In this new episode of Changing lives, we'll meet with Raleigh Leslie an experienced web developer, designer and inbound marketer who's been helping people and agencies with their WordPress-related tasks and projects for years. He's specialized in several areas like building custom themes using the Genesis framework, WooThemes, CSS and CSS3, and also MySQL, migrations, and security, 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 apply for Codeable
- what type of projects he likes the most
- 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 #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.
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Matteo: Hi everyone! This is Matteo from Codeable. Today we are here with Raleigh Leslie, 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 Raleigh! Thank you for joining us today in this new episode of Changing Lives. We really appreciate it.
Raleigh: Hey Matteo! Thanks for having me! Glad to be here.
Matteo: I'm really excited to know more about you and your experience and your story, so, to get the ball rolling why don't you start by saying in which part of the world are you right now, where you're from, and most importantly, how long have you been a freelancer.
Raleigh: Alright! I'm from Gig Harbor, Washington; it’s a small town South of Seattle, Washington that most people are probably familiar with. I’m from there and I'm currently there right now. How long I've been a freelancer? I usually tell people since I was a little kid, the neighbourhood kid that my parents, my friends' parents would call me over "can you fix my TV, my computer" come on whatever it was and so I’d say I have been freelancing since I was a young, but realistically, I'd say I have been freelancing for about 8 years or so doing design and development and as of this year I have been focusing on freelance only, since January 1 doing the self-employed thing. But 3 years before that I ran an agency in San Diego, California. Yeah, that was awesome! But now I'm focused, hunkered down doing the freelance thing about a year now.
Matteo: Okay, so you've been a freelancer for quite some time now. Would you mind telling us what do you like about freelancing? I mean why did you choose to start working by yourself and in a regular 9 to 5 job?
Raleigh: Yeah. Absolutely. You know, I've done the 9 to 5 thing, and it’s usually more than that, especially when you own the company. But the thing about freelancing is achieving that work-life balance that you're after; and, what I mean by that is a lot of people focus on making money so that they can party or do what they want with their life once they have made the money. I'm 28 years old and I want to take advantage of that, that youth that I still kind of have and be able to afford myself that free time. Being a freelancer enables you to create your own schedule, do a lot more things with your time besides work and use the hours of the day differently than the standard 9 to 5. Outside of that, growing the beard.
Matteo: Even though we're at the beginning of this interview I'm going to shoot you a 1 million dollar question. Are you ready? What does it take to be a good freelancer? Can anybody be one? Off The top of my head dealing with clients isn’t a natural thing for many. So tell me about it, what does it take to be a good freelancer to you?
Raleigh: Sure. There are a couple of things that make a good freelancer, I think. The one that I've learned the most in the past few years, whether it's actually running an agency or being a freelancer, is the ability to say no. Freelancers by nature are helpful people. They want to help, you know, they will take that call and give free consulting even if they don't realize it on the call, Once you realize that saying no actually has its advantages to enable you to say yes to projects that are a better fit for you, it can become really powerful. I used to be the yes, yes, yes guy and it turned out to be a lot of stress, whereas, now that have learned to say no suddenly I have time to pick up projects that are better for me, as well as enjoy life and pursue happiness doing the things I want to do with my time.
I love coding, I love developing, but I need to get outside too and get some exercise...The biggest thing, I say, is learning to say no and being ok with that, and doing it politely, of course, and suggesting other resources for those people and don't just leave them high and dry. But, outside of that the second most important thing, I would have to say, is communication above all. A lot of other people mention that communication makes a great freelancer. And it's not just asking good questions or understanding your clients’ needs, but, I’d say, also, politeness in the communication, and that's something that some people overlook. Even if you don't speak good English or you struggle there a little bit, you can still say please and thank you. If you tack that on to the start and end of all your communication that really goes a long way. Tone is hard to tell a lot of the time, and a lot of communication for web development is done through emails or chats for clients, and you can't tell the tone of what they're saying so often times you miss read people. So if you put on a ‘please’ or ‘thank you’, and just be polite in general, it goes so far! And clients appreciate it; they will return that politeness back to you, which keeps you happy. So, I’d say being able to say no are huge as freelancers, in any sort of freelancing, I would say.
