Making the Pivot from Pastor to Web Designer with Chris Misterek (S7E1)

Updated on | Sign up for learn to code tips

Chris MisterekChris Misterek needed another way to earn extra cash. With a full-time job as a worship pastor and as a single dad to three girls, Chris Misterek couldn’t afford to take any job that required him to be away from home. So with zero experience in other fields, what was he supposed to do?

Based on a friend’s recommendation, he started looking into web design, took courses, and even started building websites for his friends’ businesses or blogs. Within just 18 months, Chris doubled his previous full-time salary with his technical side gig, and he eventually found his way to a job at Showit, a family-oriented tech company.

In this episode, Chris talks about his transition from being a pastor to a web designer, time management strategies, the importance of having a variety of skills, and how he maximized jobs as an Upwork freelancer before joining a tech company full-time.

This episode was transcribed by an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos or errors.

Laurence Bradford 0:00
Hey, welcome to a new episode and a new season of the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I'm your host, Laurence Bradford. In today's episode, I talk with someone who transitioned from being a pastor to being a web designer. All of that is coming up after a quick word from this episode's partners. Interview Cake is an online resource that helps you prep for interviews so you can land your dream job in tech. To find out more and get 20% off go to Again, the URL is

Laurence Bradford 0:50
And we're back in today's episode I talk with Chris Misterek. Chris is the founder of Self-Made Web Designer, where he helps people go from knowing nothing about development or design to having a thriving freelance side hustle, or even a full time career. I'm so excited to have Chris on as a guest because I absolutely love his story. He transitioned from being a pastor to being a full time web designer. And while he was doing this, he was also a single dad raising three girls. Now he works full time at a tech company and helps others find success in the realm of web design. And that is exactly what we're going to be talking about today. His decision to start web design, how he went from having a side hustle, mostly run on Upwork to then transitioning into a full time career. And now today how he helps others who want to do the same. Enjoy the interview.

Hey, Chris, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Chris Misterek 1:58
Hey, Laurence. Thank you so much for having me. I'm honored to be a guest.

Laurence Bradford 2:02
Yeah, I'm really excited to talk to you. We've been chatting for months now. And I think I've been saying, once I come back with a new podcast season, like I'm having you on, you're gonna probably be the first person that I have on because I love your story. And I'm always looking to include like, new stories on the podcast and new transformation stories. And I've definitely never interviewed someone with a story quite like yours. So I'm so excited to talk about it today. I guess just to get things going. Could you just share how you first got into web design?

Chris Misterek 2:35
Yeah, absolutely. Well, it starts off kind of sad. About six years ago, my wife of 10 years decided she was done with our relationship. And so I really quickly became a single dad of three little girls. And so when when she left showed it over half of my income, and so I kind of had to quickly figured out a way how to earn some extra money to be able to provide for me and for my kiddos. But there are a few things that like we're kind of putting boundaries on what I could or couldn't do. So obviously the the most obvious one was that I had three kids that I couldn't just go get another job at like a storefront or a place that required me to be in the office. And the other one was that I really had no intention of leaving what was my full time job at the time, which I was, you know, I say I was the equivalent of a musician, but I was a full time worship pastor at a church here in Phoenix.

And so out of the suggestion of a friend I just started looking into into web design and check out Code Academy. And did you know free HTML and CSS course and almost instantly, like just fell in love with it? And so from that, I started building websites for whoever would let me you know, so friends who had a business or decided that they wanted to have a personal blog or whatever, I'd be like At let me build your website. And that just kind of kept going. And so in about two years, I had doubled the income of my full time job at the church with doing freelance web design in in my spare time. And so did that for about four or five years.

And just about a year ago, year and a half ago, now I decided, like, Hey, I actually feel like it might be time to just pivot careers altogether. So as a 36 year old, which is, you know, like the equivalent of a dinosaur in the tech world, I started looking for different jobs out there. So, you know, looking for web design, looking for UX design, looking for front end development, anything that I could find also kind of considering doing freelance full time on my own, but found a company that I just fell in love with, and decided, like, Hey, this is the perfect fit for me. It's four miles away from my house, like really family oriented tech company. And so it just made the most sense and so I've been there for a year and a half now. So and it's it's been just an incredible, incredible journey, lots of ups and downs, but happy, happy to be where I am. And honestly, your podcasts I've been listening to, from when I started, you know. So resources like this are a huge reason why I'm here today.

Laurence Bradford 5:18
Well, thank you very much for saying that. That means a lot as far as listening to the show and having it be a resource that you turn to in your own tech career transition. So just for like logistics, I want to hear like kind of the timeline, like how many years ago did you first get into web design? When did you go from that being like a side thing to your full time job? Could you just give like a quick outline? I just want to like envision that in my head.

Chris Misterek 5:45
Sure. Sure. Yeah. So I started dabbling. You know, we started taking online courses about six years ago, and so did that for probably the equivalent of like a full semester. So I took some Code Academy courses and then A community college that's close to me had an online course for, you know, front end development stuff. So did that for about six months after that is when I just started building for friends.

