Welcome Shastri! So tell us: Where did you grow up and when did you first interact with coding?
I grew up in Sydney, Australia, and my dad worked in computers. So I was always on a computer from a pretty early age.
I also played a bunch of RuneScape, which you could say was my first entry to the web – playing for half an hour each day after school. From there, I was on Bebo and experiencing social media for the first time – I quickly started chatting on forums and then building and actually selling Bebo bots when I was 13-14. I sold those bots for $20 which was a lot of money at the time, looking back I realize they could have been going for a lot more.
From there, I continued to pull on that thread and did a bunch of software courses in high school and learned about setting up software like PHPBB and Wordpress.
At that point, did you already know this would be your career path?
Not really. I was really interested in business as well. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that the career path started to take shape.
So what happened at that time?
I had just come back from traveling around Europe, and didn’t really have a job. So I created an account on a site in Australia called Airtasker, which is pretty similar to TaskRabbit or Upwork.
I would bid on odd jobs like “create a quiz for trivia night” and made a quick buck here and there. After a little while I started seeing a lot of people looking for support on their Squarespace sites. So I learned how to work on those, which was pretty simple. A few months later a lot more requests for Shopify sites started popping up.
The clients that were looking for Shopify sites were much nicer to work with, and they also paid a lot more so it was an easy move away from Squarespace. I ended up taking on Shopify jobs, learning how to fix the problem after I had been accepted for the job and quickly getting immersed in the Shopify ecosystem.
A little while after this an agency I had applied to called me to say they had an opening for me as a QA engineer.I went in for a trial which they were happy with and then a few weeks later I started full time for them. It was the first time I ever had someone teaching me properly how to work on Shopify, Chris (another StoreTasker) was a great senior dev and provided countless tips & tricks..
So tell me about this experience at the agency. How much time did you spend there?
I started there in a QA role and evolved pretty quickly from there. My role evolved into basically being on top of all things Shopify and helping out with any internal questions on the platform. In total I spent a little over 2 years there. It was a great experience learning and really leveling up my knowledge of the shopify ecosystem.
So did you go straight into freelance?
I was cautious with it. I really liked my job at the agency - but I did have that ambition. The catalyst for me leaving was getting a few clients on retainers. One of my main clients was pushing me to go full-time freelance. They were a business I actually connected with on Airtasker as one of my last clients on that platform, now I’m working with them essentially as an extension of their team. It’s been great to see them grow as well.
And what’s the freelance journey been like so far? Do you feel like a standalone business? Do you set goals for yourself?
It’s definitely the best decision I could have ever taken. I still have a really strong relationship with my former agency and we sometimes collaborate on work which is nice.
What was tough was doing both full-time work + freelancing on the side. It was easy to get burnt out, but now I can schedule things the way I want to. Flexibility is my favorite thing. Being able to do a few early 6 or 7am calls, do a bit of work and then go out and enjoy the day.
And you’re in Phuket now right? What’s the digital nomad lifestyle like?
It's really good. Here in Thailand, there are great coworking spaces all over the place. At the moment I’m just traveling with a single 30L backpack with 6 sets of clothes to stay super light and be able to jump on a plane without having to wait for my bags to come through.
It's really easy to sit down and grab coffee somewhere and do some work, go explore a bit and then pick the next spot to park up at. It breaks up the day, and makes me a whole lot more productive knowing that there’s exciting things to do once I’ve finished working for the day.
Tell me about Storetasker. When did you stumble on it? And how have you enjoyed it?
I think I might have heard about it from a client or on a Facebook group. I then visited the site and it sounded right up my alley. I reached out and got onboarded pretty quickly. That was in October 2020.
I’ve really loved using the platform. The quality of leads is so much better than anywhere else, and it’s great repeat work: If you do a good job, they’ll come back and continue working with you. There’s countless clients I’ve worked with on small projects that have turned into ongoing relationships or even retainers.
The other really good thing is you’re not competing with a million other devs for leads: If you want it, it’s yours. Whereas other platforms have a race to the bottom.
Last question from me: What’s your key to being a successful freelancer?
It's good communication and focusing on the client 100%. If there are any issues or delays - being real and upfront helps you so much.
To add to that, not trying to make a quick buck. I'm much more inclined to provide the right solution to someone rather than a solution that will net me more income. Clients appreciate this approach and realize that they can trust you to bounce ideas off you. It pays off a lot more in the long term, and it’s just the right thing to do.