A backend dev who's built 3 companies and works remotely as a freelancer
Shane is an Entrepreneur at heart. Built 3 companies from the ground up.
1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?
Hi my name is Shane, and I’m the founder of The Match Artist and Midwest Streams. I’m a business owner first and a programmer second. I’m originally from a tiny town in North Dakota, and graduated from NDSU.
I’m not your traditional digital nomad type of remote worker. I actually have a house, and usually work at my co-working place. I want to mention this because so often people think remote working means a vagabond lifestyle living in a van, or going from hostel to hostel.
There are still a ton of benefits of working remotely even if you plan on living in the same city. Because I work remotely and not through traditional employment I get to set my own hours, and take a vacation whenever I want. Just a few weeks ago I was able to visit my family for two weeks without having to worry about putting in a vacation request. If you are on the fence about working remotely, I can’t recommend it enough!
2. What motivated you to choose remote working?
I actually had no intentions of working remotely, it was out of pure necessity. I moved from North Dakota all the way to Texas to teach at a computer science bootcamp. After teaching for 3 months, the school closed, so I was stuck in Texas with no work.
In Fargo, I was able to keep food on the table with my company, Midwest Streams, and I also had a wedding DJ that paid most of my bills. I ended up selling the DJ business when I moved to Texas, and was committed to making my rent from this bootcamp. Once the bootcamp closed this really turned my world upside down, and I immediately began job hunting.
The job hunt was brutal. Because I hadn’t had a traditional job in a long period of time and employers didn’t want anything to do with me. It was at this point where I started looking for non-traditional work.
3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?
The first few months were challenging. I honestly didn’t have any expectations because I was here out of necessity.
I was fortunate that I had a profitable business (Midwest Streams) to fall back on, while I took my time searching for a good gig. My girlfriend told me about Upwork, and she helped me create my profile. I eventually started landing jobs on Upwork. From there it really took off!
4. How did you find remote working roles?
For me it’s 100% Upwork. I know Upwork gets a bad name in general, but for me it has worked really well. You will often hear freelancers give advice on how to find gigs by “local networking”, but this has never worked for me. If you want to build “brochure websites” for your career this advice can definitely work.
However, my skills are very specialized back end development skills. Companies who need these skills are willing to pay well for this service, but there just aren’t that many people in my city looking for this talent.
5. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?
You can’t beat the flexibility of remote working. This is by far the best aspect, if I want to take the day off and hang out with my dog at the dog park that is completely up to me! You just can’t do that with a normal job.
The worst part is how unstable everything is. In a traditional job you have some sort of stability, you usually have to do something pretty bad to get fired. With freelance and most remote working positions you can get let go for a variety of reasons, that are completely out of your control. You always have to be keeping an eye out for what’s next because your current contract could end at any time.
6. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?
I love Slack and Zoom. It’s really good to be able to see your team face-to-face even when you are far away.
7. Your most exciting/ hilarious experience since you started working remotely.
I think the most exciting part of working remotely is yet to come. My girlfriend and I have been looking at RVs (recreational vehicles), and are thinking about traveling the U.S. for an entire year. We plan on putting all of our stuff in storage, and just exploring for an entire year. I, of course, still plan to keep working during this time.
I’m very excited to take this leap. I’ve never done anything like this before. I also think my dog is looking forward to this adventure, as he loves being outside.
8. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?
If you are looking to get started on Upwork, I’d highly recommend finding a niche skill and doubling down on that. There are thousands of PHP developers on Upwork, and you will have such a hard time landing a gig with that much competition.
When I first started on Upwork, I made myself known as a SignalR developer. SignalR is a real time framework for C# web development. When I created my profile there wasn’t a single person on Upwork who specialized in SignalR - to be fair there were no job postings for SignalR either.
However, eventually someone came looking for some SignalR help, and my profile stood out because I was 100% focused on the framework. I did this for about 3 or 4 jobs. I ended up getting good reviews and became “Top Rated”. After you are top rated it’s so much easier to apply to general jobs. So now I focus on C# development. So, once again, if you are starting out find your niche, and triple down on it!
9. How do you see your career shaping up and your goals?
For me I would like to focus on running my own companies. I recently started a new business The Match Artist. We help single people take awesome pictures for their dating profile.
The Match Artist has really taken off this past year, and we are getting more and more clients every day. I’m hoping this growth continues, and this ends up being my full time source of income. I co-founded this business with one of my friends who is a photographer. Because I’m not the photographer I will still be able to live the remote lifestyle even though the business does have a physical presence.
If I were to stay in the freelance world, I would be looking into joining Toptal. From what I’ve heard they are one of the best platforms for freelancers.
10. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?
I think remote working is the future! I believe more and more companies are going to realize that there is value in hiring people for specific skills, vs. a catch all type of position. I believe this will end up hurting traditional jobs, but will boost the freelance economy.
I am also hoping that we see some diversification in the major freelancing platforms. Right now it seems like Upwork is completely dominating the space. I’m hoping that we see more specialized platforms that focus on customer service. Right now Upwork is just too big to be able to service everyone.