A New Journey at Finder.com

I remember about 5 years ago, I was building themes for StudioPress. I had near daily meetings with wonderful people like Brian, Rafal, and Lauren. That was the last time I worked on a product.

For the last 5 years since that time I’ve worked exclusively in client services. At first this was nice, but (like with all things) I began to get tired of the continuous rhythm of starting from scratch every time a new project came in.

At times this was beneficial, of course — but that’s only if I hated my current project. More often, a sadness would overshadow any excitement whenever a new project came along; mocking my effort to create something beautiful, only to hand it off to someone else.

That’s why, when Finder.com reached out with an opportunity to build a large-scale application on top of WordPress, I couldn’t resist.

A True WordPress-Powered Application

Finder.com is many things, but most relevant to my area of expertise is the CMS portion. Hinging on countless comparisons that drive its value, Finder.com prides itself on being the first in most emerging markets. Behind this effort is a massive publication team utilizing WordPress to independently drive engagement in their respective “niche”.

The bulk of my responsibility is to make this process as easy and seamless as possible, and the most obvious way at the moment is through custom Gutenberg blocks.

These blocks range form simple to complex, locally retrieving data as well as communicating with several external APIs to gather product, niche, and consumer data for comprehensive comparisons.

Beyond Gutenberg, Finder is exploring new ways to delivery dynamic content to consumers through headless architecture, with major upgrades coming down the pipeline to improve speed, interaction, and interoperability.

All of this makes me incredibly excited to work with such a talented team, and push WordPress literally to the bleeding edge of innovation.

What About This Blog?

Some of you may be wondering what is going to happen with this blog and why I can’t seem to update it like I keep saying I will. The truth is, I’ve learned by now not to actually say, because history has shown me that I really don’t know.

I do want to revamp it on Gatsby or Next, and begin either doing podcasting/videos or selling products/ebooks. But whether I have bandwidth or time for that, I have yet to find out.

In the meantime, maybe you can tell me what you’d like to hear or learn from me? Any comments will go a long way toward helping me decide.

Till next time!

Black Lives Matter

The United States of America burns, and if you didn’t see it coming then you weren’t paying attention.

Before you berate me for “justifying” violence, hear me out. For starters, I don’t agree with looting. I don’t agree with violence against innocent people.

Yet, in this day, I completely understand it.

Setting aside all conspiracy theories for a second, you’d have to be living under a rock to not notice the growing voice of a hurting and disheartened Black community. To ignore such a cry for so long can and will only end in violence — it is the last resort, the last straw of a desperate people group who have to scream louder in order to be heard (or taken seriously).

I’m 100% white. About as white as it gets, and I’ve heard the cries of injustice for most of my adult life. I’ve also seen just about every cry for justice be ignored (or written off) by my Christian and white brothers and sisters for nearly as long.

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what to believe. Was racism really still a thing? I thought this ended after Abraham Lincoln became the hero of our history books and ended the oppression of slavery.

And yet, here we are.

I’m not sure where to stand or what to say. On the one hand, I decry the mindless destruction happening within our country, tearing us apart — but I also wonder if we’ve been torn apart for quite some time, and it’s only now boiling to the surface.

America is no longer the beacon of hope in the world that I grew up believing and hoping it was. And humanity? Well — we’re not exactly winning either. As much as I wish it wasn’t so, there is no clean slate when we enter this world — we all have to pick up the pieces of those who came before us. To pretend otherwise is to cause more pain.

I dream of a better day, where everyone is healed of their hate and pain, ego and pride, and numbed apathy. But that day is not today.

Whatever your disposition to recent events, I hope you take a moment of silence, and acknowledge the brokenness of our generation — not that of your neighbor, but your own.

People are always hurting, but the people hurting in front of us right now — through the shattering sound of protest, and yes, violence — are Black. They deserve our compassion, our empathy, and validation. Just because you may not understand or see the racism does not mean it doesn’t exist for them on a daily basis.

I’m not sure how to start picking up the pieces. But I will, until the day I die, join and champion any voice that says Black Lives Matter.

Because they do.

