In this new episode of Changing lives, we’ll meet with Marius Vetrici, an experienced WordPress developer and founder of a WordPress development agency called WPRiders. He’s specialized in many areas like Plugins Customization, Theme Development, WooCommerce, Woocommerce bookings & subscriptions, BuddyPress 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 useful skills for anybody interested in becoming a freelancer
- what tools and approach they use within WPRiders to manage their clients
- how being a Codeable expert changed his life (and his business)
Matteo: Hi everyone! This is Matteo from Codeable, and in this new episode of Changing Lives we’re going to meet with Marius Vetrici, who will share with us his story and experience as a freelancer. But, that’s not all. In fact, he will also tell us more about working as a Codeable expert, letting us know how this experience, in a way, changed his life.
Hey Marius! Thank you for joining us in this new episode of Changing Lives. We really appreciate it!
Marius: Hello Matteo! Hello world! Thanks, first of all Matteo, for spelling my name correctly. I really appreciate that.
Matteo: That was not challenging at all! That was easy for me, since we warmed up a little before this interview, thanks to you. 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.
Marius: I’m living in Romania, in Bucharest, in Eastern Europe. It’s a really nice country. It’s really peaceful with beautiful scenery and nice mountains. The seaside is very close and the city is very vibrant. I’ve been living in Bucharest since 1999, so, it’s almost 17 years.
Matteo: Yea. And, how long have you been a freelancer?
Marius: I’ve been in freelancing for close to 3 years, and it’s a wonderful period of my life.
Matteo: Wow. We’ll get to that also with the following questions. Would you mind telling us what do you like about freelancing? Why did you start working by yourself, gambling yourself and not endend up in a 9 to 5 job?
Marius: Well, the idea is that the last time I was employed it was in 2003. I worked as a Software Developer, and ever since I haven’t had a 9 to 5 job. It was a kind of “salad” between personal life and work life and it was a kind of challenge to find that balance. I enjoy this lifestyle because it gives me a lot of freedom, flexibility and at the same time I have to balance this flexibility and freedom with responsibility. Yes, Victor Franklyn, one famous psychologist said that in the USA there is a statue of liberty on the east side, guys better build a statue of responsibility on the west side. It’s a nice suggestion. However, in freelancing, to do it the right way you have to be able to balance both sides.
Matteo: Yes! Totally agree. Now there is a tough question. Even if we’re at the beginning of this interview, I’m going to ask you a super tough question right away. Are you ready?
Marius: Yes, please. Shoot!
Matteo: Ok. What does it take to be a good freelancer? And, do you think anybody can be one? To clarify my question: off the top of my head, dealing with clients, for example, is a natural for many. Also, if you’re not good at planning, for example, you will likely face some bumps along the road. So, tell us about it, what does it take to be a good freelancer?
Marius: Yes, I will tell you my opinion on this topic. From my perspective, the first and foremost thing to be a good freelancer is to be able to manage change. Because, as a freelancer you have to face a lot of change around you; and, of course, any change means risk. There are risks about clients coming and going, projects, workload. You might be overloaded and then under loaded from week to week, from day to day. You have unexpected issues – you might have technical issues. Basically, you have to make decisions and implement those decisions regarding the change.
Luckily, there is one change, one risk that you don’t have to take care of with Codeable, and that is the financial risk of not being paid. And, I’m hugely grateful to Codeable for taking this burden off my shoulders.
Matteo: This sounds interesting. So, would you mind elaborating on this a little more?
Marius: They offer an escrow-kind of account service. And, basically, the client comes up to Codeable and applies, and he makes a deposit and those monies stay in that escrow account at Codeable until the moment when the client says “I’m ok with the work I’ve received”. From the web developer perspective, you know that the money is already paid, it’s there, and if you do a good job you will get paid. This is a very important thing!
Matteo: Yea, insurance on your deliverables.
Marius: Huge thing, huge thing! From past personal experiences, not so fortunate experiences, I will value this.
Matteo: Thank you very much for clarifying this. But, I also know that you are not only a freelancer. You are also a small agency owner. How cool is that! Would you mind sharing your experience on that? How were you able to scale from being a freelancer to a small agency owner? What are the challenges involved in this kind of switch?
