Hello, everyone! Welcome to a new series where I, Brandy Morgan, interview freelancers from all over the world. Today we have Ariel, and experienced freelance software developer from Trinidad and Tobago. In this episode we will cover how Ariel lands US based clients while living overseas.




Ariel: So my name is Ariel. I am a front end developer background with C sharp full stop.net, Microsoft shop sorts of thing. And I mean, yeah, so now I mainly do friends and stuff. So that's like, yeah, Java script, it feel saying I hear it can be a jump going from that to Javascript. I know Josh, his dad is actually a.net developer and now he's learning Javascript and he has all sorts of questions. Right? Yeah. Yeah, it definitely was. But I do, I can't even remember like that transition to be honest. And it wasn't that long ago. But yeah, I think like for me, I did a lots of my JavaScript to learning like on weekends and you know, after my nine to five at that time.

Ariel: 01:11 So that's new to me in terms. So the, the transition but it definitely was a change coming into JavaScript, which we all know very different. So that's most to me. I am from Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago, but Trinidad and that space in the Caribbean. And yeah, I don't, I don't know anything else.

Brandy: Do you have any siblings? Do you, where do you, where do you do you like live with family? Any like any and fun facts you could tell us about you besides programming show?

Ariel: Yeah, I do have, I have two civilians, actually. I have an older brother or the sister, so I'm like a baby. And I have like my, I'm like deeply in love with my dog. He is not the best behavior, but I'm like, you know, he's, he's my, my child's I guess. So he is like extremely spoiled. And his name is Kingston. Molly. Yeah. And I guess like, I guess I can go into like, of course, like I, I live on an Island, so I love going to the beach and all those sorts of things. So yeah, I think that's awesome. That's really cool. So you are mostly front end, but your full stack, you have a wide range of skills when it comes to programming. And I know you've

Brandy: 03:00 Been freelancing for a while and that's, that's what I'm curious about. So how did you get into freelancing?

Ariel: 03:07 Right. so my first like paid I guess freelance job, strangely enough, I would not advise anybody to do this, but my Alma mater, which was like my old high school came into the office that I worked at once and they were looking to do a website for the school.

Ariel: 03:34 And of course, like when I saw them coming and like the teacher, like we knew each other. So I was in a swept down. I was like, Hey, how are you doing? And I'm like, after that meeting, she messaged me and was like the code that they got from my company, from the company that I was at [inaudible] too high for them and what they budgeted. And she was kind of asking me if I would do beside for them. And so like, that was my first like I coated maybe, I mean maybe about half of what my company, I mean, granted like a company has to charge more because they have employees. So like I was able to like slip in there and yeah, that's, that's how I landed my face client. But it wasn't that I went behind my employer's back. I didn't know that was my Alma mater and like at the end of it, you know, I built something from my other motto, my old high school. So yeah, that's, that was my first true lunch,

Brandy: 04:45 Which is really cool. I think, you know, utilizing people that you already know or those connections that you have is one of the best ways. My first freelance job was for a teacher while I was going to college. Right. And so it's definitely about connections and you know, like you said, when you're working at a company or an agency, they have a lot of overhead, so they're always going to charge more. And as somebody who's starting out in freelancing, I always tell people that's one of your kind of

Brandy: 05:18 Not like secret weapons, but the tools you can use this to actually undercut and price because you don't have, you yourself don't have as much overhead as a big agency

Ariel: 05:28 Or company. Yeah, yup, yup.

Brandy: 05:30 And so since then, so since that first, first job, when was that?

Brandy: 05:46 So since then, how many freelance clients have you had or projects or what has kind of been your, you know, schedule or consistency with that? Right. So since

Ariel: 05:58 Then I've had, so I've, I'm fermenting like side to side loads. I've maintained the nine to five for a bit. So since then, in terms of like freelance clients I've had, well it's hard to count. I would say like five major clients. And well, a lot of it's, of course it's like you're carrying stuff and all of that. So I've probably had about five major clients within the last few years. Some of those periods where I wasn't actively freelancing fiercely,

Brandy: 06:37 So recurring. What do you want to explain that a little bit?

Ariel: 06:42 Sure. So like once, I build a relationship with the client and they have more web of needs or just any sorts of development means they more or less come back to me and say, Hey, we have this other project and we've already worked with you. So we kind of just want to get this going. We ordered, you know, how you're gonna work, et cetera. In addition to also like maintaining an [inaudible] rating on stuff that has already been built it's also like progressive, we making things better and adding new features. Those,

Brandy: 07:21 So when you go into a contract with somebody, do you have that retainer model set up or to keep those recurring?

