This week’s Featured Freelancer is Web Designer, David Orchard, a.k.a. Web Lad. It’s clear from his answers that Stockport-based David believes that this is a great time to be a freelancer and, with the right attitude and hard work, the opportunities that lay ahead can be extraordinary. This is David’s story…
What is your name and what do you do?
Some know me by my true identity, David Orchard. Everyone else knows me as Web Lad, superhero web designer. I make websites for small UK businesses and am about to launch a second venture, SalonsOnline.co.uk, offering turnkey, pay-monthly websites to UK salons.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I’ve been ‘proper’ freelancing since the end of 2016. I’ve nearly always been self-employed as an IT contractor, but never a freelancer in the true sense. I never had to sell my services, as I worked through agencies.
However, I’d been doing web design ‘on the side’ for years and had spent a lot of time teaching myself design and to code. So when work in my field finally dried up with the wide-spread paralysis brought about by Brexit, I knew it was time to finally make the leap.
It’s worked out well because I now have a nice combination of a technical and business background, project management experience and people skills and I get to work from home, where I can spend time with my little boy.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
People are either completely behind you or stuck in the industrial era way of 9-5 ‘proper job’ thinking.
I couldn’t have made the leap though, without the faith and support of my wife Michelle. She’s keeping us afloat while Web Lad takes off – while holding down a career in radiography, running her own side-line business in children’s books and caring for our son. She’s the real superhero in this story!
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
I built Web Lad on nothing other than domain name and hosting – the absolute essentials. I’ve not had the cash to pay for any professional services outright, so I approached a couple of start-up freelancers in this group and proposed a trade of services.
It was a good move as Salons Online now has professional copy writing and social media marketing in the pipeline, and Web Lad will have finished work in the portfolio, all in return for web sites built and hosted. A win-win partnership for any start-up business.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
Small UK businesses and freelancers who are being led to believe that professional web design costs thousands, takes teams of developers and weeks to complete. I set up Web Lad to prove that’s not the case.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
Quality work delivered quickly. And I know it’s a cliché, but my clients do get a personal service. We work together through each step to achieve exactly what they need – rather than I deliver something at the end which isn’t quite right. I wouldn’t want a client feeling they had to accept my work and not be 100% happy with it. That wouldn’t be good for business.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
Tough one. Juggling work with child care means I’m not able to do the 800 hour week I’d probably be doing if left to my own devices. I love what I do though, so I don’t really see it as work.
My situation has really pushed my time management skills. It’s meant I’ve really had to cut out everything that’s not directly related to the masterplan. No more procrastinating, no more cherry-picking which tasks on the list to do first. No more excuses.
- If I can recommend just one book for freelancers on this subject, it’s The Good Psychopath (http://www.thegoodpsychopath.com/andy-mcnab-kevin-dutton/). It explains how psychopathic traits help blinker you to the immediate task in hand. It’s helped me a lot.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
I’ve just discovered Trello.com. With my background in project management, I can’t imagine not working to a project plan and Trello allows both easy Agile project management AND it allows the client to get involved and collaborate on each part of the project. It’s intuitive, there’s no learning curve for the client. And it’s free!
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
- Just do it. As long as you have the core skills for your trade, you can figure the rest along the way. I read somewhere that you can’t be in business without being in business. It’s all guess work and theory if you’re not in the thick of it.
- Have faith in your abilities. It takes a strong character to see established competitors and their work, and not get disparaged. They started somewhere just like you.
- Manage expectations. “Rudeness is merely the expression of fear. Fear that that person might not get what they want.” – M. Gustave (Grand Budapest Hotel)
- Finally, don’t be afraid to pivot your business as you see new opportunities. It’s your ship!
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
You won’t start making money straight off. It takes time to raise awareness and build up the trust needed (look up Trust Pyramid). Getting involved with groups like this has certainly helped there.
Here’s the catch though: without a portfolio or testimonials, you’re asking people to buy on blind faith. Would you?
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
- The flexibility.
- Working from home.
- My efforts all going toward my own goals.
- Not having to do the daily commute.
- Not having to put up with others’ petty nonsense and office politics.
- Genuinely helping others without the restrictions of cost, time and policy.
- And ultimately, the creative freedom and the challenge of making it work.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
This is the only question I’ve struggled to answer right off the bat. I guess the uncertainty, the pressure it puts on a relationship, and the guilt that comes from the constant inner debate of spending quality time with your son vs. working hard to afford him nice things.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
My professional goal is simply to provide a means for my personal goals, which are a nice life for me and my family, and to set my little boy up with a secure future.
However, I don’t believe that humans were put on earth to work tirelessly like ants but my goal isn’t optional, and it’s going to happen, so I may as well make it happen by doing something I enjoy.
I have too many friends who are (supposedly) trapped in the ‘rat race’ and they are genuinely miserable. They live for the weekend. It shouldn’t be like that. I believe this is cause of a lot of society’s problems. But that’s for another interview.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
I used to think I needed a ‘MegaCorp’-type presence that would make me look like one of the big boy firms. In the past I’ve spent hundreds on paraphernalia like graphic design, business cards and posh registered addresses. What a waste. I had everything I needed right in front of me.
What an amazing time to be a freelancer though! There’s so much opportunity to build anything from nothing, and so many tools available for free to achieve it!
To connect with David online, visit: