Hello Everyone.. This is Elle Gamboa, I’m a WordPress developer and instructor from Los Angeles. I run a blog talking about my experiences on the road teaching and promoting WordPress. I decided one day that I should start interviewing other WordPress developers. I emailed a couple of WordPress developers through WordCamp and Nathan responded with this interview. Thanks Nathan.. So here it goes. This interview was conducted online via a Slack Forum
Elle : How are you today Nathan ? Shall we start with name, rank, and serial number. Lol.
Nathan : Haha, okay, well I’m Nathan Reimnitz (although online I go by “Nathan Ello”) and I’m a freelance WordPress developer from Phoenix, AZ. I’ve been building websites for about 10 years now. It all started for me back in 2007 at the tail end of high-school, back in those days when we were building ugly sites in Dreamweaver.
Elle : Yes I remember using Dreamweaver and Flash for websites back then. Are any of your old Dreamweaver sites still alive ?
Nathan : Oh god no, but it would be pretty funny to look at if they were… Remember putting visitor counters at the bottom and things like that?
Elle : Ya. I remember those visitor counters. It’s so old school now and they’re still out there. So Nathan how did you get started in the WordPress community ?
Nathan : I was actually developing Joomla sites before I started working with WP. I got a “real job” with an agency in Minneapolis (MN) and they worked with both Joomla + WP. Eventually they started transitioning all their clients over to WP, exclusively, so that’s when I really started getting my hands dirty with WP.
Elle : How did you learn WordPress ? Did you have any mentors ?
Nathan : Well, already having the Joomla background certainly helped… But I’ve had some great mentors along the way as well. Aside from that it’s been my own experimentation, trial and error ya know? I think one of the best ways to learn is to dive in head first and fail a few times… Of course I learned many ways NOT to do things before I learned to do them properly. As with all things, there’s a learning curve to WP.
One of the guys over at Rocket Themes was especially kind to me and would answer my stupid questions when I first got started. Otherwise it was the guys at the agencies I’ve worked for that were well versed in WP.
Elle : If you were not a WordPress developer/coder what would have been your career ?
Important question, why did you pick a career in programming ? And follow up question. If you were not coding sites, what would have been your alternate career ?
Nathan : Oh yes, that’s the million dollar question isn’t it?
Honestly I’m a nerd at heart and developing websites has always interested me. I think it’s fun and it really doesn’t feel like “work” to me because I enjoy it so much. Plus it’s really great to be able to help others out. Sharing their successes online is the best part.
If I weren’t developing websites but I still needed a job I’d be developing mobile games. I do this as a hobby now in my free time but I think I’d still be a nerd (just a different kind of nerd I suppose). However, if money were no object I’d have loved to become a professional skateboarder.
Elle : How did you get involved with Codeable ? What’s it like working for them ?
Do you recommend Codeable to other WordPress experts ?
Nathan : I found a post on Reddit one day about some of the successes their company (Codeable) was having and I applied to becomes one of their WP experts. A few weeks later I had a Skype interview with the CEO (Per Esbensen) and was accepted for a 30-day trial to prove myself. I’ve been with Codeable since the start of August, 2015 and it’s absolutely changed my life.
Elle : What kind of jobs do you get working for Codeable ? Are they mostly small projects, quick fixes, database recovery, etc ?
Nathan : We see it all on Codeable, everything from one hour quick-fixes all the way up to 5-figure full site development projects. I prefer to work with the smaller clients which have issues that can typically be resolved within 1 day. My average task price right now is a little over $350, so you can imagine these are not full site builds.
Now that’s not to say I don’t take on any full sites but I typically only take one of these types of projects at a time. These obviously take longer and sometimes you’ll go a few days without much communication from a client and that’s when you can pick up the smaller projects.
Some of the most popular tasks I work on are : website migrations, performance optimization, CSS tweaks, malware removal, etc. One of the best things (in my opinion) about Codeable is that they’ve built a platform based on hiring only the best developers which in turn brings in the best clients. That’s not to say that there’s not an occasional bad apple in the bunch but in my first 550 projects well under 1% of them have been for people I didn’t want to work with again.