Marius: Interesting question. Actually, I managed to do this switch (thanks to Codeable, I have to admit that) because I have so many projects, inquiries, requests coming back to me that, after 6 months of constantly not being able to answer inquiries and things work for this equation, I just decided that I am able to scale up and I need to scale up. Fortunately, I had another software business doing 10 years and I hope that I made all the possible mistakes that could be made as an entrepreneur and right now I started in a different way. And, basically, what does that mean? We have a really clear organizational policy to us for how we work. And, if you think that it’s useful I might even share with you some of the tools that we are using, tools that I’ve been using as a freelancer.
Matteo: Yes, please, please! Go ahead!
Marius: For instance, all of our projects are managed with Asana. One of the most important things we use Asana for is not collaboration, but for managing our commitment to a client. I mean, if I tell a client I am going to deliver on date “X” I put that in a Asana, always. Another trick that I’m doing is that I always add one or two days to our internal estimates. Basically, I give plus 2 days to the customer. So, it’s a kind of under promise over deliver which works because so far clients are happy – 5 stars out of 5, yeah!
Matteo: Yeah! Congrats!
Marius: So, then – another very important tool now that we are a team (I have 4 developers on my team so far and I’m really grateful, it’s a wonderful team) is Harvest Forecast. It’s basically a calendar application specifically tailored for software development services, and basically, you can plan your workload in advance. Basically, these tools allow me to mitigate the risk of not having the right load after 2 weeks. What we do is that we take projects, clients deposit their money in Codeable’s escrow, clients are safe. Clients are ok with that, their money is safe. At the same time we tell them “look, we will be able to start on day ‘X'” and we just stick with that, and it works.
Matteo: It sounds like a great workflow, so…
Marius: Yes, it is. And complimentary to Forecast is Harvest Time Tracking for keeping time sheets. Maybe you’ve heard of it. This one is really useful when we work on projects that need high flexibility. And we mostly focus on projects that need, not only our technical expertise but also projects that need our business expertise. I’ve personally served more than 700 companies during the last 12 years.
Marius: Yes, 700…
Marius: Yes, it’s a huge number. It scares me as well, but at the same time it makes me happy because every client that I’m talking to I can really relate to their business goals, I can both understand their business perspective (because I was a business owner myself, I have this privilege to see hundreds of businesses form on the inside, how do they work from the inside, their processes) and at the same time being a technical person with coding myself, I can speak the coding language…I see myself now more as a translator. That’s right. These time-tracking sheets are really useful when you approach a project through an agile based process, let’s say this framework…
Matteo: Well, that’s really great story and that’s also a great value because the workflow like such that you just explained to me really shows that everything is put in the right place and everything is taken account for. So, I’d really like to thank you.
Marius: Sharing is caring
Matteo: Yes, yes! That’s it!
Marius: I spoke about tools, but it would not be rounded if I were not to speak about the financial part. I mean budgeting, your expenses, salaries, taxes. And I’m using You Need A Budget, shortening YNAB – you need a budget. I’ve tried many of them. However, this tool comes with a set of principles that basically, switch my thinking. And I’m going to share with you just one out of many they have: live every month on last month’s income. So, if last month we earned ‘X’ amount of dollars, this month spend only as much as we can afford on investment, fun stuff, hardware etc. as we can afford from the past month. Yes, the previous one.
Matteo: Ok. It makes sense. I didn’t know this rule, but yes, it sounds like one that is super useful. So, let’s get back to your main story. What made you look for something new in your freelancing life and your entrepreneurial path, in fact, like Codeable? I mean, is there a specific reason, like you didn’t like your previous job where you were working before or in a way, you felt like you were missing something in your professional life?
Marius: Yea. The answer is very simple. I was missing coding! That’s because of meeting with the Codeable family. I had a sabbatical one year. I was a mediator, a conflict mediator for one year. Yes, I took the courses, the certification for being a mediator. I did a lot of training including communicating, conflict handling…
Matteo: Oh, interesting!
Marius: Yes, and luckily, everything I’ve learned there was of great help with being a freelancer and communicating with customers.
Marius: So, basically, I was missing coding and software. It was like coming back home. Later on when I decided to scale up I was very happy to see that Codeable shared some of my personal values. And this is one important thing, in my opinion, that I would like to share with you Matteo, is that when you build up a team it is very important – the organizational culture that you are building, that you are fostering. And when I speak about organizational culture I speak about some values, some principles that will guide your work, that will guide your decisions.
For instance, for us, I choose the people to work with based on very simple values. The first one is accountability (I think it says it all); being able to rely on someone. So, that’s why I choose to work with people who can be accountable, and I do whatever it takes to be accountable. Then, it’s about integrity, it’s about work ethics, it’s about doing to others what you would like others to do to yourself. And it’s really fulfilling to see my testimonials in Codeable. Customers, they just say “I’m really happy with your work ethic”. It confirms that you have to make some hard decisions to keep the ethic.
