In this new episode of Changing lives, we'll meet with Oliver Efremov a web designer with a great passion for music. He's specialized in many areas such as CSS, HTML, Javascript, and Responsive design.

During the interview, he'll share with us his insights and thoughts about:

  • what he likes about freelancing
  • his past working experiences
  • why he decided to become a freelancer (and apply for Codeable)
  • what he's looking for in his freelance path
  • how being a Codeable expert changed his life

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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 #10: Bruno Kos.
Changing lives #11: Surendra Shrestha.
Changing lives #12: Marius Vetrici.
Changing lives #13: Mitchell Callahan.

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Video Transcription

Matteo: Hi everyone! This is Matteo from Codeable. And today, in this episode of Changing Lives we are going to meet with Oliver Efremov, who will share with us his story and experience as a freelancer. He will also tell us more about working as a Codeable expert, letting us know how this experience, in a way, changed his life.

Hey Oliver, thank you for joining us in this new episode of Changing Lives. We really appreciate it.

Oliver: Hey Matteo! It’s a pleasure to be here.

Matteo: Great to hear! I am really looking forward to knowing more about you and your story. So, to get the ball rolling why don’t you start by saying which part of the world you are right now, where you’re from and, most importantly, how long you have been a freelancer.

Oliver: Ok. I originate from Macedonia, currently residing here as well Born in a smaller town called Sveti Nikole and right now living in the capital Skopje for the last over sixteen years, I think (maybe more than that). So, when I started college I didn’t kind of bring it to the end of it. But I started working as a web designer right after that, so right after my studies, I mean. In the past 12 years, I think half I have been working as a freelancer and the other half is in companies.

Matteo: So, you’ve been a freelancer for something like around 6 years, something like that?

Oliver: Yea. Only, in stages – like I worked for a company for 3 ½ years, started a little freelancing and then that developed into a company again. And for the past 3 years freelancing again.

Matteo: Ok. Would you mind telling us what do you like about freelancing? Why did you choose to start working by yourself, gamble on yourself and not ending up in a regular 9 to 5 job?

Oliver: Ok. Everything has its own advantages and disadvantages, we all know. This last one, though, was kind of accidental. What I was really looking for was actually a full-time job, but all the ads that I was visiting and sending my CV’s to; so it turned out that I ran into Codeable, and technically, I’m still freelancing.

Matteo: Yes, sure!

Oliver: But it’s a funny twist of events. Previously I started freelancing for… I don’t know. Not that I wasn’t happy with the job or anything. Of course, the funding is different when you work for a pre-set pay cheque monthly or weekly, or whatever. You know you can have much more control over what you do and what quality you provide in the first place when you’re a freelancer.

So, as long as you can handle… technically, all the stuff that’s involved in running a project like getting the client, working with them, communicating and everything So, you’re on your own if you want to try it and do it, it’s much better in a lot of ways.

Matteo: Ok, ok! Thank you for your answer on this. 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?

Oliver: Yes, of course!

Matteo: Ok. What does it take to be a good freelancer, and do you think anybody can be one? Just to qualify this question: off the top of my head, maybe dealing with clients isn't a natural for many. So, tell us about it. What does it take to be a good freelancer?

Oliver: Ok. I wouldn’t call it that much of an ability rather than a choice. I mean (how do I put this?). I think it’s not all about the skills set. Yea, communication is key, but after all, I think a lot of, whether designers or programmers, will agree with me - getting the job done is the real key, actually. Communication is part of it, of course, it’s important, but I wouldn’t say that it’s something that holds the biggest weight of the whole issue. That’s something you learn, right. So it is a skill set! You learn programming, you learn to use photoshop, you learn many things in software. It’s the same with people. I think it’s much more of a choice whether you want to get involved. Stuff like that.

Somebody is naturally that way, they don’t like to talk to people that much, you know. So, that’s why they don’t want to handle clients. I was the same, actually. I had suggestions to start working on customer support service, or anything like that in my first company, but I decided I didn’t want to do it. So, after a time, after a couple of years, at least, that changes for some, I think. Somebody still doesn’t want to do it. Somebody else wants to do it. So, eventually they can realize that they might as well be born into it, you know.

You don’t know if you can do something until you try it, and if you don’t want to try you cannot be, technically, a good freelancer if you don’t do that. You will have to have a middleman then, and you can freelance indirectly; also there is outsourcing. There are cases like that. I know a couple of people. They can do it like that but they still need somebody else to manage projects because they figure, in themselves, that they are not ready for handling clients.

Matteo: So, if I ask you to pick like two features that a freelancer should have, or at least needs to have, what are your ideas on this?

