On 5 October 2010, I put all my things into a small van and drove up north to make a new home in Chester.
I’d had some experience building websites in my jobs at Lee Abbey and Ascension Balham Hill in London, as well as several of my own personal ones. In my free time people would keep asking me to build websites for them, and offering to pay as well. It was at this point in my life that I decided it was worth seeing if it would provide all the income I needed.
Over the last decade there have been a couple of short lulls, but in general there has been as much work coming my way as I can manage – and sometimes more.
I feel so blessed to have been able to work on websites for all sorts of people … Christian charities, engineering companies, and a Christian engineering charity; singers, songwriters and authors; pre-schools and conference centres; watch sellers and fire alarm merchants. Some have now had two or more generations of websites from me, each much better than the last as I never finish a project without learning new skills, techniques and best practices.
In 2010 I used to build my own database-driven back-ends; now I have become proficient in developing WordPress themes and custom plugins which can do pretty much anything my clients need, building on the solid foundations developed and supported by the worldwide WordPress community.
In 2010 I was just beginning to develop for smartphones, usually as a bolt-on fix after the main design was done. Now of course, I design for phones first and foremost, then scaling my design up to work well on desktops too, but that was quite a change of mindset.
In 2010 every browser was very different, and some of them didn’t work very well at all (here’s looking at you, Internet Explorer). You had to be careful that a nice layout you built in one browser didn’t break down entirely in another. Now, most of the major browsers and platforms all work just as well as each other, with only minor differences, which makes my job so much more pleasant!
In 2010 I was scared to integrate anything remotely money-related into a website because of not understanding how secure connections worked. Now every site I build uses a secure connection, and while I still avoid handling users’ financial information, I know how to collect donations and run shop payment gateways through all sorts of providers.
In 2010 I used a small laptop and a cheap shared Web host. These days I have a fast system, a proper professional monitor (makes so much difference to colour choices, for a start), and I run a cloud server on which I host most of my clients’ websites, which I am now quite comfortable running and maintaining well.
I realise freelance work doesn’t suit everyone. Many people thrive off the buzz of an office atmosphere (except during pandemics), and some people would rather just work on projects and leave the business admin and client interactions to administrators and managers. I get that.
But for me, I love working this way. I really enjoy corresponding directly with the people I’m working for, and I even quite enjoy the admin. I don’t make as much money as I would in a traditional job at my experience level, but I am working for lots of wonderful people doing fantastic work of their own in so many different companies and organisations, and I get to enjoy time with my lovely wife and excitable little one-year-old boy too. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here’s to the next ten years…