How I became a Shopify Developer: Erin Vaage
Hi Erin! Let’s start with how you got into coding.
It all started back in high school. I grew up in the era of myspace. And at the time, we could go in and adjust the layout with HTML & CSS. That really sparked my interest back in high school & my mom was a programmer, so I was aware that it was a career field you could go into.
But in college, I ended up pursuing a health promotion degree. So totally unrelated. And after I graduated, I was working as a personal trainer. I really enjoyed helping people, but I didn't feel challenged enough intellectually. So I think in 2015, I quit and went to New Zealand for 6 months to backpack & travel.
I needed to figure out what I wanted to do and I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I just did not know how to get there. My first online project was an ebook for Amazon. And when I was creating that ebook, I had to set up a website for it. That ebook totally flopped. But it got me researching “how do you become a web developer?”
But luckily, my boss at the marketing agency was super supportive of my development, and he gave me my first full website build project. These were for clients who’d let me experiment. And one of my first full website builds was on Shopify. And when I was building that website, I fell in love. I knew this was my niche. It's intuitive. It's easy for both me and for the merchant. Liquid’s very easy to understand and the documentation is great.
That was in 2017, a few months after graduating from the bootcamp.
And when did you embark on freelancing full-time?
I did things step by step. I asked the digital marketing agency to go remote and reduce my hours to start freelancing, without having to dive in and have it be my only source of income. That's when I signed up for Storetasker and a variety of other freelancing platforms, and started getting paid to learn.
I did get hired by a Shopify theme company called We Are Underground, where I ran their theme customization service. That was a great setup - but when the pandemic hit, and eCommerce blew up, I started getting overwhelmed by work and freelance projects. I had to make a choice, and decided to go full-time on the freelance side.
And what’s been your experience like on Storetasker?
Out of all the freelancing platforms that I joined, this is the only one that I continue to use. That's because there's no race to the bottom that you would have on other freelance platforms. Every expert is valued as an expert and we're not competing against each other to have the lowest price. And then also the team. I feel like I know all the team members well and they’re really on my side and would be there to help if I ever ran into issues with a client. It’s by far one of the best freelancing platforms out there and I have no desire to join any other.
Thanks for the kind words and congratulations on going freelance full-time. How’s the 100% freelance life like?
Just like with anything there are lots of ups and downs. When you're a freelancer, you're not just coding, you also have to be a project manager, a marketer and wear all these different hats. And some of those roles have taken me longer to get down - But yes. I do like this path, and I can only see it getting better with more time and experience.
Also I'm able to have my own schedule. If it's a nice day, I can go mountain biking over lunch and not have to worry about clocking in and out of the office. And then I get to work on my own projects that I'm really passionate about, like Camp Liquid.
Yes, the course! Tell me more about this side project.
Camp Liquid is a course that I wish I had when I was first starting out. It’s designed for beginner Shopify developers, and it not only touches upon the technical components of learning to code on Shopify - but it also teaches you the fundamentals of being a successful freelancer with a big emphasis on project management, marketing and client communications.
I’ll be on the lookout for the launch :) Any words of advice for the next generation of devs?
Don't be afraid to niche when you're coming out of a bootcamp. When you come out, you’re a generalist - and you know a little bit of everything. But don’t think you're pigeon-holing by focusing on a niche.
For instance - I went from marketing myself as a front-end developer to marketing myself as a Shopify Developer, and suddenly my inbox got flooded with opportunities. Merchants and clients don’t care so much about which languages you can code in or which certifications you have, instead they want to know if you can provide them with a solution.
Thanks Erin, you rock.