In this new episode of Changing lives, we'll meet with Zach Nicodemous a web developer with 10+ years experience. He's specialized in many areas like Gravity Forms, Custom Post Type and Custom Fields, Responsive Design, WooCommerce, W3 Total Cache, just to name a few.

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 go freelance (and apply for Codeable)
  • how hard it is to get clients in today's market
  • 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 #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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Video Transcriptions

Matteo: Hi everyone! This is Matteo from Codeable! And today we are about to meet with Zach Nicodemus, 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. So, hey Zach, thank you for joining us in this new episode of Changing Lives.

Zach: No problem. It's good to be here.

Matteo: I’m really excited to know more about you and your story. So, to get the ball rolling, why don’t you start by saying in which part of the world you are right now, where you’re from, and most importantly, how long you have been a freelancer.

Zach: Well, right now I live in Cyprus. I’m originally from England. I left England when I was about 18, and since then I’ve lived in a few different countries. I’ve been a freelancer, I would say, seriously, since about the age of 18. I’m 27 now, so, it’s about 9 or 10 years; although I got paid for my first website when I was like 13.

Matteo: That’s quite some time.

Zach: So, even before I was an adult I was still doing this.

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

Zach: Well, I mean, I guess I’ve always had that streak in me to be sort of self-employed. My father was always self-employed, so I guess I kind of, maybe, got that from him. I tell you what – I tried doing 9 to 5. When I was 17 I got a 9 to 5 office job doing hardware support, like on computer servers, windows servers. And it involved, you know, going to the office and driving to clients’ offices and houses, and I just hated it. I really hated it!

The whole 9 to 5 thing is just so boring. I worked in retail, as well, at PC World, which is a big computer super store in England. Again, I just hated it. It was so boring and repetitive, and having always had this kind of desire to be self-employed and sort of work for myself, while I was working at these jobs I was always doing other things like building websites or fixing people’s computers on the side or something like that. So, when I was 18 I just decided screw it, let’s quit my job and just concentrate on this full time.

Matteo: Yea, sure. It does make sense.

Zach: It wasn’t easy to start with. For the first 3 years I probably made less than €10,000 a year. So, it was definitely a struggle those first few years to pay the bills and keep the electric on and everything. But also, I had my freedom to do whatever the heck I wanted. And that included leaving England when I was 18 and relocating to Eastern Europe. I don’t know, since then it’s just grown.

Matteo: We’ll get to that, because I’m going to ask you one question about this. But even if you’re at the beginning I want to ask you a tough question. Are you ready?

Zach: Sure, go!

Matteo: What do you think it takes to be a good freelancer? I mean, can anybody be one? Off the top of my head, just to clarify my question: I think dealing with clients is a natural for many, right. So, tell us about it. What does it take to be a good freelancer?

Zach: I don’t think that it’s something that everybody can do. If you’re in your 30’s and have a wife and 3 children and bills to pay, then starting up as a freelancer is not really going to work out for you, unless you have some ridiculous amount of money saved up. Because it tends to be a struggle for the first few year as you build up clients and build up a reputation and start to get that regular flow of money.

Beyond that, beyond being lucky enough to be in a situation where you can do that, you do need to have the ability to deal with clients, especially difficult ones. Because you are always going to have some clients who want to take advantage, and they really, really make you want to sort of punch them in the face. But you’re not allowed to do that and you have to sort of keep your cool and not scream at them.

You are going to have some bad clients and you have to be able to kind of push through that. Maybe you’re going to have some clients that try to screw you and not pay you. That’s just part of the risk. But also, you have to be dedicated. You have to be motivated to keep yourself educated about the field that you’re in. You have to sort of stay ahead of all the new innovations, the new technologies that sort of come on the screen and you have to be able to work with those.

Especially, in the field of web development, it’s something that changes year to year. There are technologies that I was using 10 years ago that don’t exist anymore; and technologies that we are using now didn’t exist 10 years ago. So, you have to keep up with it, otherwise you fall behind and then the quality of your work suffers, and before you know it you don’t have any clients left.

Matteo: That would be a sad story.

Zach: It takes a lot to keep motivated and to do that you know, because it’s not something that everybody can do to motivate themselves and willingly keep ahead of all of that.

Matteo: Ok. So, as we talked briefly about this early in this interview – what do you like about being a freelancer and the freelance way of living and working?

Zach: I think I’ve touched on it before – the freedom that I have. Right now I live in Cyprus. Before I lived in Cyprus I lived in a country called Serbia, I’ve lived, for some time, in Bosnia as well. If I decided tomorrow that I wanted to go, I don’t know, to visit the United States, I can do that. I can just take my laptop with me and we can go there and just do my work from there, in a different location.

So, it’s freedom, it’s not having to answer to anybody; it’s being in control of your situation and everything. Which, in a 9 to 5 job you don’t necessarily have that. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. You could get fired. The company could go bankrupt, you could be made redundant, and you get, maybe, 4 weeks of vacation time per year where you have the freedom to do what you want. For someone like me that would just be the ultimate kind of prison.

Matteo: Ok. Since we’re talking about freelancing – what made you look for something new in your freelancing life like Codeable? I mean, was there a specific reason like you didn’t like the way you were working before, you felt unfulfilled or what else?

Zach: I don’t know that I was specifically looking for Codeable when I got approached to kind of work on there. I have a good base of clients that I have built up over the years outside of Codeable; I had a good income as well. So, I don’t necessarily know that I was looking for Codeable. I was just looking for new opportunities and new sources of clients and new abilities to get more work in, because...

Matteo: So, do you remember how you heard about Codeable?