The Good Side of Pendulum Swings

I used to hate that I’d jump from creative explosion to near-dormant existence (one might argue that I’m currently in the latter stage). Still, the “pendulum swing”, as some may call it, was alive and visibly well.

Then one day, it all stopped. I burnt out. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but I basically cancelled everything (including my newsletter I had spent years trying to build).

I was tired of the endless back-and-forth.

A New Kind of Swing

The beautiful thing about pendulums is that they just keep going. The momentum of one leads to the momentum of the other — and endless circle of give and take, rest and effort, rinse and repeat.

Recently, my wife and I took our 3 very restless boys (6 and under) to the woods. It was my wife’s birthday as well, so the 4-day trip was wonderfully celebratory in nature. But more than that, it was unplugged.

There was no cell-service, and we drove up a Forest Service road that had no camping facilities whatsoever. We packed in everything, and packed everything out.

The Right Pendulum

The one thing I realized on this trip was that I had the wrong swing for many years. I tried so hard to be creative and build something beautiful — the hustle usually lasting for several months — before I crashed and took a break zoning out on XBOX and Netflix. My swing was that of production/consumption, and while it certainly was a swing, it wasn’t rejuvenating.

The beauty of “roughing” it in the wild is that it’s the exact opposite of my modern and technologically-fat normal day life. It’s the other end of my pendulum swing.

The more I stay in my normal life of digital interaction, the more I yearn for the other end of my pendulum; and the longer I spend in the rough and wild side of life, the more I yearn for the modern conveniences that I take for granted.

The pendulum swing is balanced.

Find Your Swing

Naturally, not everyone loves the outdoors, nor is their normal life so heavily influenced by digital devices as mine.

The point of this post is to encourage you to find that pendulum swing that can become an endless cycle, where burnout is tamed through balance.

Whatever it is, I’m sure you’ll find it. Just keep looking.

p.s. We roughed it about as much as you can in a camper, but I was really impressed that we got it up a treacherous canyon dirt road. My three boys had a total blast, as did Tanya and I.

A Survival Guide to Full-Time Freelancing with No Savings

Recently, I was put in a position (through my own doing) of full-time freelancing with absolutely no preparation or savings to support it.

I know what you’re thinking, “No savings? That’s insane.

You’re absolutely right — it is insane.

What follows is not an endorsement of jumping into the deep end without a life-jacket (although maybe it should be). Instead, through my own experience, I thought that a post about what to do in this situation would be very helpful to individuals who may find themselves in similar situations.

You might find yourself staring at full-time freelancing if:

  1. You were laid off of your job.
  2. You were fired from your job (yours, truly).
  3. You can’t find a job.
  4. You’re single and live with your mom.

After a week of being thrust into full-time freelancing, here are some tips on how to book up the next 3 months with work as fast as possible (within a few days I was booked till the beginning of August with full-time work), and how to plan for an all-of-a-sudden uncertain future.

Photo by Tabea Damm on Unsplash

First Thing’s First

Before you begin the journey of anxiety and utter-thrill—if you’re entrepreneurial, then suddenly being full-time self-employed is both of those all the time—it makes sense to prioritize what areas to tackle first.

After all, your “security” is now gone and it’s up to you to restore that safety-net as quickly as possible. Developing security comes in many forms, but here’s my opinion on the top 5, in order of most important:

1. Determine Your Lowest Estimated Income

You should immediately determine the lowest estimated income of your freelancing gig. Since you have no history of full-time freelancing, this is going to be a stab in the dark.

Start uncomfortably small. This will adjust over time after you get real data from each month’s income. Until then, it is essential that you operate on a realistic expectation of what you can make in a month on a fairly consistent basis.

2. Determine Your Base Expenses

Next, you’ll want to determine your base expenses. Don’t skimp, here. This is survival mode with no guarantee you’ll have a place to sleep in a month, so cut out as much cruft as possible.

Netflix? Pause it. Side-project expenses? Pause it. Coffee outings a regular thing? Pause them. Eating out? Nope.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

You’re stripping all these down until you can justify them again based on actual experience. Note that I said “pause” a lot. Adopting this mentality helps a lot with being able to turn off your luxuries because you start to see it as temporary.

