Freelancer Success Stories – Tom Hirst

Tom Hirst

Name: Tom Hirst


Location: Wakefield, UK

Bio: I’m from Wakefield, near Leeds, in the UK. I’ve been freelancing for 11 years as a web developer, specializing in WordPress and JavaScript. I teach others how to get paid what they’re worth, work smarter, and find balance through freelancing. I’m writing a book about pricing freelance projects.

How long have you been doing freelance work?

More than 5 years

Tell us about your freelance business, in 200 words or less.

Most of the work I do involves WordPress. I’ve moved into working with JavaScript more as the platform has expanded with the introduction of the Gutenberg visual editor. I’ve specialised further into providing headless WordPress solutions; using WordPress as a back-end content management system with modern, performant JavaScript frameworks powering the front-end. I’m working a lot with tools like Gatbsy and Next.js right now. People also come to me for my vantage point and knowledge on WordPress and to provide strategy solutions.

What do you consider to be your specialty. How does it help you in your business?

I consider myself a specialist within WordPress. My ideal client is someone who has a complex site that they need building using the platform. Or perhaps they are having problems with an existing site that needs a break down and analysis.

What made you become a freelancer?

I became a freelancer at 22 straight out of University. I applied for one job, and I didn’t get it. Afterwards I had a feeling that I didn’t really want it anyway because I had an overriding feeling that I wanted to work for myself. This is where my freelancing career started.

What do you love most about freelance work, and why?

The autonomy. Being able to pick and choose who you work with, what projects you want to work on and what times you want to work has a value that is priceless.

What do you hate about it?

I wouldn’t say hate, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of working too much when you see the direct benefit of doing so.

Tell us about your first paid job. How did you land your first client?

My first paid client was via a contact of my Dad’s. I’d told him that I had skills in WordPress, and even though he didn’t know what in the world WordPress was, when someone mentioned it in a passing conversation, he made the link. He put us in touch and the engagement lasted quite a while.

Related Post: 15 Best Remote Jobs for 2020

Do you think aspiring freelancers should take unpaid work to gain experience? Why or why not?

Experience is important, but my answer to this would be no. In my opinion, you can gain experience and raise your value at the same time with more than one client. IE, doing free work for 1 client might get your foot in the door with them, but writing articles on your own site or taking on self-initiated projects in this time instead shows your outward value to many more people. Think long and hard about doing free work. It’s hard to recover your value from.

Do you feel you’re charging what you’re worth?

I think so. I started getting paid what I was worth when I went into learning pricing deeply. Pricing is probably the toughest equation for a freelancer to solve outside of their core-capability. There are so many different ways of doing it and everyone’s individual circumstances are different. Once you understand that pricing is an extremely personal thing, you can get a better gauge on what the “right” price is on a per-project basis. In the end, it’s all about how much value you’re providing to your clients. I’m writing a book about my wider-thoughts on pricing to be released 30/07/2020.

Describe your process for finding new clients? Where do you look?

I let clients come to me. I know that’s not particularly helpful for people just starting out, but it’s how it is. My #1 piece of advice is to build your own audience of people that may be willing to hire you.

Have you ever had to ‘fire’ a client? If so, why and how did you do it?

I try to filter out clients who may be a bad fit before I commit to a project. Sometimes, it might only transpire on the job. I’ve walked away from engagements that didn’t work for me anymore on a few occasions; the best way to do so is with honesty and tact. Burning your bridges completely with people is never a good move in my opinion.

Name 3 tools (apps, equipment) that you can’t live without. What makes them so great?

My iPad Pro + Pencil, Bose QC35 Noise Cancelling Headphones, Herman Miller Embody Chair.

What is your #1 productivity hack?

Control the level of communication that you allow to reach you.

Do you outsource tasks? Why or why not? If so, which ones?

I do on occasion. Mainly design and development work that is outside of what I want to do, or when I’m at capacity myself.

In your opinion, what is the most important skill required for freelance work, and why?

The ability to market your services and price them correctly. Sorry, I know that’s 2! You could be the best developer in the world but if no one knows about it, you’re not going to sell a lot of services.

Do you consider yourself a strong time manager? How do you stay organized?

I do. Structure forms a big part of that I do. Get a routine and take efficiency seriously

Do you also work a 9-5? If so, how do you balance it with your freelance business?

Nope, full-time freelance.

Where do you do most of your work?

In my home office.

Do you use a co-working space? Tell us a bit about it.

No, I don’t.

Name an entrepreneur/freelancer/influencer who inspires you. What is it about their story/message that resonates?

One person who I look up to is Jonathan Stark. He wrote a great book called “Hourly Billing Is Nuts” which details why it’s not the best way to go for freelancers. The way it was written really resonated with my own findings and inspired me to start sharing my own thoughts about pricing to help other freelancers.

Name 1 thing you would do differently, if you were starting over today?

Keep marketing, even when I was busy.

What is your #1 tip for aspiring freelancers?

Look for mentors and build genuine connections.

More from Freelance Success Stories: Eric Rosenberg, Freelance Writer

Colin: Tom, thanks for being part of Freelancer Success Stories! I invited Tom on the site after discovering his fantastic freelance themed threads on Twitter. If you’re an aspiring freelancer and you aren’t already following Tom on Twitter, you’re missing out! I highly recommend you click the link in Tools & Resources below, and hit the follow button. You won’t be disappointed! I also recommend that you pre-order his upcoming book, Pricing Freelance Projects, which drops at the end of this month (link below)!

Tools & Resources

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