Zach: Yea, I remember exactly how I heard about Codeable. I was on jobs.wordpress.net, I think it is, or something like that. And it must have been 2 or 3 years ago; and I remember I saw an advert there where they were asking for skilled WordPress developers. I applied for that at the time actually, but never heard anything back. And then, last year I saw another advert, again on WordPress jobs. So I decide what the hell, and I applied for it again and couple of days later I heard from Per.

Matteo: Yea. And then everything started.

Zach: Yea! It was definitely a good opportunity. I was never going to say no. The way of obtaining new clients have changed so much over the years and I think Codeable presents and represents a very good and stable way of obtaining new clients and ensuring that is going to remain stable, hopefully, for a few years and preferably longer than that.

Matteo: How long have you been a Codeable expert? Do you remember this?

Zach: Yea! I officially joined on March 16, 2015. So, I’m just now approaching the end of my first year.

Matteo: And how are things going?
Zach: Very well, very well. I think I’m on track to hit something like $60,000 through Codeable for my first 12 months.

Matteo: Wow! Congrats!

Zach: Yea. And that number would have been a little bit higher, but since Christmas a lot of my other clients have been getting very busy. So, it’s taking me away from Codeable a bit more than I like. But yea, I think for a first one year period on Codeable it’s a very good amount of money, and it’s money that I wouldn’t have otherwise had, probably.

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

Zach: I think I have like 197 completed tasks right now. I don’t think that number includes like additional tasks as far as I know.

Matteo: Do you have a preference of working with recurring clients or one shot clients? Can you please tell us more about this?

Zach: I definitely have a preference for recurring clients. I don’t mind the clients that will just use me once and I never hear from them again. But my preference is on relationship building and partnership building. I’ve been very lucky over the years, outside of Codeable, to have a few clients who have been with me for a very long time; and they utilize me and represent a very significant portion of my income.

Since I’ve joined Codeable I’ve probably picked up like 4 or 5 clients that have used me like 4 or more times. I think 2 clients, in particular, that use me every month. So I do prefer recurring clients. I prefer the relationship that you build up over time. And, a lot of the time you become friends with these clients as well. So, you develop a friendship out of it as well. So, it’s a win, win situation.

Matteo: Yea, yea. Perfect. Let me just widen up the discussion a little bit here. If you look at your past freelancing life and you look at it today, how have things changed for you? I mean, are they any different?

Zach: Yea. I would say that there is a bit more stability to things. Just in terms of income. In terms of knowing where your clients are going to come from. Like I said – the freelancing world has changed so much over the past 10 years. Places where you would go to get clients 10 years ago they don’t exist anymore. Things that worked 4, 5 years ago just don’t work anymore. I remember I use to get a lot of clients, for example, from twitter 4, 5 years ago. I would just search for particular hashtags, and I would probably pick up 4 or 5 clients off of twitter a week. If you try and do that now there are about a million people on twitter doing the same thing.

So, it’s just not a viable thing to do anymore because the amount of time you put into it now versus how many clients you would get – it’s ridiculous. And you have this problem with other platform like freelancer.com and all of the other ones that exist out there. They’re over saturated. There’s not enough work, not enough tasks and there are too may freelancers. So, everybody is fighting to get the jobs and they put in ridiculously low prices and you’re doing like a $10,000 project for $1000 and what’s the point in that? So, it’s ridiculous.

And the thing about Codeable is that it’s not open for anybody to join. Per and the other managers and owners are very specific with the people they recruit. It’s a closed pool of contractors, of developers and experts. And they don’t add new staff; they don’t recruit new people unless they can see that there is enough work to go around. So, you’re always guaranteed that when you go on there and estimate on some task, typically, you’re going to get hired for 30 to 40% of whatever you estimate on. Versus on freelancer.com you could bid on 100 jobs and maybe you would get 1. Which is ridiculous.

So, the world of freelancing has changed a lot. But with entities like Codeable it’s definitely a positive change; and I think a couple of other websites are popping up now that are kind of copying the model that Codeable has because they can see how it works.

Matteo: Thank you. This is a great testimonial for us.
Zach: Sure.
Matteo: Let me ask you just one last thing. I know some other experts like you, after working with us for some time, have been able to buy a motorcycle, travel more, invest or improve in their freelance business – better software or gears... How about you, did you do anything like that? Are you planning to do anything like this?

Zach: At the moment we’re just save, save, saving. We’re saving as much money as we can. Over the last year, since I’ve been on Codeable, we did buy a new car – an SUV. We bought a new TV over Christmas as well; one of the ultra-fancy HD ones.

Matteo: Super thin...

Zach: Yea. And it’s massive as well. It’s like a tank. But apart from a couple of things like that that we splashed out on for the most part we’ve been saving, because in the next year or two we’re going to want to buy a house somewhere.

Matteo: House! Wow!

Zach: I don’t know if it’s going to be here in Cyprus or somewhere else. We’re considering possibly moving back to the States right now.

Matteo: To the States?

Zach: My wife’s an American, so...

Matteo: Oh! Ok

Zach: So it wouldn’t be too difficult to do that. We’re looking into the possibilities right now and trying to figure out what we want to do, say, with the next 5 years of our lives. So, while we are trying to decide that, we are trying to keep our expenditures as small as possible and maximize what we’re saving. So that when we decide what we want to do we can just do it, like immediately. So, at the moment we’re just maximizing our savings. I think I’m saving something like €4000 a month right now.

Matteo: Wow! That’s a nice number!

Zach: Yea, it’s a nice number and it’s letting the savings account get nice and juicy. So when we do decide what we’re going to do we can just do it, straight away.

Matteo:Wow. That’s great to hear. Well, Zach, I think that’s enough for today. It was super interesting hearing your story and thank you for sharing with me, with us; and once again I’d like to thank you for spending your time with us. I wish you a great day, and talk to you soon! Cheers.

Zach: No problem. Thanks for having me.Quality: The Codeable Differene