Oliver: Well, I don’t know, probably just be open about it and treat it like strictly business. Technically, go with the flow and be a nice person, in general. You have to be open to people – if something is wrong, something is wrong. I think it was Raleigh in the Changing Lives series that mentioned it (not sure though). One other good quality is knowing when to say no. I don’t know if it was Nate or…

That’s one thing that everybody should look into definitely. You can get stuck up sometimes, you want to help somebody, especially if you’ve known them for years, and you want to try a project but you are not certain, a hundred percent, that you’ll do it right and then you mess up in the end. That’s not good for anybody, especially not you. How to be a good freelancer? I take it it’s not only about how to be good for the clients but with yourself also.
Matteo: Yes, yes. Of course!

Oliver: If you run a business you have to take care of yourself, and you don’t want to do mistakes in your life like that.

Matteo: Even if you already kind of mentioned this earlier – what made you look for something new in your freelancing life, in fact, like Codeable? I mean, was there a specific reason – like you didn’t like your previous jobs the way you were working before, in a way you felt like you were missing something in your professional life, or what else?

Oliver: It’s one word: change. You know when you work on something; it doesn’t evolve into something bigger as the years go. There are people who are comfortable with this, but I never had any problems like "I don’t like this job" or anything like that. But, you know, you need to have some advance in what you do. Like if you start chopping up emails and do it for 3 years you’ll get sick of it eventually. You need to go a step further, you know.

So, if the job requirements remain the same all the time without any specific changes, it doesn’t work for me. I don’t know how to put it.

Matteo: Yea. You’re always looking for growing and improving a business, your professional path, and that stuff, right?

Oliver: There has to be some additional challenge, at least once in a while, you know. It hasn’t been boring for me at all when working for a company. Actually, the last experience was quite an interesting one. Actually, I was involved only in the design side of things into developing iOS and Android games. But it also doesn’t require that much work, you know. It isn’t that much work for a designer there, rather than if you are a good programmer for the type of stuff it’s really interesting to do.

Matteo: Ok. And do you remember how did you hear about Codeable?

Oliver: I had known about the site before I joined. But it was half and half. I mean, I don’t know if it had passed only a month after I was just talking about it with my friends; doing some five or ten applications on different sites for fulltime jobs every day. Then I think I saw the ad... I don’t know. I don’t want to speculate about it. I saw the ad for Codeable wanting new developers to join in, and I said yea, why not try this too. I mean, my idea was that I go for a job description and a preset number of hours whether half time or full time 8 hours a day. But then, I tried this too and it was relatively easy to join in, actually. I think it passed only 1 week or 10 days or something like that. I might have been lucky.

Matteo: Yea! Because it’s 10 days or 1 week only; it’s really a quick response to get involved. How long have you been a Codeable expert?

Oliver: Thirteen months, I think. Yea, thirteen months. Thirteen and a half months, actually. It was January 15th. That’s the fun part. Codeable’s birthday is on January 14th, I think.

Matteo: Yea. More than one year. So, congrats! So, how are things going? I mean, how do you feel working with Codeable?

Oliver: Well, I don’t know, everything’s been great so far. I like the whole system itself, how it works. I love the natural environment of the process, which is different from a lot of other freelancing sites, from all of them I can say. I don’t know all of them, but... And it hasn’t been that hard as I thought it would be. Because I thought there would be still some competition and a little bit harder to get projects and stuff. Personally, I haven’t had any periods of not having any jobs, spending hours per day to check for projects and you end up with nothing. That hasn’t happened more than one or two days, I think.

Matteo: Ok. Do you remember how many projects you’ve worked on and completed? Even a rough number...

Oliver: Yea. I have 202 at the moment.

Matteo: Wow! Congrats! Big number.

Oliver: Yea. It could be more. Technically, I’m not spending that much time every day. Well, I'm not Monday to Friday, really. I do weekends most of the time. In general, 3 to 4 hours a day, maybe less. Some days I don’t work anything. If nobody asks for me from return clients, I just leave it. I mean, I can have a Sunday on Tuesday.

Matteo: Let me ask you this: if you look at your past freelancing life and then you fast forward to today, how have things changed for you? Are they any different?

Oliver: Yea! In a lot of ways! How should I sum it up? I cannot go long on this one.

Matteo: You can. You can go with the flow; you can share whatever you want to.

Oliver: Ok. I guess time takes its changes along the way as well. Technology changes, the workplace has changed a lot. A lot of things don’t work like they use to before. The only thing that is the same is what we were talking about – the clients. You have good ones, you have bad ones. But lately, I mean, in the last 3 years, I have really met with (if it’s ok to say) a bad client. Not that they are a bad person, but, you know, sometimes you just don’t click. It hasn’t happened at Codeable at all, I think. At least not that I remember. There might have been a couple small things here and there, but just not big enough to notice. And for the other aspects of change, well, yea. I think you want to ask me about the funding as well.

Matteo: No, no! It’s just about changes; I don’t know - improvements. If there are any changes, both positively and negatively, whatever you would like to share with us.