Elle : How do you deal with the client from hell ?
Nathan : It’s certainly a luxury getting to work with only the best clients in the world. They’ve also got an amazing support team to jump in and help us out with those “clients from hell “ as you put it.
Elle : Let’s talk about your work habits. What’s the first thing you do after you wake up in the morning?
Nathan : I think I’m pretty much the same as a lot of people reading this… Check my phone. I typically pop on my phone from bed to take a quick peek at the new tasks posted on Codeable and to check messages from my clients. I’ll check my email quick as well to see if there’s any fires I need to put out right away. After that it’s time for coffee.
Elle : How do you deal with coder’s block?
Nathan : At the risk of sounding like some marketing shill for Codeable I’m going to plug them again here… We’re a family of developers on this platform and we’ve all got each others back. So if anyone ever runs into coder’s block we simply post a quick message to the community via Skype or Slack and it’s almost always instantly met with a response from our peers.
Elle : How do you like working with the Codeable team ? I tried applying with them but
they said they’re only working with senior WP developers for now.
Nathan : We’re all lucky to have such a great network of developers to bounce our questions off when things aren’t working quite the way we expected. Just because they said “no” to you today shouldn’t discourage you, it should motivate you. Codeable accepts the top 1-2% of applicants to their platform so it’s a very elite group of developers. Continue learning and one day in the future that “no” may very well change to a “yes”.
Elle : Do you do other projects for other agencies other than Codeable.
Nathan : Yes, I do still work on projects outside of Codeable, I’m part of a handful of other outsourcing platforms but I haven’t found the same success (or anything close to it really) that I have with Codeable.
Elle : Now let us talk about productivity tools. What are your favorites ? What tools/software couldn’t you get through your workday without (other than WordPress of course!)?
Nathan : I’ve got a pretty basic setup over here, let’s see… I certainly couldn’t get through the day without my MacBook Pro + 2 additional monitors. Well, I guess that’s a lie, sometimes working remotely I don’t have the extra monitors, but that sucks… The more workspace the better as far as I’m concerned. I’ve got to have an FTP client, personally I use one called Fetch. Chrome/FF developer tools come in handy too. Photoshop also comes in handy for certain projects. I also use a text editor called TextWrangler.
Elle : Do you follow a set schedule every day? If so what does it look like?
Nathan : Nope, that’s one of the benefits of being a full-time freelancer. You get to work when you want to. I do try and work every day, but it’s not always at the same time. I have a daily goal to earn $300. Some days I’m able to achieve that goal before noon while other days it’s not.
Elle : What do you do on days where you’re not actively working on a project for a client?
Nathan : If my workload is light then you’d probably find me looking for new projects and communicating with potential clients. Otherwise I might take a day to work on my own site and publish some new posts and do some more experimenting.
If I’m not in front of the computer though I enjoy being outdoors and traveling. I’ll be taking almost 2-weeks off from client projects here at the end of June to travel around Europe and attend WordCamp Europe.
Elle : Which project do you remember where you did your best work ?
Nathan : Every project gets my best work. Nice try with your trick question. Here’s one I did recently that turned out pretty cool . http://evisit.com eVisit® Telemedicine Solution Telehealth Software Solutions for Providers .Keep in mind most of the time I’m working on small fixes for clients. This was a PSD -> WP project.
Elle : How is the lifestyle different from what you expected when you first started out?
Do you have any regrets leaving your full-time job ?
Nathan : HELL NO. Best decision of my life.
To touch back on the paydays, another reason I like this is because if something goes wrong with 1 small task it’s not the end of the world. But if you put all your eggs in one basket with a big project that ended up going south for some reason then what?
Elle : At the end of the day, when do you stop looking at blue-lit screens?
(On good days, and bad days.)
Nathan : Hah, on a good day before the sun goes down.
On a bad day as the sun is coming back up.
Elle : Looking through your portfolio, how did you distinguish yourself from the crowd ?
Nathan : I think the work speaks for itself. I’m never in a position where I have to sell myself against the next guy. I let all my clients make these decisions themselves. I only want to work with clients who want to work with me in the first place. So, if they prefer my work then great.
