Life As a Freelancer and Consultant – The Good and Bad

There are far more perks to being a small business owner than downsides, in my opinion. I can take a day and sluff off if I don’t feel well or need to run errands. Doctor’s appointments were always making me have to make up my hours when I was an employee, but forget that life now.

For me, the two worst parts (and really the only bad parts about my line of work) of a job are:

  1. Getting to the estimate part of the deal and waiting for either a) death by shock, b) complete rejection and instant counter-offer (sheeah, that works), or c) an elated new client
  2. Finishing the work and shooting out the invoice with a nice “thank you” in the “notes” field and see what comes of it

Thus far my experience has been overwhelmingly positive with only one non-payer who will get their site unlocked once they pay, one who seems to continually misunderstand the scope of the project and wants $3000 worth of work for $800, and one who offered me baby clothes as an exchange for my skills. I’m still in the early stages of figuring out my billing and deposit system, since I don’t think many of my clients quite feel comfortable with a full-prepay for jobs under $3000 yet, but I do insist on my first hour of consulting and site work for new clients ahead of time and have great results with that by billing exact time after that first hour.

Here is a video that will really make you empathize with freelancers everywhere: Is Open for Business - ready for traffic! - ready for traffic!

I’ve been working hard, too hard in some family members’ minds, on my freelance site over the last two weeks. Now that it’s done, I can relax and reap the rewards for a job very well done.

I am in a very unique position at iThemes in that I am the front line of contact with our customers, not just one of the front line. There are only so many things that we offer for support that is included in the price of our premium WordPress themes. We can’t train someone from scratch how to use WordPress or learn enough CSS and HTML code to change their site. We offer answers to specific questions, but projects need to be directed elsewhere.

For the last couple of months, I have been directing them my way for some literal moonlighting. I typically start my second work day around 9-10pm and work until midnight on projects. It’s great money, creates networking contacts, and makes iThemes to be an all-around solution, even if one has to pay for certain services.

It became rather tedious, though, to reply to someone that they can contact a moderator or myself for services and write a long e-mail about my services and fees and hope they e-mailed me back on my personal e-mail. Since I’d been holding on to for about 15 months waiting to finally develop some content, I decided to make it about promoting me and what I do rather than me forcing myself into writing or producing material. Now I can simply refer people to my namesake domain (I sure hope they spell both names right later) and they can see that I am the real deal with testimonials and links to prove it. Not to mention the theme I’m running – /horn toot!

I’m quite proud of what I did at the bottom of my home page, though I openly admit that my wife had a LOT of very constructive and helpful suggestions about certain elements of the home page and it now passes with flying colors in her very distinguishing design opinion. Please check out that little area and the hover action on the guy, especially. I’d have to say I’m more proud of the bird and my graphic and code work putting that together, but the Image is Everything ad is definitely my best marketing work to date.

Customized code turned these from text areas to this!

Customized code turned these from text areas to this!

This is actually our latest iThemes release, and the first of 2009 for our rapidly expanding group of 2009 Theme Club customers. By purchasing the Club package, customers are entitled to every theme we produce this calendar year, so the release of this theme, called Architect (demo site here), produced a new wave of sign-ups today. My fingers were quite busy creating new member site logins for their download access since the value of receiving our premium themes at less than $35 per multi-use license them is $100 off per theme! The more themes we produce over our promised number reduces the cost per theme to the customer even more.

Building a Home Business

The time has come to call for reinforcements with my vast business ideas, and Gorgeous has come to the rescue. We have books falling off the shelves and sitting in huge storage containers in the bottom of the closet. I have 3 blogs running, 1 in the works with 2 co-founders, I’m the forum administrator for, and taking 4 Summer classes next month. It was time for help.

Nothing was going to get off the ground without her help, and now we’re going full-bore. Amazon, eBay, affiliate programs, and working my magic on the new blogs. The thing is that those blogs aren’t going to get up and going without some relief in my schedule, so I’m bouncing off the walls with excitement about getting started on the Petersen brand.

We are certainly at a crossroad in our life at this point, with a brand new townhome in the works. It is time to figure out the rest of the game plan for our lives. I’m sure we’re going to have a ton of discussions in the coming weeks, but I am excited, relieved, and scared about all these changes.

I’m sure that how we handle these challenges are just more things that will shape who we are as a couple and where we are going in life. How have you and yours handled your crossroads and what happened as a result?

Can two people walk together if they have not agreed on where they are going?
-Amos 3:3