Earlier this year, after yet another "failed" business attempt, I was ready to try something new... again.
At the time, I had been making websites for about 8 years, so I decided I was going to get a full-time job doing Webflow development with the skills I had picked up over the years.
I absolutely hated the idea of getting a job working for someone else again, but I was becoming desperate to make money and figured that of all the things I could possibly do, Webflow development would at least allow me to get better at a platform I love using while getting paid a good amount to work from home.
I sat with this realization for a few days, dreading the job search, the idea of feeling stuck at another company, and having to work for someone else's vision. I've known for most of my life that I was not made to work for other people, but that is a story for another day.
Then, rather serendipitously, I clicked on a YouTube video from Tiago Forte about productivity. In the video he said this:
We are all a company of one. If you have a full time job, you're a company of one who just has an exclusive client that has hired you for exclusive consulting. - Tiago Forte
Hearing this was a light bulb moment for me. Reframing a job (something I have historically hated) as simply an exclusive client actually made me feel more in control of the situation. I began to feel more free and mentally prepared to take on this new project.
Part 1: Operation Exclusive Client
With my new found enthusiasm, I did what I always do... I opened up a clean page in Obsidian, titled it "Operation Exclusive Client", and I wrote out a plan.
The objective: Find an awesome exclusive client
- I want to make $5k or more per month (after taxes).
- I want to do web development only. I want to build the sites, not design them.
- I want to work remotely. NO commuting.
- I want the company to have a great culture.
Once I had a better idea of exactly what I wanted, I began updating my LinkedIn profile, resume, and looking at job exclusive client postings.
Before applying to positions, my goal was to have a minimum of 3 websites in my portfolio (which at the time was just my public Webflow profile) to show potential employers. Luckily, I had finished the site build for my recently "failed" business so I only had two left to go!
Part 2: The initial outreach
After the preliminary work was complete, I started applying for Webflow developer roles.
I applied for big jobs, small jobs, agency jobs, in-house developer jobs, you name it, all while continuing to develop more Webflow projects.
In the following weeks, not one single company got back to me....
I was irritated and frankly bored of writing cover letters and filling out applications at this point. I kept asking myself why I had put in so much effort for nobody to even get back to me.
Also can we take a moment to contemplate why so many companies are trying to hire developers that know 20+ different languages and can do the work of two or three people for a salary of only $50k-60k... 🤔 but I digress.
I talked to my partner about everything I was feeling and she helped me to get recentered again. With her emotional support and valuable insights as someone who has been in charge of hiring before, I went back to my planning page in Obsidian and added a new section called ✨Inspiration✨. It read:
You WILL find an exclusive client that you like and that will be a great fit!
Interview them and see if they're a good client for you. I am a star looking for a star shaped hole.
Anything that doesn't work out is for the best and the universe is helping you find the thing that is meant for you!
Don't take it personally... there is so much that goes into hiring. It is rare to know the real reason why a company says no.
I also added this hilarious video that my partner sent me so I could laugh about the situation when I needed to.
With these good vibe reminders only a click away, I continued to apply for positions on LinkedIn, Indeed, and some no-code specific job boards. Still nothing...
Then, one day while doing some hardcore procrastination, I came across a video talking about how not every company posts their open jobs online. There are a number of reasons why this could happen... maybe they're so busy that they don't have the time to put a listing online right now, or maybe they're in the process of putting together a listing but it just hasn't gone live yet, etc. Regardless of the reason, you can proactively reach out to companies to see if they might be in need of extra help.
So after several weeks of applying to officially released job postings and not hearing anything back I decided to try this new approach. Why not?
Part 3: A new approach
I knew I wanted to develop websites in Webflow only (not Wordpress, Shopify, etc) so I visited the Webflow Partner's page and started going down the list of agencies. I figured that if all of these agencies had taken the time to become certified Webflow experts then all or at least part of their business was exclusively dedicated to offering Webflow services.
