Justyn, Web Developer
Hi, I'm Justyn and I’m originally from Park City, Utah.
Before leaving home I was a nursing student and care assistant - for my whole life basically!
I took accelerated programs and became a nursing assistant as soon as possible so that I could jump right into nursing school. I always thought nursing was exactly what I wanted to do, but one day my parents suggested that I take a year off to travel and that changed everything!
After spending a year on the road (and all the money I had set aside for the trip), I realized that it was time to either go home or start making money. That’s when I started looking into jobs online. I realized there were so many resources to learn new skills and work remotely from anywhere in the world. Once I got started I never looked back!
How many years have you been freelancing?
Just over two years now.
What do you say when people ask "What do you do?"
I always laugh a little at first. My freelancer journey has been a rollercoaster. I tell people I’m a freelancer and full-time traveler.
Nowadays I stick with mostly doing website development and writing website copy, but I’ve done ghostwriting, email marketing, social media management, VA work and more!
Why did you get started with online/freelance work?
I chose to become a freelancer because it allowed me to do what I love, which is travel the world. And I get to do it at a very slow pace, spending months in every city getting to know the culture, people, food and more.
I also started freelancing because it was a great way to get more involved in the places that I was staying. Since I was staying much longer, I got to know people and was able to volunteer and really make a home for myself anywhere in the world. The difference with freelancing is that I get to choose where I want to be and how long I want to be there.
Where did you find your first paid freelancing job?
I got my first long-term paying client by chance! It’s a really great story actually.
I was living in Bali, and I was broke. A friend of a friend was house-sitting for a few weeks and had an extra room. She told me that I could stay there while I figured out my next step.
We became really close friends and she offered me a job working for her. I’ve been working for her in one way or another ever since and she has helped me get almost every client that I work with today!
How did you price your services when you were just starting out?
I asked everyone else what they did and basically got the advice to choose an hourly rate, then estimate how long something is going to take you and maybe add on a little for messaging back and forth. However, I still don't have set rates and my prices are always changing based on the client.
What did you struggle with the most when you were just starting?
Getting people to pay me! I had the hardest time getting anyone to say yes to me and my proposal, even when I was dropping the price down SO much.
Everyone wanted something for free or found someone else willing to do it for free when I said no. It was very discouraging.
Now I know that it’s okay to say no to clients with no budget, because usually a better client will come along instead!
How long did it take for you to feel like a "successful" freelancer. Until you were able to pay your bills regularly without worrying?
Sometimes I still struggle with this. Freelancing is something that you have to stay on top of. I am a REALLY good budgeter and that helps. Some months you have so much work it’s overwhelming, but sometimes you can go as long as four months without a single job.
I’ve learned to tell people “I can't start now but I’ll be able to take this on in 2-4 weeks.”.
What's one important lesson you had to learn the hard way on your path to becoming an independent, full-time freelancer?
That it's okay for me to say no to people who won't pay me what I know that I am worth.
For the longest time I NEVER said no to work. I’ve learned that you can't do that because you just end up getting discouraged. Those people that want to pay you $5 an hour - they’re not worth it. They’re always the most difficult clients to work with anyway!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your line of work?
Recently I was talking to a friend’s sister who really wants to get into this line of work, but she’s too full of fear to let go of her job and actually go for it.
This is what I tell people in this scenario: It’s never going to be the right time to go freelance. You’re never going to feel like you’re 100% ready and it might be scary, but that’s OK! You just have to take that leap of faith. The first step is always the hardest part.
I also always tell people that they need to make friends with others in the freelancing world. Even if they are just friends you talk to online. Surround yourself with people that are going through the same struggles and experiencing the same highs. That way, when you feel at your lowest, you can get the support & advice you need to keep going.
What's your favorite way to find new clients and job opportunities? What worked the best for you?
I love when past clients and friends recommend me! I’m really lucky to have worked with some amazing people that are constantly sending new work my way via friends and family.
I also freelance for an agency that sends me work.
I regularly spend a lot of time searching in Facebook groups too.
Sometimes these groups can be discouraging when you see a job that has over 100 people commenting on it before you even wake up. So choosing the right Facebook Group is important.
