Graduated August 2015

Hear from Thinkful alum Cynthia Kellogg.

Being involved in an early-stage startup inspiried Cynthia to learn how to code. Now, she's a freelance developer, building elegant websites for her clients.

What made you decide to become a web developer?

The short answer is I wanted to learn a highly marketable skill. The longer version is a compilation of several different things. I was a non-technical founder of a web app and once I shut it down I had a heck of a time translating that experience into a marketable skill. You can do it once you've attained a level of success but if you don't become successful it's super tough to market your skills. The second part of that is the entire time I was the non-technical founder of an internet startup my non-techie friends were constantly asking me to build them a website and help them with their technical needs. I was literally leaving money on the table. The 3rd part is that the success of my startup was reliant on two developers, a backend and a frontend developer. While they are extremely talented and I don't regret that experience, it took way too long to get an actual MVP and I spend way too long on a project I shouldn't have. I didn't understand what they were doing and so I didn't have the knowledge to make great decisions. My goal in learning to code was to learn how to build an MVP so I could build fast and fail fast - essentially test the waters before going all in and make good money.

Why did you pick Thinkful? How did you reach your goals as a student?

I chose Thinkful for a few reasons, the mentorship aspect and because it was an online program. I'm a people person, so talking through things is essential to my learning style. Also, I had to be making money, the on-line learning was my only option as I had to go to a job. My goal was to get paid for helping non-techies get tech that would grow/support their businesses. And that's what I do!

What do you build for your freelance clients?

I build a bunch of different things as a freelancer. One project I'm working on is integrating a hiring platform with a company's website and making it look like the company's brand. I work with an ecommerce/retail company and we recently built a custom customer survey app so they could start collecting data on the in store experience. I also build websites for small businesses or if they have an old site will help redo it so it's working for them. Because of my previous experience as a non-technical founder of a consumer based web-app I have this unique skill set of understanding products, how people interact online with products, what technology can accomplish different goals, and then on top of it I code.

A lot of readers are curious about the freelance/self-employment route. Would you recommend it? Do you have any advice for a future freelancer?

Yes, I really like the self-employment route because it gives me a ton of freedom with my schedule. The idea of having to be somewhere from 9-5 five days a week puts a knot in my stomach. I work a ton on Sunday's and in the evenings. But freelancing also has it's challenges and it's not for everyone. My advice is to keep doing what you're doing and add on free-lance gigs on top if it. Don't quit your normal job until you have enough freelance gigs lined up for 4-6 months and then you have to put away 20-30% of everything you make for taxes.

When you're not committed to any single company, it can be tough to know which technologies to specialize in. What do you focus on and why?

Focus on what you like and find yourself spending most of your time learning and playing around with. I find that most non-techies are just scared of tech. I find that even if a client wants some work done I can't do myself or don't have an answer to, I know HOW to find an answer/solution and HOW to hire someone who can do the job.

What's your favorite part about building technical solutions for non-techies?

I really like seeing people succeed when they start their own business. When I surround myself with people who are working on businesses they are really passionate about, I get really inspired. So it's super fun to help them take their business to another level and set them up with technology that supports their goals.

Cynthia Kellogg

Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA

Freelance Developer, Self-Employed

Mentored by Derek Fogge

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