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I built a website in exchange for cookies

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Anybody that really knows me, knows that I have a taste for baked goods. These days as I age (age well), they tend to be of the gluten-free and organic variety with some type of dairy free coconut based topping. Life is to be enjoyed after all. So when the potential to exchange my web development skills for mountains of cookies came up, it was just an offer that I couldn't refuse.

Today I'll go into how I did, why I did it and just how many cookies I managed to eat in that time. This entire post is filled with freelancing tips, baked into a story.

The bakery

It all started when I began to notice a particular new gluten-free cookie at my local coffee shop. The packaging was super simple and I could tell that this was a brand new company. They didn't list a website anywhere on the package and after some Googling, there was still no clue as to who made these delightful things. But there was an email. So I sat down and started to write. Here is a copy of that exact email.

Greetings!

I had the honor of one of your cookies this morning and it was by far one of the best gluten free / vegan treats that I've had. I'm a web developer out of Long Beach, Ca and if you guys are in the market for a website for your kitchen, feel free to reach out to me.

A sidenote: I will work for cookies! (Literally)

Love your ingredients and your work. Keep up the awesome work!

It was an honest and open email and I didn't really anticipate where it would go. This is how I have gotten many of my web design clients in the past. Most people that you encounter with a new business can't both run a business and worry about their SEO and landing pages. And actively reaching out to them with a few kind words let's them know that there are buyable options at their disposal. More than likely, you will be the first person that they have ever met that can make a website.

If you want to get clients in the freelancing world, you have to get to know the people in your community. They need to see the face and trust that their money (cookies) won't go to waste. Many of these clients will become your recurring clientele after all.

A few days passed by and the owner of the bakery replied back telling me that they were brand new to to the city and were about to launch their official brick and mortar shop and to stop by to check it out to discuss this website proposal.

Before you know it, there I was sipping coffee and enjoying some type of pastry in the most delightful bakery that I have ever seen. It was tiny with an old school vibe, a giant no wi-fi sign and an assortment of baked goods of which I had never before encountered. The best part? It was a walking distance from my house. Another benefit of staying local and working with your community.

The website

The bakery was just weeks away from their official launch and for sure they were in need of a website. Just a landing page where they could direct users to for the address and menu. Simple enough. Definitely not a $10,000 project for 3 months of work. While the cookie offer that I made in the email was (sort of) jokingly said (not really), it caught the owners attention. As it turns out, she had been in the industry for some time now and bartering was not uncommon to her, so when asked if I was serious about it, I answered "Of course!". Because cookies.

Just how many cookies though? Similar to how most freelancers starting out have a super difficult time finding the right rates to charge, this whole bartering business was new to me and as such I didn't know just now many cookies and cheesecakes called for a contact page.

When freelancing, you will encounter 2 problems recurring when it comes to charging. You will either propose something that is just way too high for your clients, in which case you will lose out on potential clients in the long run. Or you will undervalue your skills and the time that it will take you to complete, and you might end up spending months on a project that should have taken weeks, which will impact your overall bottom line.

Having been on both ends, I'll say this. Spending months on a project that you charged 'hours' for is no fun. So getting clear specifications and requirements is super vital before beginning any actual work.

Ideally, you want to aim somewhere in the middle, but a slightly bit higher. In this way you have some space if you need to work your price downwards just a bit.

Cookie contract

After many more pastries and coffees, we agreed on a set standard for weekly cookie payments. Essentially, I would show up once a week early in the morning to go over the progress and to claim my bounty of whatever I wished.

And for the next month, this is exactly how it went down. We would start our meetings with the freshest brewed espresso followed by a new pastry item. This was not a part of the payment, but more of a casual get together. The progress of the site would be discussed and new changes (if needed) were jotted down for the following week.

I would essentially spend 2 hours each Saturday morning in a bakery a block from my house eating handmade, organic, gluten-free cookies with the most delightful business owner, while discussing current events and websites.

One of the best perks of becoming a freelancer is the following. The network that you build on your journey and the portfolio that you slowly create throughout the years. I'm happy to say that this bakery has been thriving since they launched, still with the same handmade goods and the same "No wi-fi" sign on the wall.

The whole point of becoming a freelance web developer for me personally was to move away from the rigid structure that comes with corporate work. The meetings where you reiterate the same list of things that you did the day before and the hard deadlines that you have to meet in order to make your potentially higher paycheck.

I'll say this though, those cookies that I ate for that month were just as sweet as any paycheck that I have received in my career.

When starting your freelance career, be open to all kinds of business opportunities. Any one client that you work with more than likely knows somebody else that could use those exact same services. And so you expand your network exponentially with each and every client that you work with.

In closing...

Bartering is not my most common business strategy. I have a set rate that I charge normally and I break down my hourly rates with potential clients...usually. This was more of an opportunity to help somebody out in the community, while getting to know a new business model and eating cookies in between.

Just another perk of building your freelance life folks.

- Walt

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