And so would really take whatever they would give me, you know, so I think the first website I built was for, like $100 gift card to Amazon or something, you know. And so I did that didn't really start seeing any uptick until about another six months into just building websites, had had a ton of friends who are gracious, but couldn't necessarily pay really well, which I was totally fine with knowing, hey, I'm just learning and so you're gonna be my guinea pig in the midst of this, so I'm happy if you don't pay me a time.

But then after that I started getting it's just started to kind of snowball and people saw the quality of the work that I did. People started giving me referrals, I jumped onto a platform called Upwork, which was a huge part of my journey. So I did that for another four years of you know, 18 to 20 hours a week. Just doing freelance web development, web design UX design, whatever I could find. And then right about four years into it was when I decided like Okay, I'm ready to go start looking for a full time job in the tech space. And so, yeah, so I did that. And honestly, it only took about a month, month and a half worth of applying until I found a good fit. And so like, you know, I've been doing that ever since.

Laurence Bradford 7:26
Okay, thank you so much for sharing that. So for most of your like, web design career so far, you've been doing it on the side and you were working full time as a worship leader. And again, doing web design on the side. When did you How long ago did you get your first full time job?

Chris Misterek 7:46
is about a year and maybe three or four months show my work anniversaries like and you can tell I'm still new to the job because I remember my work anniversary, I think February 15. So like a day after Valentine's Right, or maybe that is Valentine's Day. I'm not good with dates. But yeah, so so you know, just a little over a year now a year and a half ish.

Laurence Bradford 8:08
Yeah. Well, awesome. Congratulations. And I would like there's two more things I want to get into. I definitely want to talk about up work and the role that played. I think the like, the first thing I want to ask is, how were you able to balance your full time job, your web design side business side projects, and then correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you were a single dad at that time to three daughters, right.

Chris Misterek 8:34
Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Yeah. So I had a lot of a lot of irons in the fire. And it is difficult but But what I found was that I was honestly wasting more time than I then I realized I was in in a sea. I didn't have all these things kind of a part of my workweek. And so I think that's true for a lot of a lot of people and there's some there's some I you No, it's like some adage where it's like you are more proficient with your time, the more things you have on your plate, and I'm sure a lot of people are probably experiencing that. You know, when we're recording this, we're right in the middle of the Coronavirus.

And so you kind of think, well, I've got all this time. And so I'm just gonna, I'm gonna do awesome things I'm gonna, you know, work out 20 hours a week and I'm gonna start a new project and I'm gonna build this new thing and I mean, I you know, renovate my house, but then you find like, oh, man, I've just been watching Netflix for eight hours a day. So I'm, I actually find that I work better when I'm when I've got a little bit of tension in my schedule. But there's some practical things like I keep a really detailed calendar, I make sure that I'm in really tight seasons actually tracking my time. So I use an app called toggle. Where I make sure like, okay, I'm guessing this thing is going to take me three or four hours to do so let's really track that and see so that I can guess like, when another client says how long is it going to take you to finish that? I have some really good data and evidence on how to do that.

So, you know, but there was the practical thing of now I had my kids half of the week, so I didn't have them full time, me and my ex wife shared custody. And so you know, there were days that I didn't have my girls that were just a, you know, 1415 hour work day for me. And then when I had them, it was significantly less, it was six to eight hours of a workday. So you can do it, you just have to be creative. And you have to be intentional about your time. And I think a lot of people get hung up with this idea that unless you know, I only you have a four hour workday, I'm not going to be able to figure out how to get into the tech space. And maybe for some people, that's true, but I think for the majority of people that I've talked to you and for myself personally, like it's doable, no matter how crazy your schedule is.

Laurence Bradford 10:47
Yeah, and you mentioned that before about like the less time you have, the more proficient you are with managing it. And I definitely have heard other people say that especially in regards to like having children running business. And how they almost become more strategic and like where they spend that time how they manage it. And in some ways can get even more done with which sounds almost counterintuitive. But I guess there's another saying that says like a task or project will take the time you a lot for it.

So if you will a lot, five weeks to do it, it'll take five weeks or a few a lot. 10 weeks, it's going to take 10 weeks. So it's kind of like, yes, setting deadlines for yourself and all of that. And I love how you said that you would track your time using toggle that makes a ton of sense. And it would really give you a good idea of how much different tasks are taking you and to again, help manage your time better. But I want to kind of switch gears a tiny bit and talk about your decision to go from doing web design part time or on the side to doing it full time because I've I'm trying to think in my head but I don't think I've ever met anyone or interviewed anyone who was working in like a faith related…there's probably like an industry term for that, like a faith-based profession or whatever, who went from that into tech. I actually do know someone who did the reverse, who was in tech and then went back to school for ministerial studies. But I haven't heard someone quite like you. So I want to know, like, how you made that decision? And what went into that?