Matteo: I totally agree with you! So, let me ask you this: what made you look for something new in your freelancing life, in fact, like Codeable? Was there a specific reason? Like you didn't like the way you were working before? You felt unfulfilled or what else?
Raleigh: Honestly, what it was is that I've been doing this a long time online, and had a good reputation, I was conscious of that; and so, I do receive a lot of leads for freelance work, whether through my old company or old business associates, or networking stuff I've done... But I'm always looking for more leads so that I can qualify them and say yes to the right projects that enable me to use my skill set to the most of my leverage so that I can have that free time.
So, when I went looking for Codeable (I can't remember exactly how I stumbled across it) but I remember submitting the "apply to be a contractor on Codeable" form and it's a really simple form. I think it took me like 5 minutes or less to fill out. And I kind of forgot about it. I was thinking "This looks pretty cool, maybe I'll be able to get some work or maybe work for them" and then one day - it was a week or two, or maybe a month later (I'll never forget it) I got the email and it was from Per, I don't know if it was automated or what, but it said WWelcome. Your life is about to change as of right nowW. And I'm reading this email like "what the heck is this?!….Oh yeah, that's that Codeable I had applied for! What is this?!" I'm basically lying in bed checking my email in the morning (It's a bad habit, but I do it). So I'm checking and I notice there is another one and then there are like 15 /20 other emails and they are the new task emails that had come that morning. And I'm sleeping through and wondering "what are all these??!".
And each one of them looks like an awesome job like "I can do that, I can do that, I can do that". So I'm just like blown away, and I'm like "what is it?!" and so I get online research Codeable, look up everything... I think Per actually interviews most people, but I think I might have sneaked around that one.
Matteo: Oh, really?!
Raleigh: I don’t know. He was definitely on Skype with me that day and watching me and monitoring to ensure quality and everything, but, somehow I circumvented that one, I think, maybe. And anyway, the next day I wake up and it's the exact same thing! I have 20 task emails! I'm looking at them like "holy smokes! These are all awesome work!" The clients look awesome, they're posting great briefs, and it was just life changing. So from that point, I would like "Holy Smokes! This is something here". And I just started completing tasks and watching that money just transfer over and I'm like "Wow! This is going to enable me a lot of freedom!".
Matteo: That's awesome to hear! So, let me ask you this, did you have a strategy for getting your first client or did you just reply "yes" to those project briefs that you love the most?
Raleigh: Totally! With my experience I like to think I'm kind of good at picking the ones I know that are a good fit for me and the ones that are not. I'm very quick of qualifying those. But, as far as the first task goes, everyone's main concern is that you don't have any reviews on your profile come on why would someone pick you over this aged, seasoned contractors who have 200 tasks done and all 5-star reviews. Per was really encouraging via Skype. He was like "I'm going to throw some your way, make sure you're aware of them" But really, it was surprisingly easy for me, even without any reviews, to get these tasks.
And I think it comes back to understanding the person’s brief, as well as communicating with them and using those please and thank you’s. I put a nice photo on there without my beard (Most people don't know about that. That's one thing freelancing has enabled me to do - grow a beard). So, nice photo, nice, short client-centric description of my work, so it's not about me it’s about what I'm going to do for them. And, also I was living in San Diego at the time, so it says San Diego right there. Most Codeable clients, I think, are from the US, or a large majority of them. I think they appreciate that, the West Coast time zone, maybe. Or maybe the fact that I'm clearly an English fluent speaker or whatnot. So it was actually relatively easy to get those first few tasks. And also (you might get to this later) I'm kinda king of the small tasks on Codeable. I haven't really picked up many over $1,000. I like the little ones. I like the ones that I can get done in an hour or two and get paid right then, and then that person is like "wow, that was fast! What great service!" and they get that response, rather than things that drag on. They can go just as well, but they take away my freedom a little bit because that person needs to be checked on every day and I want to go ride my mountain bike or go up to the mountain or something, you know. I like the small ones, where I can just bang out and really impress the client. Because they've never really had a developer who is immediately available for them, get started right away and have it done in 10 minutes, you know, put a smile on their face.
