The field of User Experience and User Interface has been a long and somewhat turbulent struggle for me through the years. Going from being a freelancer that always use to be treated as a person with talent but not getting paid my due. But that has paved a way for me to learn from my past, learn my craft more through my attempts to get better — which I have, and also join an agency that uses my talents perfectly.
Freelancing for 10+ years alone
I started doing freelance work back when I was in middle school heading to high school as a way to get myself better while learning my craft. I was enjoying coding as a small designer that only knew basic HTML from learning it through Code Monkey and Notepad (yes, the old Notepad back on the Windows XP).
My teacher in middle school taught me Web Development and I loved it from the first time putting my fingers to the key and making the first line of code to make a H1 tag. After that I started searching for my own way to get better since I didn’t have internet back then in my house that was good like the other people around me that went to school. I still lived in the hood and was the nerd but wasn’t that big in internet still (I still had the AOL trial disks so I could at least get on the internet for those trial days). But that didn’t stop me, I learned offline by making copies of my work from class and taking them home and testing it out on my own. I was determined to learn and loved it, which was my sign right there that this was my passion above all.
After school ended, I had went to all computers that I had, be it an old beat down computer that ran off ‘98 or XP at the time, I was going to learn my craft. I made websites using only Notepad and table schemes on my own without inspirations because my inspiration was MYSELF.
So I landed my first client during my summer break after I had got actual internet and not just that slow dial-up internet that I used to get trial disks for. The actual high speed at the time of 10mbps (baby that was the life). So the first client job was for an Uncle of mines that wanted to make a website for his startup company doing storage units that are weather proof that you could setup and install in your backyard with little to no help. It wasn’t much but it was my first project that I got paid for, $150 for a full site. I designed it and coded it from scratch. Hosted it on Bravenet — which back then was very basic at the time and a bit tough to work around- for him to have on his website under a subdomain. From that day forth, I called myself a Web Designer and Developer.
But fast forward it a few years later, no real jobs coming my way and still grinding to make a name for myself. I went through college and dropped out because it wasn’t me. So I started working regular jobs but still doing my thing on the side with keeping my craft going. I used my own money to make websites for my own testing, buying my own CMS to white label and build from, and all that. This was my passion and nothing was going to change that. My oldest daughter knew that and wanted to learn from me because she saw the look in my eyes when I would make something on the computer and show someone my work — even if I would never get much of a response for my designs. Soon that was all going to change since I was about to join a team of back end developers, some of the best I have known that do things on their own and from scratch…Madness Labs.
My first official team
I joined them in around 2014 when I was still doing my regular 9 to 5 daily job and working with them at night from like 6 pm to 12 am or 2 am each day because I wanted to get better. They taught me a few things that I never learned or had the time to learn for making websites easier to streamline and flow through for projects. I learned Handlebars with them and was able to learn a new way of development for sites that made it easier to load pages and speed page loading. All this while getting a handle (see what I did there) on Bootstrap when it was coming out and becoming more popular as the framework for websites.
I worked with them for about 4 projects before we went separate ways to do what we needed to do to get better. I still look up to Bobby for his passion and love of the business that he has with his wife in the field. If you ever look into making a mobile app or website app they are one of the ones I will mention at all times, because they do and was apart of the major Ionic framework and push for it to be a popular use for mobile apps.
Upon leaving them, I went back into freelancing for myself and being screwed over from clients that said they had work and then only play me as a fiddle.
I was tricked into working for a company that used my account to scam others and I ended up losing money from them. That was a big defeat for me, but I pushed through it. I knew something was going to come through from it. I had to keep positive and that what prevailed — my hope that I would see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Finally found my home
Then slowly my push to get better came through. After sending over about 40+ job applications a year to different companies when I lived in Alabama, Maryland, and Denver I managed to get my chance to prove myself. I got picked up by a local company in 2019 that I never thought I would make it, Native Rank.
I went in for the interview on a weekend — while deathly ill might I add, and got the job the same day. I could not tell you how happy it was for me to find myself a chance to prove myself after all the years of trial and tribulations. Making website mockups and in different styles that I would even get chance in contests to make it to the final stages or at least the quarter finals for choices.
So far I have been with them as a Web Designer and loving it. It showed me that putting the time and effort into making your craft your own, a company will eventually see that and know that you can bring something to them that they needed for a puzzle.
Ultimately, this proves as a testament that being a freelancer is not all that bad, it builds character and you learn from your errors to better yourself when you get a team. Be it your own team or a established team that needs help and wants you to join them.