Elle : How do you deal with difficult clients ? Or do you avoid this type of clients ?
What are the red flags ?
Nathan : Oh man, there’s a ton of red flags. I actually just finished drafting a couple posts on this same topic so I’ll give you a little preview here before it’s actually published.
Red Flag #1 — Incomplete or confusing project briefs.
I don’t want to spend the first several hours of a project deciphering exactly what it is the client wants me to do. Incomplete project briefs, or just plain poorly written ones, are surefire signs of things to come with this client. Try to set up a paid consultation to unmuddy the waters.
Red Flag #2 — Vagueness.
Clients need to have goals. What’s the desired end-result that you, as a freelancer, should be striving to hit? Vague clients don’t know what they want, but they do know that it’s not what you gave them. Not every client is willing to pay for revisions either, some flat out expect them. When these clients send you back to the drawing board for an extra two-hours on a one-hour project, you’re working for free.
Red Flag #3 — Rudeness.
No amount of money is worth being verbally abused by a client. Now, I like to give clients the benefit of the doubt the first time around, maybe their cat was run over this morning and now they just want to watch the world burn? But, if you can’t diffuse their anger about fluffy and convince them to treat you like a human within a few minutes then it’s time to excuse yourself from their task altogether.
Red Flag #4 — Asking for discounts up front.
Your very first task together is not the time or place for clients to ask you to drop your rate. I’m a firm believer that there’s rarely a time or place for this, but as with all things in life there are possible exceptions to the rule. When in doubt politely explain your position to the client.
I could go on and on about this, but for the sake of not filling this entire piece with red flags we’ll stop here. Oh man, you’re totally feeding questions that fit into this next post as well, great timing on your part.
At the beginning of the month I wrote this piece on how to transition into becoming a freelancer successfully. https://nathanello.com/advice/how-to-become-a-successful-freelancer
This post shares 8 rules I followed to ensure I’d never have to sit at another desk, or at least one that I didn’t want to, ever again.
Part 2 is coming in a few days and goes into another 7 rules to follow once you’ve made the transition successfully so that you can maximize your income.
Elle : As far as getting the most income potential from WordPress development, do you recommend WP developers to do small or medium task ( 1-4 hour projects ) versus a full scale WordPress project that takes weeks or months ?
Nathan : Here’s the rules from the next post if you’re interested…
Rule #1 — Never work for free, ever.
Rule #2 — Learn how to say no.
Rule #3 — Charge what you’re worth, no negotiating.
Rule #4 — Be polite and respectful, always.
Rule #5 — Learn to identify red-flags quickly.
Rule #6 — Upsell, but do it professionally.
Rule #7 — Patience in all things, grasshopper.
Elle : . What’s one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring
WordPress developer just starting out?
Nathan : Practice every single day. If you take 1 day off that quickly turns into 2 and then 2 turns into 3. Before you know it you’ve justified a week off, then two, then a full month. Before you know it you don’t remember what the heck you were doing in the first place.
Commit to working on a project every single day, even if it’s only for an half-hour or an hour. This applies to just about anything too, not just WP devs.
Elle : . One final question Nathan and it has something to do with the WordPress community….When do we get to see you on stage at Wordcamp so you can talk to people about your experience as a freelance WordPress developer ?
Nathan : Oh man, I’ve been trying real hard to make that happen. I actually just attended my first WordCamp ever (WordCamp Minneapolis) and had an amazing time. Chris Lema was insanely inspiring and really lit that fire for me to get up on stage and share my story and advice with the community.
After his talk I skipped a few sessions and applied to be a speaker at every single WC event that was still taking applicants. So far I’ve only heard back from 1 and unfortunately the schedule didn’t sync up quite right with mine but I’m optimistic that other WC events will still get back to me.
I want to give a talk on “five figure freelancing” and teach others these simple rules I’ve created for myself that have allowed me to earn over 10K per month as a freelance WP developer.
Elle : Nathan. We have come to the end of the interview. Thank you very much for
sharing your stories as a freelance WordPress developer with my readers at wptraveller.com. I’m looking forward to sharing the stage with you someday at the next WordCamp in USA or the world. Let’s keep in touch.