I built my very first website in 2005 in my first year of college. It was a volunteering project for my township and an informational resource for the north eastern part of Romania, my native country. That was also my first time when I did project management. I had few friends help out with taking photos and copyrighting, while I was working on putting everything together. The website was later redesigned and you can find it here.
Moving to USA
In 2006 I relocated to USA where I felt I have better business opportunities and I can maintain a better life style. Also part of my family was already there which made it easier to take that decision.
I worked for three years in construction building hardwood floors while I was still building websites on the side as an hobby, gaining web related experience which paid off later on. At that point I never imagined I can earn my living doing Web Design. I’m glad I was wrong.
The Beginning of Web Design Freelancing
In 2009 recession struck and construction industry collapsed losing my job and forced somehow into freelancing. With some money saved, I decided to do the thing I love the most as fulltime and take on web design contract work.
The first year was very rough. I took most of my gigs from Craigslist, working ten hours a day / six days a week and making just enough to pay the bills.
That was the time when I learned a lot of HTML / CSS, which st the moment is still my strongest skill. Very soon after I discovered WordPress which gained popularity among clients since it is very easy to use and easy for developers to work with. WordPress at this time is used by 54.2% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 16.7% of all websites! Specializing in WordPress gave me many opportunities and helped my business grow.
It took me a while to realize that I can’t be all things at once and be great at everything. While I can still design websites I decided to specialize in front-end and backend stuff, so I partnered up with a very talented designer who is also very versatile and helps me with most of my projects.
After I mastered WordPress I received many inquires for eCommerce websites. WordPress can handle basic eCommerce functionality but is not ideal as a dedicated solution. After trying different solutions such as CoreCommerce, Shopify and CS-Cart I discovered Lemonstand shopping cart which is a self-hosted solution, 100% customizable, upgrades don’t break it and is very affordable at $300 lifetime license with no monthly transaction fees. Using Lemonstand it’s one of the best business investment that an online merchant can take.
Lately I also provide custom Web Apps using Ruby on Rails and I have a partner specialized in this area so we can get to build complex solutions.
How do I market myself
Thanks God I never had to do cold phone calls. I tried cold emailing few times but it didn’t work for me. It can work for others as couple of my subcontractors found me this way and they’ve business from me.
Currently most of my work is from repeat clients such Web Design Agencies or marketing people but I still have a good amount of incoming work from new clients who are small to medium business. Sometimes I can be found on Google for certain keywords and most of time when somebody searches for “WordPress” on these directories: FreelanceSwitch and CreativeHotList. Providing SEO services for my clients it also helps me positioning myself on top of these directories. Not a bad skill to have!
Recently I’m also getting projects from Lemonstand forum, community which is rapidly growing.
My business is booming and thanks to several awesome clients, I’m currently getting more work than I can handle.
My plans for the near future is to refresh my existing website and get into responsive design which is mobile friendly.