I started emailing these agencies directly asking if they were hiring... and then something happened!
I actually got emails back! Most of the replies were simply telling me that they had no positions available, but the fact that they were actually writing back to me got me excited so I kept going.
It didn't take long at all to have a call with one of these agencies. They were kind of small and didn't have the capital to hire someone full-time, but they were open to sending me small jobs for now (mostly small site updates) for an hourly rate and if things went well we could maybe talk about a full-time position in the future.
I was so pumped! I knew this would be a great first step to get some real-world experience working with a remote team on Webflow projects.
We got the contracts signed and I started putting my skills to work, one very slow task at a time. Within a month I was doing an entire site build from scratch.
It was a great first situation because I was getting extremely positive feedback for my work which improved my confidence drastically. To be fair, I knew I was capable of doing the work, but hearing it directly from another web designer/developer who had been doing client work for several years made me feel great.
During this time, I was so worried about doing a good job that I stopped emailing other agencies because I didn't want to be too distracted from the development work I was doing. However, it didn't take long for this to change because the small amount of work being sent my was nowhere near a sustainable income, so I started emailing more agencies.
And then... it happened again! Another agency thanked me for reaching out and told me they needed my help with a full site build!
I think it's important to note that the whole time I was reaching out to these agencies, I was so worried about my portfolio not being up to par, especially considering how fancy some of these agency websites were. I kept getting sucked into negative thought spirals telling me that my work sucked, but what really helped was realizing that for the RIGHT people and the RIGHT agency, my work was going to be good enough. In other words, I kept choosing over and over again to TRUST that I would eventually, through trial and error, find cool and well-paying agencies to work with. It wasn't always easy, and I had some low times during the process, but so far it has been worth it.
Part 4: Am I a freelancer now?
After landing a few freelance jobs with Webflow agencies, I experienced first-hand that job postings are not the only way to find work and some agencies are interested in outsourcing work now even if it's not explicitly stated anywhere on their site or social media.
I also learned very quickly that if I kept doing what was working for me so far, I would be able to build a freelancing business while remaining in complete control of my situation. Let me explain...
In a traditional job you'll find:
- fixed hours
- fixed salaries
- limited time off (vacation, sick days, etc.)
- potentially annoying or lazy co-workers that can bring you down
- standard operating procedures that you're required to follow
- no control over what projects are sent your way
- and my least favorite thing of all... office politics
However, as a freelancer, you have complete control over:
- the amount of hours you work per day and per week
- the amount you charge for your services
- when you get to take some time off from working (assuming your projects are finished up)
- who you decide to work with
- when and how you prefer to work (as an independent contractor the client/agency can't control how the job is performed on a day-to-day basis, so you are responsible for determining when, where, and how you will carry out the work)
- how many projects you take on at one time and what those projects are
In just a couple short months of freelancing, I realized I could actually make more money (during this time I increased my hourly rate from $33 to $50 to $100+) doing more interesting work while still being able to have the time to dedicate to my personal projects (like this blog), take a random day off to chill with my partner, or take a break in the the afternoon to go on a bike ride.
All the benefits listed above are the reasons why I've been obsessed with the idea of building my own business for the last 10 years. Now that I know experientially that this is all available to me, I am no longer interested in finding an exclusive client. Instead, I'm going to keep doing what I'm passionate about (making websites) on my own terms.
Part 5: Settling in to my new freelancer role
If you stick around, one thing you'll learn about me is that I LOVE planning, automating, and optimizing everything, from chores to note taking to business endeavors and more.
Since this all happened on accident, I had to figure out how to do a lot of things on the fly. Luckily I'm an extremely resourceful person who loves problem solving and so I've been able to put together some solutions that work great for me and my clients so far.
I've learned and improved a shit ton in the first few months of freelancing, and I'm optimizing my business on a daily basis.
I plan to write more about how I run and grow my business, and when that happens I'll be sure to include those links below.
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