I have been in the construction field for mostly my whole working career, about 27 years. I started as a yard worker in a mason material company when I was 18. I got my commercial driver's license and became a truck driver for that company. Eventually I began working the counter helping contractors with their materials.
When I was 25 I got a job working for NYC Teamsters as a cement mason and have been in this title ever since.
During my free time, I took classes and I learned to code, design, and build websites. It started as a hobby, but became a second source of income. Having some success, I thought that becoming a freelance web designer could be a challenging and exciting job.
I realized quickly, that this endeavor could not replace my current income or benefits due to the amount of time needed to grow a business in this field. But it could be something I continued to do when I retired from my city employment.
My plan was simple. At the time I started, I had 7 years left before I was able to retire. During this time I would grow my freelance business slowly, learning and trying to get all the details and bugs worked out along the way. My goal would be that by the time I was able to retire from the city, I would have a book of about 30-40 clients under retainer, and generate an income of a quarter to a third of what I am making currently from my job with the city.
The first year started out rough. I only was able to secure two clients. My services ranged from web design, to graphic design, to social media marketing. Basically anything I could do to get work. This was frustrating and time consuming. It took me away from what I really loved to do which was design. It made the work unenjoyable and I was not having great success.
So I decided to streamline my services and concentrate on what I loved, designing websites.
I secured my first big deal with a client and that set the ball in motion. Her website and business got featured in a bunch of articles relevant to her field and emails started coming in. I was amazed that people would rather hire someone who strictly does one thing as opposed to someone that offered many services. As I surveyed my clients, their responses were basically similar saying that they felt that since I was only providing website design, I was a specialist in my field and would produce a better product because of it. I later did another large project for a digital marketing freelancer. Since then, he gives me all his clients' website work.
So here is where I am right now: I have roughly 3 ½ years before I will retire from the city. My book consists of 19 clients that have me under retainer. I have also done other one off projects, as well as second sites for existing clients. Right now I have a waiting list of about 3 weeks –which I take pride in saying.
Freelancing has been one of the most exciting and rewarding things in my life. I take great pride in calling myself a freelancer. Even if the bottom were to fall out tomorrow, I would have no regrets about my decision to start.
I believe my original goal of growing this business for my retirement is obtainable. I am working hard to get there and I really enjoy what I do and the people I am meeting and working with.
Hopefully my story will inspire you to continue freelancing, even through the tough times, or maybe help you to begin. It is a wild and fun ride, that has made me a better person and given me a great sense of pride in myself and my work.
Frank Camuglia is a web designer at SMR Website Designs. He's a native of Queens, New York and also works in construction for the City.
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