Chris Misterek 12:22
Yeah, for sure. You know, it wasn't easy because I, I had been at my job at the church for 13 years when I decided like, Okay, I think I think this might be the direction that I'm moving in. So it was it was a multi tiered decision. And I think anybody who goes through a career change, no matter where they're coming from, or going to, there's so many things that you have to consider. And part of it was I was working full time for the church and then you know, still another 20 hours on top of my my work for the church. So You know, in the work for the church was at least 50 hours a week. And so I was pulling 70 to 80 hours a week, depending on the activity that we were doing. And so part of it was like, okay, like this is this is this is coming to be too much. And so I need to figure out a way to kind of scale back a little bit and have some more free time for myself. And, you know, it wasn't that I was taking more time away from my family, it was more that it was taking more time away from me being able to sleep, you know, because my girls would go to sleep, my family would go to sleep and then I'd stay up until two or three in the morning just trying to get things done.

So you know, there was that aspect of things and I think that goes back to having the time to do things you know, like I think you can only run at your top pace for so long before you go Okay, something needs to change or I'm on a on a short train to burnout So, so there was that and you know, I don't want to sound too overly spiritual or anything but my my understanding of who God is and how he operates within the world is that he's not confined to a church. And so my thought was i'm not i'm not necessarily leaving the ministry but just that ministry is going to be looking a little bit differently for me and and had a huge heart and passion to see what how God could use me in the tech space in the tech world. And and so it's it's been pretty awesome to connect with people who are of the same faith but even people who have heard my story and have been encouraged and know that, you know, God is still using that despite the fact that it's not overtly from a church or from a Christian organization.

So it's it's been pretty fun and and it's still like I'm a year and a half in so I'm still like figuring it out, you know, because I have thought patterns and like beliefs and stuff that I've been building up for 13 years. And so the transition, it's not like I turned the switch on and my whole thought process and mindset changed you know, like it's a gradual process and and I think that's true for anybody who's, who's trying to make a transition. Even if you haven't been in a job for a short as long period of time as I was, you know, like, I've had to be patient with myself, I've had to have people speak into it have some people to bounce ideas off of like, I know you and I have bounced ideas off of one another as to like, what does this look like for you? And how do you experience this and but at the end of the day, like, I love the idea that you can have like, a big impact.

No matter what space you work in, the impact that you have on the world is not dictated by the job that you do. But it's by how you do that job, and how you look at it, how you approach it. And so, if I were saying like, Oh, this isn't as significant of a job as my last one, then I think I'd miss out on a lot of opportunities that I've had, just because, you know, that's such a bad way to look at, you know, the work that you do in life.

Laurence Bradford 15:58
Yeah, that is like thing you said, I just made a note of it actually, that was such a good quotable about, like, it's not what industry you're in. It's like what you bring to your profession. And I'm definitely gonna go back and listen to that and probably have it be like, somewhere in the show notes because that is a really good way I think to look at things. And I know folks have asked me this question about when I left my full time job to do Learn to Code With Me full time and just like, in general, like knowing when it's time to make the leap. More or less how much time like months years was it when you were like, Okay, I'm definitely going to leave my current full time job and try to find a new one to actually like leaving, if that makes sense. Yeah.

Chris Misterek 16:40
Yeah, for sure. Well, you know, honestly, my intention with learning web designer development was was never to leave my full time job. And so I actually stayed for a long time doing everything as a side hustle. And so it was probably Gosh, I want to say about four months. Before I actually made the decision to leave to actually do it, and it kind of snuck up on me, it wasn't like I was completely miserable. It wasn't like, this is such a horrible situation that I'm in it was just like, you know, there's something in my heart that was just like, I've, I feel like something's turning in my desires. And I'm looking at life and and I wish that I could say there was like a turning point.

But there never was there never was like, you know, it went from dark to light. And all of a sudden, I knew, like angels began to sing and all of a sudden, the heavens opened up and God pointed his finger down, like it was, it was nothing like that. It was more of, you know, let me see. Let me see if I can do this. And so I put some resumes out there and decided like, okay, you know, if something happens then then it happens. If not, then I'm okay. Like, it's not like I'm suffering horribly, you know, like, I certainly would love to have more time but it's not like I can't figure out how to manage my time a little bit better or maybe raise my rates. take fewer jobs or whatever. And so it really looks like just taking taking little bitty steps and seeing if my foot landed on solid ground. And with every step it did, and so I just kept stepping. And then all of a sudden I found myself where I was and and I've talked to a lot of people too, who are kind of questioning what's, what's my next step to go full time or to make a career transition. And my advice is always to test the waters before you make a leap.

