It was June 2012, semester exams had just ended. It was leisure time. My only plans at that time were to watch movies, eat, roam around and sleep. But Life has its own way of amazing you. I still remember the movie, “The Social Network”, I was totally mesmerized and by the time the movie ended I had an adrenaline rush, a kick; to start something. That was the first definite step towards my all time dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
The hardest decision followed after the inception of the idea was what will be the objective of my entrepreneurship? In short, what will I do? The answer was quite twisted. It seemed so stupid at that time that I had an idea that I should have a start up but have no idea what its gonna be about. I always had a thing for web designing, moreover, I had previously designed few websites using WordPress for few friends and family, and there it was finally, I knew what will I do under my start up – I will design websites for people and businesses.
The next challenge was to find work. For that I decided I would go from shop to shop covering one area at a time and ask them whether they require a website or not. 2 days later and after visiting around 40 shops I came to understand that it was a bad idea. Not even a single shop showed interest in whatever I had to say. I became so frustrated that at one shop I actually cursed and shouted at the shopkeeper. But I didn’t give up and continued on.
After a brief enthusiastic stint of 10 days, again I was back to square one, clueless what to do next. I lost it, because I just couldn’t get over the thought that the thing I wished so badly to work is useless now. I was heart broken. But one thing which I knew from the very beginning, that it wasn’t gonna be an easy journey, so giving up is not an option.
Keeping all the negativity aside, I decided to give myself a break. So I went out with some of my friends for dinner. We were gossiping, pulling each other’s leg and Snap! I had a vision – Why not try out the internet for projects. And suddenly it clicked me, there have to be sites like Flippa, where people come and specifically outsource WordPress projects.
I rushed back home and started googling, and after an hour or so I came up with three websites Elance, Freelancer and Odesk. I registered on all of the three websites and what I found that out of the three, Elance was the one with maximum WordPress projects, so I decided I will search for projects here rather than diverting my attention to all three.
And the battle begun. Elance had a very simple workflow, people posted their requirement, timeframe in which the project needs to be completed along with the total budget. What I had to do is to post my bid with a justification that why I was the best person for the job. I was completely new to this, I had no idea how to write an effective proposal for a project. So I started googling, binging, visiting all kinds of forums for any kind of information which will help me in this regard.
I had a plan that my biggest strength will be pricing, I will bid the lowest price, but the biggest disadvantage I had was the strict time frames, as I was totally new to this so I didn’t have a clue how much time it would really take me to complete the job. I knew I had to keep moving forward otherwise I will not progress and that’s something I didn’t want. So I started writing proposals, one after another, and then next, and then next. This continued for 10 days, in which I wrote around 100+ proposals and finally hard work paid off.
I got my first project from Florida, US. The requirement was to create a website for professional SEO services for clients. My job was to create the website, decide what pages it should have, and also write the contents of the website. All this I had to complete in 7 days. I still get shivers when I think of that time, those seven days taught me how a single minute has the power to change one’s life. And finally, I was able to sign off the project without any delays to my client. I don’t know if you will agree with me on this or not, all that time from the start to end my main source of motivation was actually the money I was about to receive, but in the end what made me actually satisfied was the feedback I received from my client.
And then, the projects came pouring in, it seemed I somehow got some kind of a secret weapon on how to get projects. I used a simple strategy. While writing proposals, I included three to four things –
1. Least bidding price possible.
2. A graphical representation, to make the client understand, how am I going to proceed from start to end. Then explaining the same in words as shortly as possible. I always considered paint as it was the only tool which I knew at that time.
3. Time split up matrix for tasks.
4. Previous work examples.
After my first project, I did around 4 more projects in the next month. Things were great, I couldn’t ask for more. I was getting decent money as well as good ratings for my work. Anyways, this continued but on the back end I continued with the proposals writing and searching for new work. 2 weeks passed by and I didn’t have any work. 3 weeks passed by I didn’t have a single project to work on. I had no idea what was I doing wrong, 3 weeks back I was working on two projects at a time now I didn’t have a single project to work on. Something was going wrong and I needed to find out what.
So I started analyzing everything, and I found out something very interesting. I could see many sub-continental freelancers(Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Indians etc.) writing proposals for the projects which I was targeting. The bad thing about competing with sub-continental freelancers is pricing since dollar was the main currency on Elance and for every sub-continent region the conversion rate for dollar to local currency was higher, I lost the upper hand on lowest bidding price. I can’t lower down the prices, as it was already the least for my services. So what I did, I added another thing to my proposals that were “Extra Free Services” which included free backup, free maintenance services up to 2 months.
Voila, after 2 days I got a project, the client specifically told me that I was the only freelancer in the bid process who actually provided 1 months maintenance services that too free. She liked it and offered me to do the job. The job was completed successfully. One thing I learned from this experience is that you always have to evolve if you want to keep on succeeding.
After this project, finally I got my offer letter from TCS, and I decided that one more project and I am done.
The next part of the story is one of the biggest learning’s of my life that No matter how smart you’re, failures are inevitable. My 7th project, My final one I wanted to end it with a bang. It was a website for a photographer who ran a child orphanage. The problem was that she wanted to copy a website which she liked, exact structure, exact colors etc. At first, I thought I would be able to do it. But as time progressed I came to realize that I won’t be able to make the exact replica of the website, because of the HTML 5 template I was using. But somehow I thought I would convince her as to why the current layout is the best. Finally, it was the day to deliver the website. It was a complete disaster. She didn’t like the website, as her expectations were completely different. I lost the money, I got negative ratings and pretty bad feedback as well. I couldn’t sleep properly for 2 days because of a simple reason I failed at something which I was good at. The Lesson I got from this experience is that you can’t say Yes to everything that comes your way.
I just couldn’t accept the fact that I was defeated, I was a fighter and I had to close it on a good note which I did. My 8th project, creating a website for Arborist services which I completed successfully and finally decided to call it off.
All this time mind you I was not alone, I had my best friend, my business partner always there to support me, helping me out with the Logo’s, Photoshop elements, processed images which I knew nothing of. I pushed him so much that I wanted this, No I wanted that and he patiently did it. Amit, without you this journey was impossible.
I would like to conclude with a story of mine, There was a time in my life when the principal of the topmost college of my city told me that I was good for nothing, I had no qualities, I had no creativity simply because my marks were not good enough to get admission in that college. 7 years later, I came to realize that it was the best thing that ever happened to me. And God, it was fun proving him wrong from head to toe.
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