In this new episode of Changing lives, we’ll meet with Bruno Kos, a WordPress developer with a keen focus on theme creation/customization work. He’s specialized in many areas like Responsive Design, Migrations, Custom Post Type and Custom Fields, WooCommerce, Genesis and Foundation frameworks, just to name a few.
During the interview, he’ll share with us his insights and thoughts about:
- what he likes about freelancing
- what he thinks are mandatory skills for any freelancer
- how he decided to become a freelancer and apply for Codeable
- what is like to work as a freelancer
- how being a Codeable expert changed his life
Matteo: Hi everyone! This is Matteo from Codeable, and in this new episode, we’re going to meet with Bruno Kos, who will share with us his story and experience as a freelancer. He will also tell us more about working as a Codeable expert, letting us know how this experience, in a way, changed his life. So, hey Bruno! Thank you for joining us today in this episode of Changing Lives. We really appreciate it!
Bruno: Hello to everyone all over the universe! Hello to all the Codeable staff, all my fellow developers and all future, previous and current clients!
Matteo: Yea!! That’s an amazing one. So, I’m really looking forward to knowing more about you and your story. So, to get the ball rolling, why don’t you start by saying which part of the world you are right now, where you are from, and most importantly, how long have you been a freelancer.
Bruno: Well, I live in Croatia. It’s a beautiful European country, actually. I was born here, I live here, I plan to stay here for the rest of my life. I don’t plan to be a digital nomad or move abroad. Although many Croatian people are moving abroad for the last couple of years, which is not so good, in my opinion; and I’ve been freelancing since 2009 (I was still in college).
I was trying to remember just the other day how did I start freelancing, but just I wasn’t able to. I think I was Googling that or something and the first company I came across, I think, was Freelancer.com, and then I saw oDesk, it’s now Upwork, and I remember some of my first assignments were creating some simple graphics and Photoshop. But then, I received my first serious assignment, and it was the famous $1 for 500 words. And I was writing articles for this French man Mr. Raver (I don’t know if I pronounced that correctly), but I was writing batches of 5 or 10 articles for him. I don’t remember the topics, but these were different topics and that’s how it all started.
And then I got an assignment to create a website for the local municipality and it was in 2009 or 2010, actually. But I knew nothing, almost nothing about web development, so I decided to choose WordPress and that’s how all the journey began. Then, after a few months, I received a very good contract for this Australian company, and this is where my WordPress career really kicked-off, because I was in charge of lots of things such as databases, plugins, WordPress multi-user… and that’s how it all…
Matteo: Wow! You really almost like hinted too many of the questions that I’m going to ask you. But, yes…
Bruno: Oh, sorry about that!
Matteo: No, no, no problem! Yea, that’s an amazing start. So, you were saying that you started freelancing like around 6, 7 years…
Bruno: Yes. Seven years or so. Yes.
Matteo: So, would you mind telling us what you like about freelancing. Why did you choose to start working by yourself and not ending up in a regular 9-5 job?
Bruno: Well, actually, I think that you can get the same answer from most freelancers. It’s the fact that you have flexible working hours. You don’t have to work from 9-5 or something like that. So, if you have some other obligations you can just reschedule. I can say to a client “ok, I will do it in about 2 hours” and I can go somewhere or something like that. And then, on the other hand, you don’t have to wake up early. I mean, I’m not inclined to wake up at 5:30 or something like that, and this is also very common in countries like Croatia. For example, most jobs are in Trilj, others are in Zagreb. So, if you live where I live and you want to work in Zagreb, you can count on 5 hours per day for travel. I mean, it’s not acceptable. You know what I can do in 5 hours! So, that’s the other thing I don’t have to… That’s the flexibility of the work. And then, you are your own boss, and there are really a lot of things. Each freelancer will give you their own reasons, but it’s basically the same – flexible working hours, flexible schedule…
Matteo: Freedom, yes.
Bruno: Yes. Freedom to choose your own jobs, to choose your own clients, and lots of things.
Matteo: Thank you for answering that. Even if we are at the beginning of the interview I’m going to ask you like a super tough question right away. Are you ready?
Bruno: I’m ready.
Matteo: So, what does it take to be a good freelancer? And, do you think anybody can be one? Let me just clarify this question. Off the top of my head – maybe dealing with clients isn’t natural for many. Tell us about it. What does it take to be a good freelancer?
Bruno: Well, first of all, it’s being fluent in the language. I mean, English, as you know, is an international language and if you want to be a good freelancer you have to have a mastery of English. It’s not only about written, it’s also about spoken communication as well; because if it’s a bigger project the client will ask you to do a phone interview or Skype or anything like that. That’s one thing.
The other thing is definitely the skill that you need to have. The freelancing market is huge and, I mean, there is no reason… if you can’t do something or if you do it badly the client will simply find someone else to do the job. English does come… although I think it’s a simple language to learn. And it does come naturally because when whoever is freelancing this is expected. But you can see sometimes clients use to come to me and they say that they did find someone who is skilled, or they received them as skilled, but there was this language barrier and they couldn’t handle it. They couldn’t explain some simple concepts like how to change the background image or something. Not to mention complicated projects in the range of 5k or 10k, or even more, so it’s essential.