And, and I know that I know of people who just made the leap. In fact, I interviewed somebody on my podcast who did that very thing. He was like, I can't stand my job anymore. I've got it. I'm either gonna go broke, or I'm gonna figure this out doing this full time. And and thankfully, it worked for him. But it wasn't until 11 months into him doing this thing that he actually even began to make money. So if you can do that right, then that's great, but I had three kids And then at the time I've been recently married so two years in had a baby boy on the way when I decided to make the transition as well so I couldn't just jump in feet first and hope it all worked out and so I had to take little bitty steps here and there and see kind of my skill level rise to the point where I knew I probably be hireable so my income level keep rising as far as my side hustle to say like, Okay, if I don't get a full time job, like I can still quit and do freelance full time and we're going to be okay, so those were all kind of that I guess, mile markers or benchmarks for me to know like, alright, I think it's time.

Laurence Bradford 19:35
And you were applying to jobs while you were still working full time, right? Like it wasn't like there was a big gap between your like old full time job to your new one where you are now, right?

Chris Misterek 19:46
Exactly. I was I was still doing freelance on the side still had a family, still working full time and applying for jobs. So it was a tough season there was you know, adding another 10 to 15 hours of work of just applying and interviewing and all that kind of stuff, too.

Laurence Bradford 20:01
Yeah, yeah. And you mentioned this, but I think just for the listeners, so they so they, they can fully understand you. You ended up getting remarried?

Chris Misterek 20:09
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, two years ago, and it was a little bit in like February 3, so maybe like 12 days on the anniversary of when I was hired full time at a tech company. So it all kind of lines up together.

Chris Misterek 20:23
Yeah. So and then and now you have another child. So I know we mentioned earlier that you are a single dad to three daughters. And now you have a son as well. So for right, yeah, apparently, I'm very fertile. And so

Chris Misterek 20:34
I just keep popping out kids. And now but this will be his. So I had three girls, and then this is a boy. And so this will this will be our last one. So we're super excited.

Laurence Bradford 20:45
And they're, they're all under the age of eight or 10.

Chris Misterek 20:49
Well, my oldest is about to turn 12. Oh, yeah. Yeah. So it's 12 nine, seven, and then almost five months now. So okay. Yeah, but it's fun. It's a party. It's craziness in my house and at the time that we're recording this, we're in the, you know, COVID-19 crazy. So everybody's here going to school literally just outside this door. So yeah, it's a madhouse, but it's fun.

Laurence Bradford 21:15
Yeah, yeah, I know. I've been. You've been posting about that on Instagram and you have some other really like, great articles. I think you've been writing about managing working from home and Coronavirus and all this, you know, stuff going on, which hopefully by the time you know, well, I'm actually by the time this is out, this will also be going on, I think, but there are a lot of people who come back and listen to the interview well into the future. So for someone listening to this, you know, in 2022 hopefully, the Coronavirus isn't such a heavy presence on our day to day lives, but I guess time will tell right.

Chris Misterek 21:51
Yeah, absolutely. Well, and I mean, you know, I think the things that we can learn from this season will carry on into the future and I think one of the main Things that I'm working on an article right now to talk about how the Coronavirus will change the way the landscapes look for our jobs and how we consider being employed. And I think a lot more people are going to realize you can't just bank on having one skill to carry you through your whole career, like you're going to have to have multiple careers, or multiple types of skills to earn money from and so that's why I love your course on having a tech side hustle to teach people how to get going and to figure out how to have some other streams of revenue so that when your main one drops out, because if something crazy like this, you're not left going, Okay, how am I going to provide for my family?

Laurence Bradford 22:41
Yes, 100% and I'm going to get into more questions, but we're going to have a quick break from our episode sponsor, and we'll be back in a second.

Laurence Bradford 22:51
One of my all time favorite resources for techies is Interview Cake, a tool that helps you practice technical interview questions so you can land your first or next job in tech. When you join Interview Cake, you get over 50 hours of technical interview practice questions. The questions cover a range of different languages including Java, Python, and Ruby. You get hints to help you through the process and walkthroughs of the answers you don't understand. Interview Cake has helped people land jobs at Google, Amazon, Apple and other top companies.

What's more, the guys at Interview Cake are so confident that they'll be able to help you that if you don't get the job you go for they'll give you your money back. You either get a life changing job or a complete refund. There's seriously nothing to lose. And I've managed to get 20% off the price for learn to code me podcast listeners via my affiliate link. Just go to and the discount will be automatically applied. Again, the URL is

Laurence Bradford 23:50
And we're back with Chris. Hey, Chris. So we were just chatting about like Coronavirus, the impact on work. And you left us with this really interesting thought about how it's going to shape everyone's career and how we should have more than one usable skill. I'm really excited to read that article. Hopefully by the time this podcast episode airs that will be out, we can include it in the show notes because that sounds like something that is really could be extremely helpful for people.

Chris Misterek 24:38
Yeah, I've been I've been pitching it to some major news publications and nobody's taking it up yet. So if you're hearing this, and it hasn't been published, now, just kidding. Yeah, I'll hopefully write it. But when you look back at the history of the workforce, you see some pretty major transitions over time, you know, you see in 2008 how People decided like, Alright, I'm gonna go after certain different careers. And so you had this big transition of the workforce into things like nursing into medicine and before that, like if you go all the way back to like Enron, you saw people go, you know what, you can't stay at the same company for 30 years like you've got to figure out ways like maybe stay five years and then move on.

