We recently met up with Deborah Butler, the face behind The Startum Project brand and local Web Developer.
What made you decide to become a web developer and after your studies, start freelancing?
I moved to London in my early 20s (many years) to discover what I wanted to do with my life. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I found that I wanted to be a DJ and drink beer! But while I was doing that, I developed a strange fascination with this thing called HTML. I had no idea what it was, what exactly it did, all I knew was that you used it to build websites, and I was interested in that. I went down to the local high street and bought a book from Waterstones and messed around a little. I had no idea what I was doing and so only dabbled for a few months and my djing career started to take off, so I completely forgot about it.
Once I moved back to Cape Town 8yrs later, I landed a very good job as a Sales person in an internet security company. I hadn’t done sales before and seemed to have a natural knack for it. I thought this was what I wanted to do. The glamour and glitz of sales soon wore off though and 10 yrs later it was time for a change. I knew there had to be something out there that I was destined to do (yes I said destined…because deep down we all believe in fate and destiny right…right?). Even though I’d been in sales, the internet and websites still fascinated me, and being in web development always had an appeal. I could combine two things that I love, creativity and technology. And so after much much thought, I decided to take myself to college at the grand old age of 36 to obtain my Diploma in Front End Development.
The courses were hard and amazing at the same time, I loved it. When I finished studying, I knew I had to put everything that I learned into practice, and putting a portfolio together was logically the first thing I needed to do. So I put out a few feelers, mostly to friends and family on family, asking to build websites for them. The reception was amazing and I started building a few websites. Then my first client came along. Well, once I started their website I was hooked. It was all I wanted to do, 24/7, build websites. I knew that this was it, this is what I wanted to do and what I should have been doing all these years (dam the djing and the beers). And to this day that hasn’t changed even a little bit.
When you took the leap to freelance, how did you go about marketing yourself?
I did a lot and still do a LOT of researching on freelancing. From how to market yourself as a freelancer to invoicing clients. Knowledge is power as they say, and most articles are geared towards freelancing in America or Europe. Freelancing in South Africa being a different kettle of fish, it was essential for me to do as much research as I could/can. I took the best and the most applicable information out of these articles and started to apply them. Number 1 in all the articles is build a portfolio website to showcase your work. Well, that was no small feat for me, I can be a slight perfectionist sometimes and a little indecisive. So it took me many many months and with many changes, before I was happy and ready to publish it. I put together a groovy looking newsletter that announced the launch of my website, and I emailed it to every single person I had made contact with in the past 10yrs. I’m still getting feedback from that newsletter today!
Mainly, work comes to me either through referrals or networking. In order for me to get referrals I knew that I needed to get work and I knew that meant I would have to network. I started to really put myself out there, physically out there (and still do). I try to attend all the web developer functions/conferences/talks that I can find. You will always find me at the CTFED’s and UI/UX meetups, conferences and functions about anything web like that is happening in Cape Town. Talking to people and getting my name known has definitely been the best way to market my business.
With the networking there has also been a lot of opportunities to work for NGO’s and charity organisations, as well as teaching in rural and under privileged communities. It really has been the greatest joy being able to give back what I’ve learnt and to help others.
How soon after registering on Freelance Cape Town did you get your first freelance job via the site?
I received my first job through Freelance Cape Town within 4 weeks of joining. People contact me regularly through the website looking for a freelance web developer. Freelance Cape Town has brought me a number of projects, and introduced me to other freelancers who I’ve worked along side with.
Its most definitely the best and only resource for freelancers in Cape Town and South Africa for that matter.
From our side at Freelance Cape Town, we would like to share more Freelance journey’s as each one is unique.
If you would like to share yours, do mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a wonderful day