And then, on the other hand, you need to realize that you will not have colleagues in your office, you will not have team building and something; so it’s a very non-social type of work. So, you have to be comfortable with that. I mean, my fiancée and mom and my brother, sisters, and friends, they joke with me that I don’t live…
Matteo: a Social life…
Bruno: That I don’t have a social life and they sometimes joke that I didn’t leave my bedroom for the last 7 years. So, that’s one of the things that come with freelancing. Yea.
Matteo: What made you look for something in your freelancing life, in fact, like Codeable? I mean, was there a specific reason like, I don’t know, you didn’t like your previous jobs where you were working before, or in a way, you felt like you were missing something in your professional life?
Bruno: Well, one of the things in freelancing is you’re never safe. When I started in Upwork, after a while the competition grew higher and it was more difficult to get a job, because I don’t know when I began there were, sometimes, 15 job applications for an opening. Then, after a year there were 30, then after a year, there were hundreds! So, when there are hundreds of applications…
Matteo: It’s brutal!
Bruno: Yes. There’s a 1% chance that someone will even see your reply. And then I moved to Elance and I was more satisfied on Elance because there were fewer bids and there were more quality projects. But then there was this message that Elance is merging into Upwork, and then will close the agency. And then you always look for something else. I don’t really remember where I saw the job opening for Codeable, but I saw that they are an agency looking for experts, so I gave it a shot.
Bruno: In a few months I received their reply.
Matteo: Was it a research or an ad or something like that?
Bruno: I think it was a WordPress job board, one of the WordPress job boards. I think I saw that…Codeable…and then I clicked to see what it is and then
Matteo: And then you applied.
Bruno: And then I applied. Yes.
Matteo: How long have you been a Codeable expert?
Bruno: I have been accepted to the program in February 2015, so it was about a year ago and a month. Thirteen months ago.
Matteo: So, thirteen months, more than a year. Congrats!
Bruno: Yes. Thank you!
Matteo: And, how are things going? I mean…
Bruno: They are going excellent! I’ve completed about 200 jobs so far. In the beginning I was doing smaller jobs because I was getting use to the platform and to see how my other colleagues are working. I was receiving some instructions from Per and other people who taught me how things work. But now I aim for bigger projects and I don’t mind.
Matteo: Would you mind sharing with us if you have a strategy or something, or if you have any preferences about working with one-shot clients, or maybe you prefer working with recurring ones, small projects that are less than an hour “marked as complete”, or maybe bigger projects? Would you mind sharing with us something?
Bruno: Well, I mean, probably every freelancer in this world will want to have recurring clients; and this is especially on freelancing base, because sometimes you just get tired of searching for new clients, for new proposals. You can become tired of it; and it happens once in a while. Every freelancer would probably say this. Then there are other times when you are just focused to get a new job and you are eager to get something new, then after 2 or 3 months of catching new jobs you just get tired. So, I really don’t mind having recurring clients. I do have one special client on Codeable who gave me almost 60 jobs.
Bruno: It’s Harris, from USA. I’m saying hello now too.
Matteo: Thank you for sharing that. Let me ask you this – if you look at your past freelancing life and you fast-forward to today, how have things changed for you? I mean, are they any different?
Bruno: Well, I mean, the culture of Codeable has been a huge change! Not just in terms of income, as, probably all other Codeable developers would say, but because in the last year, since joining Codeable, I think I’ve learned more about WordPress and web development than I’ve learned in the past five years.
Bruno: Because I was so pushed by that, by the way, when I figured out how things work on Codeable I’m driving myself on a daily basis to learn something new. When I see tasks that I don’t know how to handle, then I search for the solution on my own. I will not apply for the job, but I want to learn that new skill, so I really learned a lot!
Matteo: Wow! That’s amazing to hear! That’s a huge improvement.
Bruno: It was a huge improvement! I mean, especially in the first couple of months when that enthusiasm was the biggest I’ve ever had in my freelancing career. I was working all day, and then… I just wanted to improve and it keeps going, so I just started writing my blog again and I write all the new stuff I learned there. Yes…
Matteo: Wow! Inspiring!
Bruno: That’s the most important thing that came with Codeable, I think. That huge eagerness to improve myself.
Matteo: Wow! That’s so inspiring really. Thank you for sharing that. I know some other experts like you, after working with us for some time have been able to buy a motorcycle, travel more, put down a deposit for a new home. Alex, for example, from Russia, he moved to Thailand and these mind blowing things. How about you? Did you do anything like that? Are you planning to do anything like this?
Bruno: Yes. I was the one who actually planted this story about a motor cycle.
Matteo: Woa! So we finally meet you.
Bruno: Yes. I was the one who bought it. I mean it wasn’t Harley Davidson, Lecture glide or something big like that. I’ve actually bought a motor cycle in Slovenia. It’s a nice Yamaha 250 and wasn’t that expensive, but it was nice. And then, few months later I travelledEurope for 10 days.
Matteo: That’s cool! Ok. That’s great to hear. So, that’s enough for today. It was super interesting hearing your story Bruno. Thank you for sharing with me, with us. And, once again, thank you very much for spending your time with me and all of us. So I want to wish you a great day and talk to you soon. Cheers!