And so I think this is going to be another one I think we're gonna see a lot of people go you know what I need to have a variation of skills and not be so pigeon holed into one type of thing that I can do so that if something like this happens, I'm not going to be so worried about my my future. You know, I liken it to how the Great Depression taught us how to diversify what we're investing in with stocks, but the Coronavirus is going to teach us how to diversify what we're investing in with our skills. And so I'm I'm actually really curious and about what the workforce is going to look like in the next five to 10. Yours as a result of all this,

Laurence Bradford 26:01
yeah 100% and I know that I feel like there's a book or someone has said this before and I just can't think of who it is maybe afterwards out, I'll look it up and we'll add it to the episode show notes but really, you know, I think there's like some saying, but having seven sources of income Am I wrong? like seven is that Yeah,

Chris Misterek 26:20
no, I've I've heard that too. I've heard that as well. Yeah,

Laurence Bradford 26:24
yeah. And I think that could include things so people aren't going to have like a heart attack listening to this that could include things like income from like investments in the market or even I think like if you have like your home when you rent out part of it to someone or something like that any basically any way to make money doesn't have to be an actual like job or side hustle or something per se. But yeah, I feel like just with my business and my life for many years, I mean, really probably my whole like career. I've always had multiple sources of income maybe because I'm kind of like a DD and I'm always sort of jumping around but I definitely feel really grateful right now given the current situation. That I have these multiple things because for like a real life example, as many people probably reading or maybe seeing in the news, like ad spending is really dropping.

So a lot of companies are cutting their ad budgets or not. They're really spending anything on advertising. And one of the ways that I make money is through sponsorships, which is like ads, right? So like sponsorships in the podcast, email, blog, whatever. So if I'm seeing like, companies less inclined to do that, I'm really happy that that isn't like my, the sole way that learn to code makes money and that there's other like streams of income that have been less affected by the Coronavirus. So, okay, I'm like totally sidetracked. Talking about that. But this actually does kind of relate to next question I want to ask you and that has to do with your income when you were working on the side in Upwork. I want you to talk about Upwork because I get so many questions about Upwork all the time from people writing in or commenting on a blog post or something is about work a good option like what about tips for beginners? Honestly, this could probably be like a whole article or blog post or podcast interview in itself. But can you talk about how you got started on Upwork? pros and cons, just you know, very loosely. And yeah, your experience using it.

Chris Misterek 28:16
Yeah, absolutely. To start off on, I'm a huge Upwork fan. And so I know that there are a lot of people out there who would try to give up work a bad name, but that's just not been my experience. And in fact, I've interviewed on my my podcast, multiple people who have made multiple six figures on Upwork with just doing it work on the side, like I just interviewed a guy this last week. His name's Josh Burns. He's made around $500,000 in the last three years, and this is his side gig. So he only works 20 hours a week on freelance and has made $500,000 over the last three years. And there's another gal named Morgan Overholt, who is a graphic designer. She's made $300,000 on Upwork. So it is a great source for a lot of good projects, if you know how to approach it. S

o my story is, once I had like, asked everybody that I knew personally to build a website, and they either said yes, and the majority of those who said no, I had to figure out another way to find people to put projects in my pipeline and have a consistent amount of work to be able to, you know, have income from my family. And so, so that's when I started looking into Upwork. It was called oDesk. At the time, it was right around the time that made the transition between those two companies oDesk and Elance. Are came together and made up work. So I made my profile, I went crazy, just applying to anything that I could find. And sure enough, I got nothing for the first three months. And so but I just kept at it kept applying and then lo and behold, finally, somebody reached out to me and wanted to hire me for a really small project. And from that it just The momentum of getting good feedback after good feedback after good feedback and now to today, I don't have to go looking for jobs, you know, clients will go on there, they'll post a project they see my profile and they just invite me to do the project for them. And so it's the kind of thing that even though I'm not as active as a freelancer right now, it's still something that is consistently bringing me projects and so my encouragement if if you're considering Upwork or maybe you had a bad experience with it is to give it another shot. And don't give up so quickly. You know, it literally it literally took me six months to see any type of like significant movement from having, you know, maybe one or two jobs here to having multiple jobs coming in on a consistent basis. And so, you know, it can't say enough good things about it.

Laurence Bradford 30:50
So you said it took like three months to get your first project and then momentum started building up. I'm wondering today because you you do work full time now. actually have to quit Questions was the work that you're doing in the beginning the same that you're still doing today or more recently. And then I also want to ask, does Upwork still play like a part in your life today? Just because I know you have your own blog and podcast now. And you have a course a full time job.

