A new Freelance experience

I am in the basement of my Quebec home, working on my Web development course in a cold December weather. And I think to myself that I don’t learn enough, that I would like to be able to apply what I already know, and to find new things on my own.

I think a lot of people in my age group are asking themselves these kinds of questions. I hear a lot of people saying “I want to work, I’m tired of being in school at my age,” and that’s more or less the same kind of thinking I have. Even if being at Epitech (or Laval University at the moment) is a little different from being in a “classical” school like a faculty.

So I would like to start working, and develop my skills and become really expert at what I do and what I like to do. Except I can’t get a full-time job because I’m still in school. I need a flexible format and that’s why I started to turn freelance (or self-entrepreneurship in French, but it takes too long to write and say!).

I already had the status of Freelance in France about 2 years ago, during a 2 months work with a student association in Epitech. But I quickly revoked my status because I wasn’t interested at the time.

Like everyone else before me, I asked myself questions about what to do and how to do it right, knowing that my karma always makes me administratively problematic! I then joined a group called SOTØ on Slack to discuss the subject.

In fact, I didn’t really talk that much in the group, but seeing so many people asking questions on a variety of topics (such as law, financial management, communicating with clients, etc.) gave me confidence in the process. After getting my SIRET number (necessary to be Freelance), I started looking at platforms like Malt and Crème de la Crème.

My first job

I found my first offer on Crème de la Crème. The project consisted of starting from a known Wordpress theme (Avada), and modifying it to add features and customize the display. I took this offer because I wanted to see how Wordpress works in terms of themes and plugins, and this work was a good first approach (in addition to the fact that I only have basic knowledge in PHP).

Without going into details, it can be said that this project was a success from a technical and realization point of view. I did what the client wanted me to do, and if there was any need or change in the plans, I was there to listen and make changes. From a learning point of view it is clearly a success too, because I learned a lot of things:

  • I have a good base in Wordpress theme development (at least to make a Wordpress child theme)
  • I’m starting to know the PHP syntax, I still need to understand the syntax for object oriented PHP.
  • I’m managing my time a little better, even though I feel that I have to improve on this side.
  • I was able to take care of the communication with a client from start to finish on a project.
  • I have been able to define points on which I need to improve, particularly in terms of my communication with the client and the creation of the quote.

We can talk a little more about the last point. During the completion of the estimate, the client and I kept in constant contact with each other, mostly because the design wasn’t quite fixed.

It may seem trivial, but the fact that the design wasn’t yet decided upon caused me quite a bit of trouble in the rest of the project.

  • I was making a modification
  • We went to the next thing to do
  • The design was discussed again
  • I returned on my first modification to cancel or change it
  • I went back to the following, keeping in mind that the first modification could still change.

In the end, I spent a lot more time going back over a job I had already done, than doing the work itself. I ended up working, without really realizing it, on a part that had been changed, but which I did not depend on according to the estimate that had been fixed.

And what puzzled me about this process was the impression that the changes requested had not been considered at all from a functional and user point of view. Most of the time, I would change an element because, according to the client, it would “make it better”. But why did it make it look better? What is the purpose of this element? If this change has been considered and decided at some point in time, why change it even before feedback could be received from users?

So many questions I should have asked during this job. The project would have come to fruition faster in my opinion, if we had taken the time to design the pages together, and detailing on each part what the user needs and how he should feel when seeing it, before moving on to the development.

This conclusion makes me feel even more motivated to embark on UX design, because with knowledge in this field, I would not only have had the tools to answer these questions, but I would also have had sufficient professional credibility to ask these questions and try to answer them.

In the meantime, I’m going to perfect my technical skills so that I can really be an expert in Web development, a field that I’m always so passionate about, looking for a new project, with this additional experience that I’ve just acquired.

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Originally published at ilphrin.com on February 26, 2018.