Freelancing Interview with Gaya Kessler

Freelancing Interview with Gaya Kessler

Gaya and I have worked closely together during the last 8 months for a mutual client. He’s taught me a lot and I’m thankful for our friendship.

Chatting most days during this time, it was only natural for me to ask for his insight into freelancing after making the switch not so long ago.

Gaya is an expert in JavaScript, React and web applications, freelancing as CleverNode:

The Interview

TH: How did you get into freelancing and remote work?

GK: I got tired of working at an office on the same daily routine. Every job I was at came down to the same old thing in the end, and I wanted to switch things up pretty badly.

I always had side projects to keep myself interested in the work I do, these projects give the freedom to choose and create whatever I want. When an investor offered me money to stop working and start doing projects full time I stopped an wondered what that meant. It really caught me by surprise! Someone was willing to invest money in me doing what I love and I didn’t even have a business model for it.

That made me confident enough to quit my job and make my own money doing what I love. To support myself financially I began accepting jobs and have had clients ever since. Some long-term, some for shorter projects.

To eliminate the need to travel I started working remotely also, this saves a lot of time and makes sure the office I work in is that best environment for me to work in. I never took the investment by the way.

TH: Where do you usually work from?

GK: I usually work from home, when I work remotely. Some clients prefer it if I come to their office and when I give workshops it’s easier if I am there in person to teach the people attending.

Sometimes when it gets too loud outside of my home office, because I live in a new neighbourhood still in construction, I go for a walk and brainstorm new ideas. I like to call it my solitary meeting room on the go. It’s the best.

TH: What does a typical day look like for you?

GK: A typical day for me would be to start the day by checking my email and Slack messages to see if I missed anything.

Then I’ll look at the tasks I planned for myself the day before, maybe try to fix some loose ends there.

I mostly just work on the task at hand and see where the day goes. I try my best to keep mornings my time of the day when I do the hardest tasks. I found that I have the best concentration in the morning because I’ll have a fresh look at things after a good night sleep.

Sometimes I have meetings, be it through video calls or face-to-face, but I try to keep them as minimal as possible.

Throughout the day I talk to other developers I know and befriended through chat, which I think is quite important if you don’t have any direct colleagues in the room to talk to.

I try to take long lunch breaks, grab a bite, go out for a walk, really get some time to enjoy the environment around myself. After an hour or so I get back to work again and finish of the day doing less hard tasks. This includes preparing tasks for the next day, documentation, stuff like that.

At five I stop working completely. I will turn off any notifications and start my non-working time. To wind down from working I will most of the time cook a meal for me and my wife. After I like to go to the gym for a workout or put on my running shoes to go for a run.

Gaya’s workspace

TH: What do you consider to be the positives of freelancing and remote working?

GK: Freelancing and remote work allows me not only to pick the people I want to work for but also the stuff I want to work on. The demand has been so high that I say “no” more often than “yes”. Which is a great position to be in.

It has also allowed me to feel free about the time I can spend on a client. If I want a day off, it’s not a problem. If I want to work different hours: no biggie. I found that when being employed I was always counting the days off I had left, and if it was enough to go on holiday still.

Freelancing has also allowed me work less and get paid more, who wouldn’t want that?

TH: Are there any negatives that you can think of?

GK: It can get lonely at times, but it helps to have a client who wants you to visit their office. In the beginning it has also quite stressful for me since I gave up the “financial security” I used to have. I put quotes around it because nobody really knows for sure if the job they do, even with a permanent contract, still exists in a few months / years.

Also keeping your own books and handling taxes etc. can be hard at first. It’s really overwhelming when you start off charging your clients. My advice here is to work with clients you know personally in the beginning who can help you with things like invoices. It also really helps to other people you know who freelance or have their own business. I bet you they would love to help you get things off the ground.

TH: How does client work arrive at your desk? Where do the jobs come from?

GK: Most of the jobs I take on get from people I know and have spoken to at some point in my life. Be it in real life or through the Internet.

I think most people find me through reading my blog, following me on Twitter, my GitHub repositories, or attending a talk I gave at a meetup / conference. They’ll reach out to me when they need the specific skill I have

There are also a lot of people I don’t know who reach out, and I think most of them find me through my site and LinkedIn profile. I have yet to take on a lead like this, because I am very wary of clients like that. A lot of them are recruiters too, which is an immediate “no” for me.

TH: Do you work primarily on client projects or do you have other income streams?

GK: As of now, my income comes from client projects. I am building projects on the side and would love to create a product which will provide my income completely. It’s a process I am working on at the moment.

TH: If you’re a home worker, how do you maintain focus and avoid distractions? Any tips?

GK: Make your office a place you like to work in. Dress it up the way you want your office to be. Make it as comfortable as possible for yourself. I for one like to listen to music, but don’t like wearing headphones, so I bought myself a nice set of speakers (which go really loud). I have never had any trouble keeping a focus on work when I am in my home office. One of the main reasons I think is because my office is only meant for work, and not tasks around the house.

I do have some old consoles hooked up to an old CRT television when I feel like playing a game, but that’s when I do not have any inspiration for the work I am doing. It helps me relax and reset my brain a bit. It does not distract me from work or makes me work any less.

TH: Would you ever consider going back to full time, in-house employment for a company? If so, why?

GK: No. If you don’t count working on your own company’s product that is. I think I have done my share of working in companies and experience how it is to grow within these boundaries.

What I have noticed is that I need a lot of challenges in the work I do and most of the time it’s not possible to provide this excitement for myself when I work at companies. The freedom to do as I please is also something I’d miss too much.

TH: Do you feel that freelancing provides you with a good standard of living and work/life balance?

GK: It has never been better. If I need time off: I can give it to myself. If I have room and want to work some: I can. It’s really important to set boundaries for yourself. That’s why I stop working after five and don’t do any jobs during the weekends.

TH: Finally, where do you see your career and the digital industry heading? Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

GK: Five years is a lot of time. If I look at myself five years ago I was in a very different place, personally and professionally. If I manage to grow the same amount in that time I would be a very happy person.

I can not tell you where I see myself in five months, let alone five years, so it’s a really hard one for me to answer.

Where I want to be in five years I can answer. I want to work on a product or multiple products I love, teaching other developers about developing good pieces of software. Sharing knowledge has always been the fundamental drive to go and learn. I love sharing, and I love helping people grow.

Wrap Up

Thanks to Gaya for taking the time to do this interview on freelancing. You can check out Gaya’s blog here and his company website here.

For more interviews with remote freelancers in the digital field, check out the archive.