Chris Misterek 31:15
Yeah, yeah. So the first part of that of how my work has transitioned, in the very beginning, I was really kind of a person that would just fill in the gaps for people who are wanting to build websites. So they'd have a website idea, they'd give me all the details. And then I would work out those details within WordPress, you know, using some plug in or, you know, sometimes coding it myself. And so, really kind of quickly found, like, if I'm going to make more money as a web designer, like I have to do more than just know how to build the things that people are asking me. I need to I need to figure out okay, how can I take someone's website to go from making them no money or very little money to scale it up to be a good source of income for them.

And so that's really what I found that that clients are looking for when it comes to their website, you know, because there are so many great web builders out there. And I work for a company called show at which we have a great website builder, that's drag and drop, it's really easy to do. So if you've got the time, like you're gonna be able to figure it out. And so, and I've kind of seen that trend kind of happen since it was already happening when I first started, but it has happened even more so that if all you're knowing how to do is do some front end work and be able to build websites, like you're gonna have a hard time as a freelancer, you've got to figure out how to tie in what you do with how somebody is going to make more money or going to increase their business or going to gain more notoriety or exposure or whatever.

I liken it to the idea of when somebody buys a drill, it's not because they're wanting a drill, you know, like, nobody would wake up one day and say, Man, I'd really love to have a nice drill right like they're one The drill to put a hole in the wall, and then you go a little bit further and they don't want just a hole in the wall, they want to be able to hang a picture because of that hole. And then you go a little bit further and you're like, they don't just want pictures on their house, they want to be able to look at memories, and be inspired and think about how good times were remember the family at a certain season. Like, that's the real thing that I've learned, I've had to come to get to know, as a freelancer in order to stand out from all the other people who are on Upwork that could do what I do for a fraction of the price. Right.

And so, you know, that that's been pivotal. And so I look at myself as more of an online consultant, you know, so I tell people, like, I'm not just about making you pretty websites, even though I can, but I'm about making sure that you increase your conversion on your website or you're making more money from the products that you're selling, or you're getting more traffic to your store. It's it's much more than just the basic let me build you a website. So you know and that's it. Have them mentality shift. That's not necessarily like I was, I could have been doing that from the get go. But it was knowing like, Okay, this is what clients are looking for this is what clients really need to be successful with their website. And here's how I take what I know how to do and get to them that point. And the other question of is Upwork still a huge part of my life.

And it is, it's not so much as much as it was because, you know, my full time job is taken up a good amount of the income that I need needed to make from when I was doing it as a side hustle before, but I just recently started a blog and a podcast to kind of help people figure out how to do what I've done. And it's called Self-Made Web Designer. And so I've been doing a lot of my time with that. And so I still get a lot of interviews on Upwork. But I only take a handful of projects and the rest I will either give to people that I'm mentoring or friends who have the capacity to do it.

Laurence Bradford 34:54
Gotcha. And another thing that I know about you is that you were able to double your income in 18 months. And I was wondering, what kind of tips could you offer to people who want to do similar? And I'm assuming when you did that that was using Upwork. Right?

Chris Misterek 35:12
Yeah, yeah, the majority of it was Upwork. And, you know, as a mixture I without really knowing, like kind of set my site up my personal website really good for local SEO. And so I'm still getting like, I just got a call today from somebody who said, I just googled web designers in my area, and you were the first one that popped up. Like, I am not a Google SEO kind of person. But for some reason, I guess I did the right types of things with putting my address and listing cities within different parts of my website that it's done a good job with that. So a little mix of like people find me on the internet and Upwork and then also referrals as well. But oh, shoot, I forgot the original question.

Laurence Bradford 35:53
I was asking you just about how you doubled your income, right?

Chris Misterek 35:57
Yeah. Doubling my income. No, I started out really low because I was just learning. And I think a lot of people, like even I know people who have been doing web design or web development or programming or whatever, for a long time, and they still go into the freelance world. And they're kind of discouraged because they have to start out lower than what they would make hourly, at their full time job as a side hustler. But my encouragement is, don't be discouraged by that, like, everybody starts out that way. So what I did was, I think I started at like, $20 an hour. And with every project that I would get it, if anybody would ask me to help them in the middle of me working on that project, I would double my rate, you know, so my thought was, I've got this project right now I'm going to get paid from this. So if I double my rate, and they say, no, I've lost nothing, like I still have money coming in. But if I double my rate, and they say yes, like that's, that's a huge win.

And so, you know, from 20 to 40, and then 40 to 80, you know, and just kept on going up until I finally came to a place where one I think comfortable and to clients started saying no more than they said, Yes. So that's a key factor of figuring out pricing and figuring out how to go up on what you're charging clients is if if you start getting the majority of the feedback from somebody who's interested in you is no, then you know, you've kind of reached your plateau at this season, right? You don't have to stay there. But at this season, like that's, that's kind of the supply demand where that meets in the middle.

And so just recently, actually, when I decided like to start Self-Made Web Designer, I ended up going back and going, Okay, I don't want to be working a ton on, I'm going to double my project price and double my hourly rate again, and crazy thing that happened was my day went up exponentially from doing that, you know, so I think I went from like 75 to $80 to $150 an hour. And people just kept asking me to help and so you know, I think freelancers probably struggle more with asking for less than what people would be willing to pay. And so my encouragement is let the market determine what you're worth. And you do that by taking a chance and going up in price and seeing if somebody responds with a yes. And then you just keep going until the doors start shutting, and you know, you've reached it.