Ariel: 07:34 In some cases I do in some cases. So I do set, for example like kinds I have right now. They are like, they have a huge conference, which is like, they call up their business at the end of every year. So like about is in December of this year. And so like, do you want to engage on app and do over the events, websites and all those things for the event. So I'm engaged in a contract with them for like the months leading up to the event and the offset as well. Just to ensure that, that like I am the main tech piece for that year until the end of the event. So like that's the case that I do a recurring contract and I said, okay, so this is the amount of hours I would offer per month at the streets. And any deviation from that and additional hours of course, and some additional rates and those things, I couldn't one.

Ariel: 08:44 So do like if I build a one time project, I guess most cases there is like maintenance thing that happens monthly. And I also too just because like a lot of big clients that I have worked with, particularly our almost in start up phases so what we tend to do is sorta like release a project or an app in phases. So like I would know, okay, phase two would be these features and phase two would be contracted at the end of phase one and those sorts of things. So.

Brandy: 09:31 All right. Just a touch on that. So everybody who is, you know, watching and listening, something really important to note that that she does is she puts her contracts in specific phases. So she's very aware of her client's needs upfront, which I'm assuming she does by asking questions and getting to know them and understanding their problems. So she's able to phase out her contracts. So they almost go in chunks so she can, it's almost like forecasting and her, her work schedule ahead of time because she's chunking out the specific projects. Is that correct? That'd be a good way of saying how you do that.

Ariel: 10:08 Yeah, yeah. Yeah, definitely. Like I, like I said, because a lot of my clients are like startup, I almost assume sort of a consulting role in the show. And so I said, okay, how much like based on your budget, based on what's going to be feasible like we're going to set this out into phases and it works out well on both ends. Cause like, I mean, as a freelancer it, we really adds to like just your reputation to show that you're interested in what the client was really interested in, you know, allowing them to succeed. In terms of, okay, this is going to be better, this is the best approach for this, et cetera. So, yeah.

Brandy: 10:55 So how much time up front do you spend with a new client? So this would be someone you haven't worked with before. How much time do you allocate to them upfront without getting paid to really sort of flesh out their problem and understand it? So how many like meetings or how much time would you say does it take you to have those conversations and then also the time that it takes you to fully assess the situation and sort of make your plan?

Ariel: 11:31 All right. I typically try to have at least two meetings. And if not in between those meetings based on the [inaudible] thing, I go in knowing the questions I'm going to ask. And then based on that I try to have like a sorta scope of work like a requirements list of what I gathered from that first meeting for them before the second meeting and or it happens after the second meeting. And then once I present that to them, most likely like lots of the communication happens like online by email. Okay, yeah, we want this change, we change this. In terms of like, I mean if I go into specifics like why free minute and stuff, like I do like that I wouldn't get into that phase until we've engaged into the contract and stuff. So like I just do like all the requirements gathering and scope of work which I guess if you time it out may take like anywhere between two to three weeks, depending on how soon we get the two meetings. Initially. Yeah.

Brandy: 12:53 And that's very, very, very important. Just to reiterate, I know for a lot of people that are getting into freelance it's so important to have those conversations up front and then also continually throughout the project. So the next question is how do you communicate with your clients throughout the course of your pro, like project with them? First sorta are there other team members, maybe other developers that you're working with and then what would be your best or favorite tool or your most used tool that you use to communicate with them on an ongoing basis throughout the scope of the project?

Ariel: 13:37 Right. so for my less techie clients yeah. I typically communicate over WhatsApp. So like that's mainly beer, like it's treated common for them to have that app. So we communicates a well what's app and of course email. And like for those that are like, no, a bit more established and technically advance course Slack, I'm like, Slack is probably like, you know, I use and recommend I'm probably on Slack more than any of the app. No. So that's what I use more or less to communicate with my clients. And I haven't particularly had clients that have been extreme strangers to me. Thus far I've known or met all of my clients in some other capacity. So far, so it's been like sort of mutual. So it's a very conversational tool with most of them and other developers. Yes. Slack, everything is collaborative to with Slack. I'm like, because I'm front and mostly no. I tried as much as I can to have another development to like the back end stuff. So yeah.

Brandy: 15:24 And so communication is key. Basically making sure that all of the parts are moving and they're moving together the right way. Yeah. All right. So one big question since you said you are outside of the U S how, I know you and I have spoken off or actually we've spoken on Slack before and you noted that you you have us clients and that's a really hot question for people that are not in the U S is one. How do you get, how do you get us clients? What do you do? Right. so this is kind of,

Ariel: 16:01 It's tough for me to answer because I, my U S clients, like I said before, a lots of my clients have met in some capacity. Like one of my shoes, us clients. I met them through a business competition. So I like at the point I was working with a team from West point Use and they presented one of my apps at a business competition and one of the advisors to the team was like my face client. And like we, I guess, I guess in a way we did reconnect on LinkedIn and that's how like we started talking about development work.