Keeping stripping these down until you fall below your lowest estimated income. If you can’t do that, then it might be required for you to take on a part-time coffee shop job or something to cover the difference. It doesn’t matter if you’re working 60–80 hours a week because, as I said, this is temporary. It’s survival.

3. Emergency Fund First, Debt Second

Once you get Step 2 figured out, the next couple months of your life are going to be very tiring. But that’s okay because it’s for a purpose.

You’ll work your ass off in order to build your emergency fund.

If you were paying debt prior to full-time freelancing, that momentum has to be transferred to savings. Your emergency fund is going to help your life go back to normal, and allow for high-and-low fluctuations in your income to be mitigated. Pay the minimum payments until you get your emergency fund.

In my opinion, freelancers should have 3–6 months of your base expenses stored in the bank before they start tackling debt again.

When you have a low month, you can pull from this to cover the difference. When you have a high month, you can replenish this fund for the future.

This is your new normal.

4. Make Some Noise

Next, you’re going to want a strategy for letting people know that you’re taking on work. Lucky for me, the thing that got me fired was also the noise I was making. Some people will have to start from scratch.

Regardless, there are a few things you’ll need to set up immediately (or amplify, if you already have them):

  • Point-of-Contact: I use this term because it’s medium-agnostic. But for many people, this would be a personal or professional website that you send prospects to. Sometimes these the same, other times they are not. It doesn’t really matter as much as making sure people can find you.
  • Networking Presence: As much as we hate social media these days, it is invaluable. I have used Twitter for nearly 8 years and built some semblance of a network on there (enough to get a project from a single tweet). Regardless, choose the network your prospects are likely to hang out on and start engaging multiple times a day.
  • Cold Email: Be annoying. Be persistent. Email just about every possible client you can think of and offer them whatever they want in order to secure their business. At this point, you’re going from a client roster of zero and trying to build it to around 25 in a single month. That takes a lot of cold emailing, calling, and Slack pinging.

I’m sure there are other ways to make noise, but those three will get you really far and do most of the work for you.

5. Mix Projects with Contracts

Finally, a lot of people think of freelancing as one-off projects for clients. This can be very lucrative and is, of course, something that should be pursued.

But many freelancers just starting out tend to forget about contracting opportunities. If you’re not sure what that is, just think of it as a job from your old employer but without the taxes, restrictions, or long-term commitment. Some contracts vary, but that basically covers it.

Hit the job boards and start looking for contract opportunities in the 3–6 month range with agencies and/or companies that could use your skills.

You’ll generally work at a lower rate but you’ll be able to calculate your income on a much more predictable scale. You can even go a step further and begin emailing agencies and asking for overflow work.

If you can, sprinkle projects throughout your contract term (be careful not to overcommit, it’s painful). Doing this will help you reach your 3–6 months of base expenses emergency fund much quicker.

Things That Help

What follows is a brief list of things that can seriously help when going full-time freelance and may be the difference between eviction and paying your mortgage.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Your Network Will Save You

I’m fortunate to have had an existing network that I built over the course of several years, namely within the WordPress community. Many employees do not have a network, but any employee can begin creating that network for future events exactly like this one.

Building a network means being involved. For me, the WordPress community is huge—but the way you build a network is to build open-source software that the community can use. I do this on my personal and professional GitHub profiles, but also via Twitter.

The Right Freelancer Networks

There is a slew of freelancer networks out there that connect you with clients. Most of them have a bad reputation, but if you can get into the Toptal Network (.aff) then you’re going to be much better off.

I’ve been a member there for a year and had my availability turned off until the day I was fired. I turned it on and had 4 client interviews within 2 days, one of them full-time for 3–6 months.

Summary

In summary, jumping into full-time freelancing without any savings is not recommended. I don’t enjoy working 80 hours a week, but it’s necessary to restore security and predictability in my business.

Feel free to reach out on Twitter if you have questions. I’d love to chat and hear about your own experiences. Good luck!