Laurence Bradford 38:22
Yeah, thinking about what you just said, with like, putting your price kind of like, in your mind ridiculously high, like just doubling it from 75 or something an hour and then getting even more interest to work with you. I feel like when you have a higher price point like that, and again, I think like with web design development, like people are used to seeing those numbers, I think it probably depends on what you're doing exactly on a site like Upwork. But I imagine like, as a client, they would see Oh, like Chris has this really high rate. He also has a ton of reviews and he has a lot of stars, like at this point, because you've been on Upwork for a while, you know, he's done a bunch of projects. He's charging that much and must be because he's really great and he's always great reviews right? So it almost is like a sign of social proof or something or like like you're really in demand and that's why you're charging that much and other people are paying you that much and like they gotta get in. It's kind of like a psychological thing.

Chris Misterek 39:16
Absolutely, there's a psychology to it. And, and I, I'm always tentative to say this because I never want to advocate like just raising your prices, despite not having a lot to offer because it's gonna make you look better and make more money. You won't make it long as a freelancer or with a side hustle. If that is your mentality. If your mentality is I'm going to raise my price and just gouge people as much as I can. Like, people will figure out eventually you're not going to get good feedback. You're not going to get referrals like it just won't last.

But if you look at it, as you know, my my heart is to is to serve people. I want to be worth way more than When I'm charging people, you know, so I like to try to associate what I'm charging with what I know I can help someone make and and you do that by tracking the success of your old clients, you know, so looking at whatever it is like conversion rate within their website before they asked you to be a part of their projects like tracking and going, Okay, the conversion rate went up by 3% and that's the equivalent of $100,000 over the course of a year. And so if I charge somebody $10,000 for a website, I'm only asking for 10% of what I know I can help someone make on their website and to me that's, that's very justifiable. So you've got to be careful you you want to make sure that you're not undervaluing yourself, but I'm sure there's, you know, the fringe person out there who's thinking oh, cool, I know how to rip people off, you know, so as long as you are making sure that you're putting your clients first and coming at it from your I'm not selling you something, but I'm serving you something you can't go to And you will literally always be in demand and you'll be able to increase your prices on a consistent basis as well.

Laurence Bradford 41:07
Yeah, for sure. So I just looked at the clock and we're actually running out of time this conversation totally flew by. But there is another like question or two that I want to want to ask you before we wrap this up. So now, you've mentioned this already, and I've mentioned it as well in the start of the episode, but you're helping people do what you did through your own website through your own blog. Could you talk a little bit about why you started that how that's been going? And yeah, just like that journey?

Chris Misterek 41:39
Yeah, for sure. It actually all started with some college students at my full time job. We were at our company retreat sitting inside a hot tub, and I just started asking them about what their plans were with their life. And this one particular guy named Josh was just like, I'd love to start something on my own and I'd love to have something I can build and Like, and he's a computer science major.

And so I just I just looked at him and said, Man, you have you have more skills now than I did when I first started as a freelance web designer. So So what is holding you back? And his response was, well, I'm just I'm afraid, you know, I'm worried I'm not going to be I don't know how to do something, I'm not going to be able to find clients or I'm going to make a mistake. And I was like, man, like, I've been through all of those things. Like, let me help you walk through that journey. And so I started helping them. I got him like one of his first projects, but he's gone on to, you know, go on Upwork. And he's making almost as much as I do an hour like he's making $120 an hour. And so, out of that, I thought, Man, maybe there's some other people who are probably like Josh, who need just a little bit of help. And it's not like I, you know, held his hand the entire way. I just, every week would sit down and ask him how he was doing and if he had any questions, and we'd kind of go back and forth between things. So so that's really where Self-Made Web Designer came from. Like, I just thought like, I'd love to be able to help more. And more people because my heart like I'm not trying to build some big agency or take over the world of web design, like I would love to build a legacy before I build a huge business.

And so you know, that's where Self-Made Web Designer came from. So I started the blog last September. And I launched a free starter kit course all the things that I did when I first got started as a web designer from you know, finding mentors and finding people, a community of people to help encourage me to learning design to learning development to figuring out how to find freelance clients like it's it's a it's a, it's a four video course that I just walked through the entire process. And I think we're close to 1000 people have been through that course now. And then this past March, just launched the Self-Made Web Designer podcast and you were gracious enough to be one of my first guests on there. So super thankful to have you but but yeah, it's it's been fantastic and enjoying the journey and Just really learned that like, I'd much rather try to help people then, you know, figure out how to make, you know, millions and millions of dollars.

