Women of Tech Meets: Keryn - Freelance Developer
Keryn's interest in technology was first sparked during the era of NeoPets "I would be overhauling my Neopets pages with HTML and CSS so I would be the coolest 14 year old there ever was".
Kids across the world - including Keryn, were learning to code without necessarily knowing they were coding, nor really knowing where it could lead them in the future.
After graduating from High School, Keryn did what most people do. She got a job whilst she figured out what it was she really wanted to do as a career.
After some thought and consideration Keryn enrolled in part-time Web Development classes at BCIT, which she took alongside working full-time hours. Two years later she completed the course with flying colours, nonetheless finding a job as a freshly qualified web developer proved tough. "I just didn't seem to have enough knowledge or experience for the companies that were hiring".
Whilst still working her full-time minimum wage job Keryn was unfortunate in developing back problems and since it meant she was unable to perform her job, she was eventually let go. Whilst unemployed under these circumstances, after a time Keryn met the requirements to apply for a government funded education programme. "I'd enjoyed my time at BCIT so I looked for courses that qualified for the programme funding there, and found a year long full-time Software Systems Development course - I had nothing to lose. I enrolled".
A short while after completing the Software Systems Development course Keryn was able to secure some interviews and before long landed her first development job. "My first task in that job was to take two weeks' to teach myself the in's and out's of WordPress and PHP before making a presentation to the boss on whether we as a company should migrate all of our custom PHP sites over to WordPress".
Keryn stayed in that first developer job for three and a half years before seeking out alternative employment a bit closer to home with the added benefit of better financial compensation for her time and expertise. Progression is good.
But we've all been in a job where it didn't quite turn out how we thought it would, right? Eventually Keryn decided to do what was right for her (and her wellbeing) and move on. Not entirely sure where to turn, Keryn took to freelancing as a web developer.
In 2017, following a three month process of several rounds of successful interviews Keryn was accepted as a freelance developer on Codeable. Rumour has it Codeable go on to work with only 2% of their applicants - so this was a big achievement and the start of a new journey in tech. "Since then I have fallen in love with working for myself as a freelance developer. I have the freedom to work for who I want, when I want and can deliver the sincere care, and attention to detail that working for a large company never allowed me".
Since being accepted onto the platform Keryn has, at the time of writing, completed 314 projects for her clients through Codeable and holds an impressive 5/5 rating with positively glowing reviews demonstrating that the passion and enthusiasm for her work is genuine.
What would you say has been the biggest difference for you, between being an employee and being self-employed?
"There's good and bad sides to both. It can feel more stressful at times working for yourself because the onus is all on you. But everything else about it I prefer - I can choose my work environment, which makes me happier in myself. I have the flexibility to work with clients that I want to work with and work hours that suit my demand".
Tell me about a career milestone of yours that you're proud of yourself for achieving
"I think cracking 6 figures in my first full year as a freelance developer is probably my greatest achievement. It wasn't even about the monetary aspect of the accomplishment but rather the fact that I had proved to myself that I was worth something as a developer, that I was talented enough to do the work, that I was great at cultivating client relationships and I could do it by myself - my confidence grew.
It was an eye opener to seeing my own potential and my worth".
Now that you have experience of freelancing, is there one piece of advice that you perhaps wish someone had given you at the start of that journey?
"I think the biggest thing I've learnt through freelancing is that 'you're worth it'. Working for other companies I didn't have the same confidence. It was easy to fall into the default reaction of thinking 'I can't do this by myself' and the feedback isn't always stimulating - but when you start working for people on a direct basis you get a different kind of feedback that helps you to learn and grow.
Understanding from the start that you can do it and being confident with what you're doing can go a long way. And also bear in mind that so many people have imposter syndrome, even the people at the top of the industry. It's okay to have those moments of doubting yourself, but allow your confidence to emerge to guide you past that".
What has been your biggest challenge as a freelancer, and how did you overcome it?
"As a freelancer you're wearing all of the hats. You're the developer, the project manager, the administrator, the finance department, etc. I'm not someone who necessarily enjoys doing ALL of those things - I much prefer sitting down to build things and code than doing invoices. In reality between 20-30% of my day is currently spent coding as other aspects of what I need to do to keep my business running need more attention. Learning to manage my time so that I can cover all of the bases was a challenge, but I'm getting closer to finding the happy balance".
What do you enjoy the most about freelancing?
"Definitely the flexibility and having the ability to set your own schedule and work at the times which suit you and your way of working. I'm not that great with mornings, so for me it's really helpful being able to start a little bit later and finish a little bit later into the evening - it's when I’m at my most productive. My clients tend to be in different timezones so having flexibility for that is also important".
What do you enjoy the most about working in tech?
"Not many jobs allow you the freedom to work from home like the tech industry does - even before Covid-19! I've created a peaceful working environment at home that enables me to get down to business and get my work done.
I also really love the community that comes with working in tech, especially the WordPress community which is where I am most involved. I've met some of the best people over Twitter, where there is always someone out there willing to answer your questions and help you out when you need it. It's nice to give back to that community too".
What can be a downside to working in tech from your perspective?
"Tech as an industry is fast moving with lots of updates, changes and new emerging technologies becoming available all the time. It can sometimes feel challenging to keep up with those changes in terms of learning.
When you're employed at a company there is usually some time within your working week where you can focus on some learning and development (and be paid for doing it). As a freelancer you don't have that level of support, you're relying on yourself to have and set aside the time to learn".
What do you enjoy the most about what you do?
“I enjoy the fact that every project is always unique. Although the structure can be the same – I’m still building websites at the end of the day – but what I’m building is always different and that adds a really interesting element to my day to day. One day I could be helping someone to build a website for their fitness business, the next day I'm helping someone to create their e-commerce shop - there's always a different problem to tackle and that keeps my mind satisfied. And I love helping people. I tend to work with clients where I can really add value to what they're doing and help them to propel their business forward. I wouldn't have it any other way".
For anyone thinking about taking the step into freelancing, do you have any advice you'd like to share with them?
"Yolo," Keryn says laughing. "Just do it. I probably could have started several years before I did and would have had more happy years of working. I think you have to believe that you can do it. It's not easy, if it was everyone would be doing it. It can entirely change your lifestyle and wellbeing for the better"
Give yourself time to gain confidence and build up your client base. Even if you don't land a client in that first couple of months it doesn't make you a failure, you just have to keep trying and your passion and perseverance will pay off."
What do you think stopped you from starting freelancing sooner?
"Fear. Fear that I couldn't do it. I didn't think I was mature enough to be my own boss and manage my schedule and workload. It took me a little while to grow the confidence to feel ready, but since then there has been no looking back."
And finally, do you have a favorite podcast and if so, what is it?
"It's called 'Ask Iliza'. Lliza is a stand up comedian - she has a couple of specials on Netflix, I find her to be hilarious. She and her assistant host the podcast. Listeners send in questions on an 'ask me anything' basis', and it could be absolutely anything, usually quite random and the responses from Lliza are spot on amusing". (https://www.iliza.com/podcast)