Matteo: Yeah, that's really empowering.
Raleigh: And then the review comes right after they click mark complete! I save all those emails in my folder. There is no other form of freelancing that gives you that sort of immediate feedback, and it's every job we do the client leaves a feedback. And it’s every job you do the client leaves a review. So, if you do a really great job they are going to write some really nice things in there and that’s awesome. That’s what keeps me encouraged. Nothing drags you down than "I think they like the work, or they are upset or something". Positive reinforcement is just awesome.
Matteo: So, how long have you been a Codeable expert?
Raleigh: Only since... May. It was this year, so it’s 5 months, 6 months or so. I was on a tier, just working, saying "friends, I can’t hang out, I got to be here to monitor this little ticker, because you got to be on it when they post…" and then I got busy. I moved from San Diego to Seattle. I started enjoying summer a little bit more, started taking some of that personal time once I established myself and make it pass the review period. I wanted to make sure that I work through that time. So yeah, about 5,6 months. I was off it but I’ll be getting back on it too.
Matteo: Yea. So, how are things going? How are you feeling here?
Raleigh: Awesome. I love it. I stay pretty busy. I do have a couple of bigger clients outside of Codeable that do keep me busy, and I reserve time for them. But I always have that Codeable ticker up, so I’m watching for new tasks that fit what I want to do for them and it’s really enabled me to have more freedom with my time and I love it. Like I said I love the bicycle ride and I love things that are outdoor adventures. And it’s so cool to just go and do those because it’s not raining outside and it’s the middle of the day and my friends see it, and they are all 9 to 5 workers and they are like "Do you ever work?!" and I’m like "Yeah, of course! But I’m also enjoying life". I'm 28 years old and I’m turning 29 at the end of March so I’m almost 30 and at that point you wake up sore every day and you can’t do as much anymore. So, I’m really trying to focus on that balance; and Codeable enables me to do that more than anything that I’ve ever done in terms of freelancing.
Matteo: It’s nice of you to say this. Would you mind sharing how many clients you’ve helped out, how many projects did you work on and completed? Do you remember?
Raleigh: Yeah. I keep pretty close tabs. I think it’s 45, 47 or something only right now, and I probably could have a lot more. I could have a lot less too but I’m pretty picky, choosy on those ones. Usually, if I go for it I usually get it, or I tell the client please hire one of our other very talented Codeable associates here, I’m unable to take it on. But, usually, if I’m going for the task, when they post it on their brief I’m going for it. I want to get that task to that client, so I usually get it. I’m not very aggressive with how I go about that, but that’s ok with me...
Matteo: Ok. Thanks for sharing that. Let me ask you this: if you look at your past freelancing life and you fast forward to today, how have things changed for you? Are they any different?
Raleigh: Totally, Yeah! So, I was freelancing a lot during college, doing design work, doing IT work (I have a background in computer network and stuff like that). Yep! Totally! I worked for my university fixing all my teacher’s computers and doing the staff facility IT work. I kind of got away from that though. I know it’s super nerdy. I know there’s no design like developing because you already have a design and you can bring it to life, you know. And I like to see something happen like that rather than oh, that computer was not working and now it is. So, during college, I was doing a lot of that work, and then I started my agency or whatnot and that was a whole different kind of beast running that thing.
But what Codeable has changed is that they’ve made it so easy, you know. I watched the last interview with Nathan and he mentions this about how without a platform in between, like Codeable, you’re doing all the work, you’re doing all the business development, you’re doing all the bookkeeping, you’re doing all the everything. With Codeable it’s just that you’re establishing yourself, all the requirements, they pay, it’s held in a secure account, you do the work (you do an awesome job at doing the work!) and then they hit "marked complete", they give you an awesome review and you get the money right then. And so, they’ve made that incredibly streamlined. I’m not a phone caller normally. I don’t even do video calls like this, especially with new clients or business development like that. It kind of stresses me out a little bit. I save that for my current clients or people I’ve worked with over a period that have kinda earned it almost.