Laurence Bradford 44:09
Yeah, well, that's awesome. And I appreciate like everything you're putting out on the site. And I follow you on Instagram and see some of your awesome, like, new articles that you're putting out in really interesting topics. We spoke earlier about some of the ones you're working on that relate to Coronavirus and working at home. So thank you for putting out that awesome content. The final question I want to ask though, is just any final advice like high level thoughts that you want to give to listeners who are in a similar situation? More or less that you were in like six years ago and who are thinking of transitioning into web designer developer or development?

Chris Misterek 44:47
Yeah, for sure. And I'm sure like right now, as we record this, there are probably a lot of people who are just really feeling the sting of the Coronavirus. And so my encouragement is to not only Allow one season of your life to dictate how your entire life looks like. And the biggest tragedy that could happen to you could could turn out to be the biggest catalyst to set you up for a season that you never thought possible. Like, I never thought I would be here talking to you on this podcast like not in a million years would I have thought I'm gonna have a great job at a tech company helping other people figure out how to do the same thing that I have show tragedy. It's either the interview or it's an opportunity for the beginning of you. And it all depends on how you look at it and how you go after it.

And this is something I say on my podcast every single time because it was so true for me. It's if you don't quit you when you know it, there's there's no necessarily finish line to get to right because it's not like I reached the goal of building a $10,000 website and I've reached it right like it's all about staying in it. Not giving up and figuring out To enjoy the process how to enjoy the learning how to enjoy being told no, you know, like taking that as feedback rather than rejection and figuring out like, okay, told me no, I didn't get this job and I was really looking forward to it. And so what am I going to learn from this? Am I going to grow as a person? So that next time it's not a no, it's a yes. So if you don't, you win.

Laurence Bradford 46:24
I love that and honestly, that's something I like remind myself of constantly I have to like every single day and even though I'm not where I was, like seven years ago, when I first started the site, I'm dealing with different problems or different struggles, but I have to always remind myself like, if I get a note from one person, there's a better yes waiting for me like that wasn't meant to be like that, then that's okay. And just like pushing through and yeah, like nose or rejection or just hard times as a learning opportunity and like a launching off point. Not something to Just give up altogether.

Anyhow, with that thought, thank you so much, Chris, again, for coming on the show. It was such a pleasure to speak with you. And this is my first video interview. So I just want to thank you again for being the first person to come on with this new setup and this new style of the podcast, which is something you know, we're talking about doing new things, right, doing new things with this. Where can people find you online?

Chris Misterek 47:24
Yeah, so you can go to the website or if you search for that in any podcast platform, you'll be able to find it there as well. Self-Made Web Designer.

Laurence Bradford 47:35
Perfect. Thank you so much.

Chris Misterek 47:37
Thank you so much for having me on.

Laurence Bradford 47:42
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Chris. If you're interested in learning about him and his journey, you can find the show notes for his page over on the website. And you can find that at While you're there. You can also find other previous interviews with guests that I hope can help you in your tech career transition. And if you like tech related resources like this podcast, make sure to sign up for my email list. You can do that over on the homepage of the website, When you sign up for my email list, you're going to get helpful information and resources about learning to code for beginners. Thank you so much for tuning in, and I'll see you next time.

Key Takeaways:

  • You don’t have to make the jump right away. Look at your current situation and decide which steps you could take short-term without upending your life.
  • Learn to develop a variety of skills, and not just on the technical side. For example, Chris wasn’t just building websites. He was helping clients increase their income.
  • If you’re a beginner just getting started on Upwork, Chris offers practical tips to find success on the platform. If you’re looking for more tips, we recommend this episode with Kyle Prinsloo on marketing yourself online.
  • You are more efficient with your time when you have more things on your plate. Be intentional and utilize time tracking tools like Toggl.
  • If you’re wondering how to price your services, let the market determine what you’re worth, take your chances, and go up in price until you notice clients start shutting their doors.
  • The biggest disasters in life could turn out to be the greatest catalyst to set you up for success. Terrible circumstances should not define your entire life.

Links and mentions from the episode:

Where to listen to the podcast

You can listen to the Learn to Code With Me podcast on the following platforms:

  1. iTunes
  2. Overcast
  3. Stitcher
  4. Spotify
  5. YouTube (new for Season 7!)

If you have a few extra minutes, please rate and review the show in iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful when it comes to the ranking of the show. I would really, really appreciate it!

Special thanks to our partners

Disclosure: I’m a proud affiliate for some of the resources mentioned in this article. If you buy a product through my links on this page, I may get a small commission for referring you. Thanks!

Interview Cake is hands-down one of the best coding interview preparation courses out there! Interview Cake comes with 50+ hours of practice questions and readings that don’t just give you the answer, but teach you the right way of thinking about the question. Build the skills to derive the right answers yourself and explain your reasoning. Learn To Code With Me listeners get 20% off here: 20% off Interview Cake

Interview Cake

“Every interview I’ve gone through since I started studying your problem set has included a variation of the questions on Interview Cake! There was one problem that wasn’t on here, but I was able to solve it because of the themes you taught. Today I am accepting an offer at a startup in SF!” – Ulises