I’m in one that posts like 20 legit jobs a week, called Work From Home. And they are actual job postings, not just business owners posting that they need to hire someone. That’s a great place to start looking for work.
What are your favorite things about freelancing/working from home?
WORKING WITHOUT PANTS ON. This is the best!
The other thing I love about working from home is the flexible hours. I like to have VERY slow mornings. I usually start my day by walking my dogs, having a coffee, exercising, showering and reading/writing. It’s nice to have a job where I can start work at lunch time and finish later or earlier. It’s up to me!
What's your LEAST favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?
It gets lonely sometimes! I have to make sure that I’m responding to my friends’ messages and going to meetups otherwise I start getting extremely lonely.
The toughest thing is finding balance. I have to take time in the mornings to exercise otherwise I end up working all day and never get out of the house.
I also really dislike finding new clients. I do often wish that they would just always come to me but that’s just not the case. Haha…
What are the top 5 tools you use most often in your daily work?
On average, how many hours do you work on a regular weekday?
I try to only work eight hours. Sometimes I work 10-12 though, especially if I want to take a long weekend.
Do you have any work routines or habits that boost your productivity?
I try to exercise everyday and eat really really healthy! I am not a morning person at all but I do try to get up early and go outside cause it always helps me feel better throughout the day.
Often when I’m working I’ll use an owl timer. This is basically a timer where you turn your phone off and focus on a task for 25 straight minutes and then take a five minute break. I never thought this would work for me but it actually really helps when you need to stay focused and get a lot done.
How do you stay motivated and focused when you don't feel like working?
Lots and lots of coffee! Also, I try to write out an easy to-do list so I feel like I am getting a lot done.
If you could work from anywhere, what would be your dream work location?
I wanna say the Seychelles but I don't think I would actually get any work done! I might choose Norway because I love it out there.
There are several things that I think about when I’m choosing where to live while freelancing, things that I have realized over time that I need in my life or else I’ll just end up feeling really awful all the time. Two important ones are cost of living and quality of life.
Since both the places I wish I could live are VERY expensive, I make do with other places for now, but I’m still working towards my dream location.
Now that you've experienced all the ups and downs of being a freelancer, would you go back to a regular 9-5 job?
I think about it sometimes, just for the stability. But my job would never be 9-5 because I would go back to nursing so it'd more likely be a very stressful 6-6 haha!
I do wonder, “Will I want to be freelancing in ten years?”, and I am not sure as of right now. I really enjoy this lifestyle but you never know where life can take you. I might just end up working in a hospital one day.
What do you wish other people knew about freelancing?
That it’s not easy and it's not a constant vacation. Most people think that I don't actually work, that I just say I do while really I just run around the world in constant vacation mode.
Some people mistakenly assume that freelancing is a way to make tons of money. People are always wanting me to pay for things and take them places because they assume I am rolling in the dollars thanks to freelancing.
I hope to be someday but really it’s just like working an office job most of the time... just much more flexible.
In your opinion, what's the most important quality or trait for a freelancer to have?
SELF-MOTIVATION. I can't say that enough. It’s SO easy to do nothing all day or put projects off to watch Netflix.
You have to be very self-motivated because swimming, hiking, or shopping sounds a lot more fun than working and it’s very easy to just slip into a routine and procrastinate.
If you could go back to your early days as a freelancer and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don't say yes to work just because you need the money. Find for clients that are going to pay you what you are worth.
And get testimonials! Build a website so you can put those testimonials there along with work examples & experience. It’s been over two years for me and I still don’t have a portfolio or a single testimonial. So when it comes to looking for new work, I still struggle A LOT.
I would tell myself to make sure that I’m building these things up from the start.
Anything else? Last words of advice or suggestions?
Build a network of freelancers that you can cowork with virtually or talk to when the going gets tough. Most of the time they will understand you much better than your friends or family.
I’m not saying that you might not have extremely supportive friends and family, but people who are freelancing just like you are going to understand what you are going through a lot better. They will be able to talk with you about things that other people just might not get, like how hard it is to work from home sometimes.
If I talk about that with my mom, she just gets frustrated and tells me how I should be grateful, but my freelancer friends get it. So find people that understand you & build relationships you can trust.
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