We sat down with Paul just after he took home the Inspire Award at our glitzy ceremony held on National Freelancers Day. Paul’s business, The Code Guy, solves problems and develops business software in creative and innovative ways.
Paul, thanks for chatting with us. First things first: When and why were you first motivated to take up freelancing?
“When I was working as a salaried software developer, I felt frustrated. I would wait six months for planned work to pass through a ‘discussion cycle’, to finally get scheduled in, and only take 30 minutes for me to then develop. So while still an employee, I began building small websites on the side for charities I supported. By doing so, I gradually developed a very small network and client base – and a taste for freelancing. There are no limits other than the limits you set yourself in self-employment, which meant I had the power to go as far and as fast as I liked.”
So how did you go about setting up?
“I originally contacted other designers, teaming with and picking up work from them to get myself going. I then decided to go to breakfast networking events, where businesses all end up in a room for a chat. I found that business began to pick up fairly quickly after that.”
How did you pitch your business at these events?
“I realised that if I was just myself, people listened to what I had to say. I felt that if I put a suit on, it’s actually harder to sell. People buy the person behind the suit.”
Where did the name of your first business, Intelligent Penguin, come from?
“Well, when I was younger I was known as ‘penguin Paul’ due to a bright blue fleece I would wear covered in penguins. Suffice to say, the name stuck.”
How did your business grow from there?
“In 2011 Intelligent Penguin became Incorporated. A lot of work was now coming through and I needed the support, so I began providing work experience to students at a local secondary school. One of the students became my first official employee, an apprentice, working as a Junior Web Developer. With my first employee in place and settled, the business flourished, allowing me to build a whole team.”
So with your team in place, what sort of projects did you work on?
“Over the next year Intelligent Penguin took up its most exciting projects – the managing of the Essex Carnival 8 Day Weekend and the designing of an auto-enrolment pension system for small businesses, Nurture Pensions, to only name two. In the winter of 2014, three of Intelligent Penguin’s top clients paused their contracts for six months. Sadly, this ripped a massive hole in the businesses cash flow. And despite attempts to rescue it, Intelligent Penguin was liquidated.”
How did you react to the fall on your business?
“It really felt that the rug had been pulled out from underneath me. Yet I had to accept that we all did our best to recover what we had. I realised I then had to go back to my basics. Software development. I had learnt a lot from Intelligent Penguin. So I knew continuing as a freelancer was the only way to get back on my feet.” Using the knowledge and experience he gained from his previous business, Paul devised a sixmonth recovery plan. His new business, The Code Guy, is dedicated to what he’s good at: software developing. Paul runs The Code Guy from the shed in his garden, producing cutting edge software and rapid prototyping for new ideas while working with a broad range of high-profile clients.
How are you finding this new beginning?
“Every day is different; I enjoy the flexibility to react to a quickly changing landscape which I find to be the most rewarding way to be in business. Most importantly, it creates a work/life balance that is simply not possible in many other careers and allows me the freedom to spend time with my family, especially my two young children.”
Since setting up your new business, it seems like you haven’t looked back, and are now more successful than ever. Do you agree?
“I am certainly more relaxed than ever before. I am in a much better place, and yes, the best position of my career so far. As a result, I’m earning over five times what I use to when I worked as a salaried developer.”
So how do you plan on spending your winnings?
“I’ll use my winnings to reinvest back into my own business. Develop new products. I want to make a difference, develop a business that will help where help is needed.” Paul’s story is inspirational. The 32-year-old shows that with skill and strength of character you can go from rock bottom to rising to the very top if you believe in yourself and believe in your skills. A true phoenix freelancer and worthy winner.