Sometimes you have to pay some money – you have to buy some licenses… If you decide to be ethical you have to buy all the licenses, you have to pay that money. Yes, and I highly encourage all of you that are listening to this video to make the effort to be ethical and to be honest. It will pay you hugely in the long run.
Matteo: Yes, yes! I so agree with you.
Marius: And I found on Codeable the same values, and it was, again, like coming home. And we have two more values: one is about personal growth – just continue learning, and last but not least is about contribution, which is being aware that we are part of a bigger family which is the outsourcing community. WordPress is a part of that bigger family, and we have taken so much, for free, out of that wonderful community but we are not able to pay it back so we have to pay it forward. This is about contribution. And again, probably I feel like it is all about this.
Matteo: Yes. I really don’t know what to say because it is really overwhelming, all of this information that you’re sharing with us. It’s really… Thank you!
Marius: It’s nothing
Matteo: Do you remember how did you hear about Codeable?
Marius: Sure! It’s simple. My close friend Bogdan Dragomir, he told me “look, this is a really nice place to work”.
Marius: “You should come and see for yourself.” I said “well, I’m a cool mediator. I’m talking to various people, business people, and associates. I’m making their lives easier” and he said “ok, talk to you later!” and in 2 months he called me back!
Matteo: And how long have you been a Codeable expert?
Marius: Close to 3 years.
Matteo: 3 years?
Marius: Yes, yes.
Marius: 200 and something tasks in 3 years, with the help of my wonderful team.
Matteo: That’s an interesting number!
Matteo: And how are things going?
Marius: They are going really well. We are happy with what we have. We have interesting projects and we have this extra protection from Codeable, so yes, it’s a good recipe for doing WordPress business.
Matteo: Ok. Let me ask you this: if you look at your past freelancing life and then you fast forward to today, how have things changed for you? I mean, are they any different?
Marius: Well, let me tell you. First of all, I manage to earn more and to pay a really good kindergarten for my two boys. I have a 3 years old and 5 years old boys.
Matteo: Wow! Great!
Marius: Yes. I got a really, really good kindergarten, one of the best, the best for them. And it’s an important investment that I make.
Matteo: Of course, yes.
Marius: And then, lately, I managed to get a mortgage and make an advance payment to buy our own flat which has a very nice view to the park, and really nice.
Matteo: Wow! Huge improvement to your life, you know.
Marius: Yes, definitely, definitely.
Matteo: Wow, that’s amazing to hear
Marius: Last but not least is this thing that I’m running the thing that I’m running – this WordPress WPRiders company right now. Thanks to Codeable. It’s from the projects that I had access to.
Matteo: Wow. In a way, you shared a lot of stuff that I didn’t even expect…
Marius: This is the role of interviews, of course.
Matteo: Yes, yes. Of course! Let me ask you this… You said that you already managed to complete more than 200 hundred tasks, right?
Matteo: And do you have any preferences on them. I mean, do you prefer working with single clients, like one-shot clients or recurring ones, small projects, huge projects… Do you have any preferences in this?
Marius: Yes. We do. Actually, we take a wide range of projects. However, we prefer to work on the tasks that we can put our strong points to work. Those are the tasks that are medium to large projects; they are customization projects, integration with various systems projects, those that lend themselves to the agile approach. I mean those types of projects and clients which need a partner more than a software developer, someone that will start thinking for them, and sometimes, instead of them, on some important aspects of their business. So, those are the projects that we prefer to work on.
Matteo: Ok. So, this is the last question. Even if you already kind of answered, but it’s a need so I have to ask you this. Kidding of course. I know some of the other experts like you, after working with us for some time, have been able to buy a motorcycle, travel more or just be able to improve their freelancing business. How about you? Did you do anything like that? Are you planning to do anything like this?
Marius: Oh, believe me; I’m more than happy with our apartment. I see a way forward with my software company. I have a wonderful team and we have ongoing projects.
Matteo: Yes. I think that’s the perfect ending to a great story. That’s enough for today and it was super interesting hearing your story, Marius. Thank you for sharing it with me, with us. And, once again, I would like to thank you very much for spending your time with me and all of us. So, I wish you a great day and talk to you soon.
Marius: My pleasure. Bye.
Matteo: Cheers. Bye.