Brandy: 16:54 But you still can, but you still entered a competition, right? Yeah. Yeah. I mean that in itself is a big thing and that's huge kudos to you for doing that. Cause I don't think a lot of people do that or even know how to utilize that. So how did you find this competition?

Ariel: 17:12 So I, so I found this competition through like a family member. So like the West point class at that time was us citizens were probably know what, what West point is as one who, military Academy. So my, I had a cousin that went there and I had an app locally that got funded by the government and all of those things. It was a children's app, an educational app. So so based on the fact that it was an educational app and they needed to, their team needed to go to mid Hudson, I think it was the mid Hudson regional business find competition I think is the name. Like I joined the team and we took that to the competition. So that's how I, I landed there. Just mainly through that I swell to like piggy back on that group. I mean it was my idea, I guess that went to the competition, but they did like most of the like business plan stuff for that competition. I did this stuff look like when I did it, look at it. And that's how I got to that compensation. Yeah.

Brandy: 18:40 So she entered a competition, which is insane. Like that is really cool. Would it be something similar to, cause I know what you said, business competition, but you had an app that you built with it. Probably like proof of concept. Yeah. So would it be similar to say that also entering like hackathons or anything like that could also, you know, have the same results or maybe the same fruits of your labor from that? Yeah, yeah, definitely. Definitely. I like my first

Ariel: 19:19 Like I actually decided to be a developer based on attending a startup weekend. And I like, while I was there, I met some developers that I already knew and then some new ones. And like from the, I kinda just like I spent that Reagan basically with my laptop on a desk of really good developers. Yes, I had extreme imposter syndrome cause I knew nothing at the time. And I was still in college and while I, although I was in college, I still felt like I knew nothing. So I so that was my first like I think getting my foot in the door and I met a lot of developers who like later on became like a NetSuite of like working on projects with them and all sorts of things. So I would definitely recommend hackathons and needs help. So those things, yeah,

Brandy: 20:19 100%. I'm all about that. I think community, your network, like the connections you make with people, whether it's online, in person, they really matter. Their relationships and relationships are so important to have with people. You touched on something that I actually wasn't going to ask about, but you said it as a question. I get asked all the time. But imposter syndrome and you said you were dealing, dealing with it when you were still in college. Do you deal with it now? What was it like then? What's it like now? How do you handle it? All that stuff, right?

Ariel: 20:59 Yeah, I deal with every day. I don't know if that will ever go away. The only times where I feel like I don't feel it is like if I have a break through with code or something like that, then I feel like, yes, I can do this. Like [inaudible]. So I don't know necessarily like how I deal with it I guess. Okay. Just keep building things. I just keep doing it and I guess that whole I can attitude sorts of thing. And I, I like I, I reach out to people I reach out to and I can, when I'm stuck on something or anything like that. But yeah, I just keep going. I guess. I don't, I don't know how, how do you like fully get over imposter syndrome? Is it possible to, I don't know.

Brandy: 21:48 I don't think so. I think you have it. I mean I have it all the time with even the new stuff, like things that are even outside of programming. I think it's just one of those things. It's like you said, you just keep going. And I think you and I are similar in that we just keep doing things cause that's really the only way you combated. Yeah. Yeah. All right. So one, one last question. What, what would be one piece of advice you would give to somebody who is wanting to start freelancing?

Ariel: 22:18 Hmm. Like just start building things. And like the, it's a, I guess a reputation and always have something to like show. Like for me I think my moments, I'm like I gained momentum once I started building things one and two. Like meeting people and people can actually like see that they personally knew me. And so like when people say, Hey, they like a, lots of my jobs are based on recommendation. I'm like, I do zero like marketing and those sorts of things. I'm not on any of those upwards or freelancer sites, those things. So a lot of it's just like recommendations, word of mouth. I've met with lots of my clients through Slack channels and stuff. So my advice would be put things out there and yeah, just like ensure that your online presence is like, I guess cottage to what you want to show. Like, you know, the kind of jobs you want to attract, those sorts of things. That would be my, my advice.

Brandy: 23:34 That's amazing. And one thing in there that she, that she said that she said, but she didn't say, but she gets all of her jobs based on recommendations and I am assuming it's not, it's because she does awesome work, but I'm assuming that RL is great to work with. She's clearly good at communicating with teams. She's good at probably meeting deadlines. So there's all this stuff in. So when people like you and you, you, you build that relationship with them, they're definitely gonna recommend you and your services to other people. And I think that's really, really important. Yeah.