re from Codeable.
Matteo: Let me ask you this: when you look at your past freelancing life and then you fast-forward to the present how have things changed for you? Are they any different?
Mitchell: Yea. They really are. One of the hardest parts of building a business is your sales. There is this phrase, I think it’s Mark Cuban who says 'more sales will solve all your problems'. It can be a struggle. And after being on Codeable that part of the business is a lot more effortless. So, the beauty of when you can simplify a part of your life and when it takes less time, it really opens you to focus on things that you may have never focused on before.
Now that Codeable can handle the sales and marketing parts we've really had time to build internal tools, automate more of our lives... And that’s always cool because that’s when we progress and progression is what makes you feel really happy.
Matteo: Let me ask you a super wide question like: how is it going with Codeable? How many tasks and projects have you already completed and how is it going with this project you are working on?
Mitchell: Right now we have about 4 active projects, some that can take a bit longer because they are larger in size. And we have completed I think we’re about 8 or 9. Ours are pretty big, so for someone else on Codeable who does tasks, consider 50 or 60 tasks combined.
Matteo: Yes, of course.
Mitchell: But honestly, it’s just nice to... I remember getting my first payday from Codeable: I was like man, that’s sweet cheese!
Matteo: Do you remember that specific project? Do you mind sharing with us something about it?
Mitchell: Yea. It was this awesome guy named Shawn And he had a lot of customization he needed on his site. I just remember him clearing the bill and us receiving the funds. I was on vacation and I just remember the wire coming into our bank account, and I was just like 'sweet'.
Matteo: That’s a great moment!
Mitchell: It was so great man!
Matteo: Just like cha-ching!
Mitchell: It’s just awesome man.
Matteo: That’s amazing to hear mate! I guess you are happy about this new freelancing life. But let me ask you like the one last thing – I know some other experts like you who, after working with us for some time, have been able to, let’s see, buy motorcycle, travel more, put down a deposit for a new home, invested in improving their gears for their freelancing business...
How about you, did you do anything like that? Are you planning to do anything like this?
Mitchell: To be completely transparent – when we built our business we’ve always been able to fund ourselves from revenues. But earlier on when you don’t have any money sometimes you have to borrow some money. So, earlier on we did have some money that we had to pay back. And I remember when we’ve paid it all back and that’s like really refreshing and it feels good, and now it’s about saving money and investing money.
Matteo: So, it’s a new chapter in your business life.
Mitchell: Yea, absolutely! So, speaking about making a big purchase – I will be buying a condo in the next month. So, Codeable is helping out with that for sure!
Matteo: Really? Wow, that’s a huge one!
Mitchell: Yea. And Toronto is crazy! Condos here are just so expensive! But you got to do what you got to do!
Matteo: Yea, sure! That’s great to hear mate! Well, I think that’s enough for today, Mitchell. It was super interesting hearing your story. Thank you for sharing it with me, with us. Once again, thank you for spending your time with me and with all of us. So, I wish you a great day and talk to you soon!
Mitchell: Likewise man, thanks. And thanks for hopping on. And for everyone out there listening, if you ever get on Codeable, you’re going to hear this from Per, the CEO. I love him. He says 'More tasks, just do more tasks!'
Matteo: He sure does!
Mitchell: Yea. I highly recommend the platform to anyone. If you need work, or if you’re looking for work it’s fantastic. And you guys are so, so killer man.
Matteo: Thank you so much Mitchell. We so, so appreciate it!
Mitchell: Likewise my man. Well, take care, and always a pleasure.
Matteo: Likewise. Have a good day.