Oliver: Nothing to mention on the negative side, really. No, not at all. It’s a mindset, I think. If you go positively into it not much bad can happen to you as well. Of course, most of the discussions I have are in the written form. I rarely use Skype. In the past year, only one client required for me to go and do a couple of audio sessions on Skype for 3 or 4 hours, but that’s only because he was a beginner with work. He wasn’t familiar with the interface at all. So, I don’t mind spending the time like that. But most of it, technically, all the rest of it is in written form. So, you don’t see people’s expressions, you don’t hear their talk, you don’t know if they are mad at you or they just type something that might look bad, but actually, they don’t mean anything bad about it. So, you got to be careful too. I mean...

Matteo: Yes. Written communication is tricky.

Oliver: The better part about it is that you can spend the time to think about what you’re going to say. You are not required to answer right away. I mean, even it takes a minute. People do have language barriers all the time. I’m not native English-speaking (I’ve been talking it for 20 years or so), but still, sometimes, you know, things will happen. You can miscommunicate things very easily. It could be that you’re tired or stuff like that, or you don’t write something properly and then you mess up the whole chat. But, what was the main idea? It was the good part...

Matteo: It was just like I was curious. I was just asking you if anything has now changed, like in your life, in a broader sense. Both on a professional level and, I don’t know, in your freelancing path in a way that is connected to you being a Codeable expert. That is the question.

Oliver: Yea. The best part is the handling of your own time. I thought it would be a little bit more difficult. I always try to answer to clients as fast as possible, but sometimes family comes first, you know. That’s the tricky part here, because with two kids sometimes you need to have the bed phone, you know. If they call you up you have to stop working and that’s probably the best part of everything here.

I pre-plan everything. I do plans overnight, communicate with clients and tell them when I’m able to do it. They love that and they are satisfied in the end that there is a quick turnaround. I could actually do it twice the speed, but I’m just saving some time for other things too, you know. That’s definitely one of the best sites that improved lately. Because I did work as a freelancer before but maybe it wasn’t mine, actually, how I planned the time. So... Another good turn of events was learning how to plan first and then deploy.

Matteo: Ok! So interesting. The last question for you today is an easy one. I know some experts like you, after working with us for some time have been able to, let’s see: buy a motorcycle, travel more, invested in improving their freelance business with better software or gears, for example. Also, Alex, he moved from Russia to Thailand: something mind blowing.How about you? Did you do anything like that? Are you planning to do anything like this?

Oliver: Yea. There’s definitely some good input there in revenue. I haven’t yet done anything about the travelling part, which is me and my wife’s favorite. We’re going to have to wait for a couple of years for that. One little baby in the house, so, that’s going to wait a little. But there’s definitely something extra, so, we’re saving on a house we are working on at the moment.

Matteo: Wow! that’s a huge one!

Oliver: Yea, sounds like a huge one. Due to my location it’s not that scary here. It’s much easier to do. I can bet it’s 10 times easier to do here than in Switzerland or Austria or any other EU country.

Matteo: Yea, but still it’s building a house, so...

Oliver: Yea. It is a change, definitely. It’s not the same like if you would rely on just one source. Of course, you go to the bank, get a loan or credit or something like that, but the extra income is always welcomed. So, if you do good things will come back to you.

Matteo: Yea, yea. I can only agree.

Oliver: So, from that part it is, technically, great. I don’t know how much information I’m supposed to share but, I guess you can say...

Matteo: All that you want; all that you are comfortable sharing.

Oliver: Well, I’m not going to go with numbers, just an equation, sort of.

Matteo: Yes

Oliver: I use to work 9 hours a day. Now, I work 3 hours a day for 3 times more the pay. So, you do the math.

Matteo: And it’s a nice math, this one.

Oliver: In some countries it’s not as significant…

Matteo: I love this equation!

Oliver: If you’re in another country where your life tenure is much higher, you wouldn’t get away with this. You would still, probably, have to do about 6 hours per day, maybe try to work on weekends, if you need something extra. But, it’s not that hard everywhere around. You have just one example – real estate, in the first place, the prices are literally, you can say, for many other EU countries, I don’t know, 10 times the size, I think, of the amount of what it costs, you know, and other costs for living in all that you spend day by day.

Matteo: Ok. I loved your equation. It really resonated with me. You used to work 9 hours, and now you work just 3 hours per day but you do 3 times as much.

Oliver: Technically, you can say it’s 4 hours, maybe.

Matteo: Yea. Still a good number.

Oliver: Not counting the time you spend in communications, talking to clients, in general, and hunting for new projects and stuff like that. That maybe an hour, sometimes two hours and you don’t get any other project. But in general, the billable hours, the extra work you do is 3 hours. So, I don’t count the rest of it, because I can log in for like 10 minutes. Like now, check anything and then in the night spend half an hour writing something. But that’s not really work; you’re just talking to somebody. I don’t bill for that.

Matteo: Well, I think that’s enough for today. I think you shared a really good, interesting story. Thank you for sharing it with me, with us. And once again, I would like to thank you very much for spending your time with me, with all of us. So, have a great day and talk to you soon.

Oliver: Thank you too. Thank Codeable. Bye everyone!