And so, Codeable has this awesome reputation as the number one Word Press outsourcing service out there, so, naturally, they get a lot of people coming to them who already sort of trust Codeable. So, that’s really nice. That trust in between enables the client to trust me, so it’s not necessary for me to get on the phone and say "hey, here is who I am, this is what I do". They kind of just inherently trust that I’m there to do a good job for them. That has been one of the most awesome things about Codeable. It significantly cut down the need for me to do my own business development as a freelancer. And then the other benefit is that normally I get jobs that fit for my skill set, but through Codeable you are able to grow and learn as a freelancer. I’m mostly a front-end developer, I want to get in the back-end development whatnot, but there are a lot of tasks, both front-end and back-end, and even server side on Codeable. And so you have the opportunity to say you know what, I think I can do that one. I know I can do that one. It might take me a little bit more time, but it’s worth it. And so it pushes me in terms of personal growth and professional growth.
Matteo: That’s amazing to hear! Thanks for sharing this. I have just one last question. I know some other experts like you, after working with us for quite some time have been able to... I remember this guy was able to buy a new motorcycle. Another one moved from Russia directly to Thailand with his whole family, and other people are just spending more money traveling the world around. What about you? Did you do anything like that? Are you planning to do anything like this?
Raleigh: Oh yeah, I want to do all that, travel the world, buy nice cars and everything! But no, I have a little more self-containment than that; and I can give you a little story. All summer I was down in San Diego. I have a little sailboat down there, and so I enjoy sailing around down there. Just a little one. But I was working Codeable, enjoying the nice weather down there, not cashing out on the money I was making on Codeable. So, it was kind of just sitting in my Codeable account and accumulating more and more. And I decided that I would not do that because I was moving back up north near Seattle for the mountains. I’m kind of a nomad like that. Being in the mountains (and winter is my favorite thing) and so to enable myself to do that I needed to save a little money to make those moves. And so, right before I was going to make the drive from Sand Diego to Seattle I cashed out on all that money that I had been working so hard all summer through Codeable and that just gave me that nice padding in my bank account that enabled me to not be stressed about moving and know that I could rise up in Seattle on my feet, take my time, do some adventuring, maybe not work as much during that time and enjoy the travel part of it.
And once I was here, it enabled me to get a new place to live and work (I work from home pretty often). And so, finding the right place was really important because you have to have an environment. It might be a little more expensive, you might have to pay for temporary housing in between in finding that right place. I’m still closing in on it. The house that I’m sitting in is a family friend’s, but I think I’ve found the spot right near Mount Baker up in Bellingham, Washington. That mountain holds the world record for snowfalls. So, it will be a good one this winter to be at and I can’t wait. I probably shouldn’t tell people that, it’s kind of a secret.
Matteo: Well, that’s great to hear. I think that’s enough for today Raleigh. It was super interesting hearing from you, and thank you for sharing it with me, with us, with our readers and viewers. Once more, I would like to thank you for spending time with us.
Raleigh: Thank you very much Matteo! It’s been fun. I want to also make sure to mention that I’m very thankful to be associated with all the other contractors on Codeable. These are guys that I’ve all looked up to in the community before I was a Codeable contractor. They’re all very established figures in the Word Press community. Guys that I’ve been reading their fixed post and their blogs for years, and now I’m on a level of associates with them and it’s an honor. And also, Per has been a really awesome dude to talk with during this time. And also Tomaz. I haven’t been able to connect with him closely yet. But I’ve digested a lot of his content online and what he’s been doing, and I have a lot of respect for him as well. So, I just want to say thank you to all of them, and bless the contractors and yourself as well.
Matteo: Thank you so much. We really appreciate. I wish you a great day and talk to you soon.
Raleigh: Ok. Thank you. Have a good night. Bye bye.