Jurn van Wissen

Jurn is a designer and developer who splits his time between freelance work and his own entrepreneurial projects
July 18, 2020

My name is Jurn, I’m originally from the Netherlands, but right now I live in Bangkok, Thailand, and I work as a freelance designer and front end developer, while also working on my own projects.

What's your background, did you have a job before you went self-employed?

So I was studying communication and multimedia design in college, and I had to get an internship there. After that internship, I stayed around for that company and I kept working for them full time, and finishing all my college degree in the evenings.

On the side, I started another project too, just to learn about SEO, and that turned into a pretty successful affiliate website. After graduating and working there for six more months, my side project just gave me more income than my full time job.

So I decided to take the leap and quit my job to become self employed.

So you'd recommend not taking the leap until you're already earning money?

I think it's very difficult to say as it's very personal, but for me, the transition from being employed to being self employed was very stress free, because I was already earning more than my salary; there was no financial worries in making that decision. So if you have a side project that's growing really fast, but it's not at the level of your salary yet, it's okay to take the leap on that, if you think you can make that more successful if you dedicate more time to it. But I wouldn't just quit your job out of nowhere when you have no plan to generate money.

How did you learn the skills you need to run and manage your business?

There wasn't really one specific source where I learned everything, it was just a collection of everything I had done up until that point. So before I studied communication and media design, I studied computer science, so I already had a coding background. Then I got to design, learned more about design, and the assigned project I started was to learn more about SEO. And I've just watched a lot of videos, read a lot of blogs, listened to a lot of podcasts and apply whatever advice I feel is most relevant for me at that time.

In your opinion, what's the best thing about being self-employed?

The best thing about being self employed has to be the freedom that you get, that you don't have to request the day off, but you can take one whenever you need it, or whenever you have other things to do, or that you can work your own hours; if you prefer working at night, then you can work at night, and you don't have to be in the office by 9:00 AM.

On the other hand, what's the hardest thing about being self-employed?

The hardest thing about being self employed is financial insecurity. I think we never have a steady salary, so you don't know how much money you're going to make each month, which can make it difficult to plan a plan ahead, and you always need to make sure that you have a significant amount of savings in case you don't have a lot of income for a few months.

What's been the high point of your self-employed career so far?

I think there's two, two big high points that I’ve had over the past few years. One is starting to travel, which would not have been possible if I was still working a job in an office. And the other one was one of my projects being acquired, that was a very good experience to go through, to learn a lot from.

What does a typical work day schedule usually look like for you?

So a normal day I would wake up around 8 or 9. My mornings are usually pretty slow, I just read some email and do some planning, and I'll start work at like 10 or 11:00 AM, working until around 4:00 PM. Then I'll go to the gym, take a little bit of break after that to get some food, and start working again until around 8 or 9. And that's usually the end of my day. I'll end it around 8 or 9:00 PM, and that's calls with clients; usually I work with clients from the US so with the timezones it means that I'll take those calls pretty late in the evening, so sometimes I'll have to keep working until 10 or 11:00 PM. But usually 8 or 9:00 PM is the end of my working day.

What advice would you give your past self to help them get to where you are today?

I think if you are planning to make the leap to freelancing, it would be a lot easier if you already have an existing network in place, where you can get referrals from. If you are really young and at the start of your career and you don't have that network, it's not impossible, but it's just going to be harder than if you have to network. So you need to make sure you have a plan in place for where you're going to get clients from. For example, working a job for a few years, even though it's not ultimately where you want to end up, it does help a lot with building a network. But it's also possible to get clients just from work you put out, but it's a lot more difficult. It's a lot more competitive to compete for attention online with other freelancers all around the world who may also have cheaper rates than you, than to have a local network that you can get work from.

What's next for you, what are you working on at the moment?

So the next thing I'm working on is a big update to one of the projects that I run, which is Screely, a tool to automatically generate mockups based on screenshots. I'm adding a lot of new features, introducing paid plans, and I hope to relaunch that before the end of the year.

Do you have any resources you could recommend that helped you go self-employed?

If you're looking for resources, I think the best way is to think about the content format that you enjoy the most. So if you enjoy audio, you should look for a podcast, if you enjoy reading more, you should look for blogs, and then just find the most popular blogs in your niche, or look at people in your niche that you admire or are in a position that you ultimately want to end up in, and just consume whatever content they put up and learn from them.

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Jurn van Wissen

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