This is our fifth interview for the Freelance Five series – our collection of quick interviews with freelancers from around the world where they share experience, new career advice and business tips for those in the industry.
Today we have Jordan Koschei from New York’s Hudson Valley.
Jordan Koschei has been a software development enthusiast since 1998, becoming a professional web developer in 2008. As a front-end developer, he creates web sites and apps that are beautiful, standards-compliant, and future-proof.
1. What area of the creative industry do you work in?
I’m a web designer and developer who helps small businesses build a professional, competitive web presence.
2. When and why did you become a freelancer?
I started freelancing two years ago, after I made a website using a template service and thought (rather naively), “I can do better.” At that point, I was a complete design ignoramus, and had never heard of even the most basic principles. I made the foolish mistake of assuming that anyone who knows a little HTML can design websites. Luckily, my first few clients were relatives and friends who understood that I was just getting the hang of things. I spent a lot of time reading in those first few months, catching myself up on the essentials of design such as layout and color theory while simultaneously learning HTML + CSS, PHP, and jQuery. I made a point of only exposing myself to high-quality designs, since I knew that the quality of sites I consumed would eventually be reflected in the quality of sites I produced. I was blessed enough to learn pretty early on what makes a good design, so I didn’t waste too much time wandering in the wrong direction. Now, two years later, I am comfortable calling myself a legitimate web designer for the first time. If you look at my portfolio, you can see how my style has matured as I’ve continued studying.
3. What do you enjoy most about freelancing?
I love the freedom it affords. I don’t think I could stand a nine-to-five job, though admittedly the flexibility makes it harder to set boundaries. I enjoy being able to work whenever I’m inspired, but it might not be healthy when that inspiration comes at ten o’clock at night.
4. What do you think is the key to success as a freelancer?
Always keep learning! If you don’t have the desire to always be improving yourself, you should consider finding another line of work – when you find yourself looking at one of your designs with complete satisfaction, finding nothing wrong, then you know you’ve become complacent.
Watch where you fall on the “I’m ready to be a designer” scale. On one end, there’s the trap of thinking that you need a design degree to be a designer. On the other end, there’s the trap of thinking that you can be a designer because you know a little HTML. Neither of those are true — what you need is the drive to keep learning, an appreciation of how much work it will take, and enough aesthetic sense to be cultivated. Focus on the essentials first. Learn layout, color theory, standards-compliant programming, and a little UX design. Stay away from anything trendy, and expose yourself to the most mature design work possible. Shy away from publications like Smashing Magazine that feature list posts and trends, and instead read the musings of industry experts. And, above all, always prefer learning why something is done to learning how.
Many thanks to Jordan for taking the time to answer our questions.
Want to be interviewed?
If you are a freelancer in the creative industry and want to send us your answers to these questions, you can. Please include a little bit of background information about you, a small photo or avatar (optional but recommended) and one or two links. We will publish the answers regularly but if we have too many we will aim for the most interesting ones – so make them good!