Web Designer and entrepreneur at heart, Leo Bassam, 22, is Founder of Plutio.com, 'the app for all your business apps'. Here's his story...
"It all started when I was 15. I wanted a dog but my parents won’t let me have one. So, I rebelled. What kind of teenager wouldn't? But instead of underage drinking, smoking and staying out all night I decided to create a website for pet owners. Naturally...
"The site had loads of news, pictures of people’s animals and a live-chat feature, where pet owners were able to get advice from their local vet. Encouraging vets to sign up to my website – which was virtually unknown – turned out to be a bit of a job. But once I’d managed that, we were up and away.
"To be honest, it was a little easier than it sounds. And funnily enough, building the website wasn’t too tricky either. Wix.com came to the rescue, allowing me to create a great looking site without the need to code. At the time, I wasn’t able to get my hands on resources to learn to code you see.
"Like loads of freelancers, looking back, my first site turned out to be a really good learning experience for everything I'm building now. It gave me heaps of confidence. After spending some time playing around a bit and building a couple of different websites, I was sure I could do it for a living. Why the hell not?
"My first paying client was Dubai International Airport - where I jumped right into the deep end, and built a private website for their passport department. Before I knew it I'd taken on a few more projects and was running my own website design business. Crazy really."
The great bits.
"In a word? Freedom. Being able to design and build websites is great, but working for myself means I can do it on my terms, from wherever I want in the world. To me, that's priceless.
"As far as I see it routine is boring. It stifles creativity. As a remote working freelancer, I’ve chucked the rigidity of a 9-5 office-based job out the window. Working odd hours and weekends might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it keeps me productive, inspired and creative – which is pretty useful bearing in mind what I do!
"Freelancing has helped me think a whole lot differently too. I really like the fact that I am different to ‘normal’ people, with ‘normal’ jobs. Sure, there’s a bit more risk, and a lot more work involved, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not a chance."
The challenging stuff.
"Seeing as you’ve asked! In all seriousness, as much as freedom and flexibility are such privileges, it isn’t easy to earn and then learn to manage them. I had to put a tonne of hard work in before I could enjoy the benefits of flexible working. I wouldn't say I hated doing this - that's probably too strong of a word. Bloody challenging and a massive learning curve are words that spring to mind though.
"And then there’s the whole aspect of running a whole business too. That’s a real challenge. Pretty quickly, I had to understand, and in some cases master so many different skills that aren't linked directly to the job I actually do. You know, the so called ‘boring’ stuff like business development, contracts, invoices, taxes. I could go on…
"All of this makes it tough - not just to run your business from one day to the next, but to grow it – if that happens to be your goal. There’s a side to freelancing that's a lot less glam than putting the finishing touches on a great website, but are just as crucial. I had to realise pretty quickly that as well as a web designer, I would need to act like a small business owner - which as most self-employed people will know only too well, qualifies you as a professional plate spinner. But at least I'm not alone!
The grand plan.
"Ah, the million dollar question! Well, to be honest, my plan's really simple. I want to stay as my own boss, and keep doing what I love. And at the same time, I want to make sure other freelancers can keep doing what they love too.
"That’s why I’m working on getting Plutio.com up and running. I want to get rid of the challenges, hurdles and barriers that we all face as freelancers, so running a business is a lot less hassle. Ask any freelancer and they’ll agree that this way of working should be a little easier!"