We could not be happier to chat with Lindsay Pruitt this week! Lindsay is the WordPress Developer behind Made to Thrive, a small front-end development studio that partners with graphic designers to build beautiful, easy-to-use WordPress websites for creative small business clients. With 5 years of freelance experience and nearly 100 websites under her belt, Lindsay has a wealth of knowledge to share. Oh and did we mention she is a mother of two?? Yep, she's doing it all, and she made time to talk with us. Thank you for chatting Lindsay!
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance web developer.
I actually fell into web development completely by accident. I finished my college degree in Business Management without having any idea that I had a knack for computers, coding, or an eye for design. After college, I got married to an Air Force pilot and we moved from California to Mississippi. Being so far from family, I decided to start my first blog to keep my family and friends up to date on our adventures, which then led me to playing around with my blog design and discovering that I had a natural ability to pick up web code. With a little encouragement from my husband, I decided to go back to school for web design & development, and everything just fell into place from there!
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
Getting a steady client load definitely didn’t happen overnight. I spent a solid 2 years working for free, building small websites & blogs for friends and family to build my portfolio, while also working my 40+ hr a week “real” job. Once I had a decent portfolio in place, word started to spread organically and the clients/projects began to come my way. Then after another year of working both jobs, I was finally able to transition solely to freelance web development.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
For me, it’s about focusing all my attention on one task at a time. I actually book up my calendar a little differently than most others in that I code one website from start to finish before moving onto the next. Because each website is so different, I’ve found that its more productive for me to throw my whole self into one project at a time. The outcome is that I finish the website faster and with fewer mistakes than if I try to bounce between projects and clients. Another thing I do that helps is turn off my email and social media while coding. Stopping to read an email can really throw my productivity into a downward spiral!
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
Definitely the comparison factor. It’s easy to be hard on yourself in such a saturated market of talented designers and developers. At times I have gotten stuck focusing on what others are doing or how successful/creative/skilled I think they are in comparison to where I am, which then distracts me from my own goals. Comparison is a simple trap to fall into and can be detrimental to your business, making you question whether you’re “good enough”. Focus on your own path, and assess business growth on your own curve/timeline!
What is your favorite thing about freelance and/or web development?
Aside from the fact that I am obsessed with the job itself (seriously though, sitting down with a coffee and coding for 4-5 hours is my happy place), I love being completely in charge of my schedule. In the past while working corporate jobs, I felt like I was on this hamster wheel waiting for the weekend to roll around, feeling smothered by the routine. Being able to work on my own schedule and work from any location has been the most amazing shift. It keeps me from feeling “locked in” which ultimately makes me way more productive.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
Since I’m strictly on the development side of things, its a trio of choosing the right designers to code for, who have the right clients, who have the right projects. For a while I was just taking on any project that came my way, and my portfolio reflected that. It was not cohesive and there was no clear vision for what type of client I was trying to attract. So I decided to start asking myself 3 questions with each new project inquiry:
- Is this project something that I’m personally interested in/inspired by?
- Will this project grow my skill set, teach me something new, and/or challenge me as a developer?
- Are the client and designer both kind people and fun to work with?
If the answer to any of the above is no, then I decide to turn down the project and wait for a better fit to come along. Once I started being intentional about the projects I took on and following those 3 guidelines, my portfolio began to reflect that and my business benefited so much!
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
Since I originally went to school for business, I was a little bit over confident when I started freelancing and thought that I could easily do it all myself (accounting, taxes, marketing, drawing up contracts, etc). I learned the hard way that hiring both a lawyer and an accountant should be non-negotiables in getting your freelance career off on the right foot. I now have an amazing lawyer who has given me confidence in my client contracts and my LLC business setup, and an awesome accountant who makes sure I’m getting my quarterly taxes and yearly taxes done just right. Since hiring them, it’s been such a load off my plate, one that I didn’t initially even realize was there! On a daily basis though, I do my own bookkeeping (via Xero) and invoicing (via Pancake App) which helps me stay on top of everything and keep business organized.
Since you are your own boss and a momma to two little ones, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
Becoming a mom right as my business began to really take off (and now having two little ones) has been both the hardest challenge and biggest blessing. I was so worried that my business would suffer after I took on my new role, but surprisingly it turned out to be the best thing for it! My time now is much more limited so that means that when its time to work, I’m forced to be super focused and productive. Having babies has also helped me to balance my work and family time because now I don’t have the option of working straight into the night like I used to in my pre-baby days. So overall I guess my advice to freelancers that may be nervous about how kids will affect their work life is: don't stress about it! It will all work out just fine and your business may even benefit from the new work/life balance that the little ones bring.