Sara Soueidan : Front-End Web Developer

sara-soueidan-05Name: Sara Soueidan

Age: 30

Job title: Front-End Web Developer

Time in current role: 3.5 years

Sara is a freelance Web Developer. Visit her website sarasoueidan.com and follow her on Twitter @SaraSoueidan

Why did you decide to go freelance?

After graduating from university I knew I’d have to find a job and do something for a living just like everyone else. Having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Sciences, I expected to work in the tech field. I did not, however, know I’d be working on the web in particular. I didn’t have a specific plan but I thought about what options I’d have if I were to work tech. Those options can be summarised to: working for and in a company or working with several companies independently as a freelancer.

I’ve always hated the idea of working a 9–5 shift, and using my skills to help different companies around the globe advance in my field of expertise sounded like the perfect career. Freelancing was the ideal way to do what I love without being bound by the time and place limitations of a regular company job.

In addition to independence, the ability to work remotely or ‘in place’ was possibly the biggest draw for me. I also run workshops and give talks and keynotes at conferences and events around the globe. Being a freelancer allows me to do all of this while maintaining a healthy balance between all aspects of the job.

What are the key functions of your role?

I join companies as well as agencies and work closely with their design teams to build front-end foundations for their websites and applications, either in the form of fully functional static pages or in the form of what is called a Pattern Library—which is a live collection of all components of a website/application that can then be assembled into different pages. I build these foundations using HTML5, SVG, CSS and JavaScript as my main technologies. I give feedback to the user experience design team whenever needed, ensuring that the pages we build are as accessible and usable for as many people as possible. Once my work is done, I hand it over to my client and their front-end developer(s) take it from there and maintain it for years to come, which means that my code also needs to be as readable and maintainable as possible.

Talk us through your typical working day

I don’t have a tight daily schedule or a specific routine. I usually work for a few hours a day depending on what time I wake up as well as whether or not I need to run and do some errands early in the morning.

That said, my ideal work day would start with me waking up about an hour before sunrise for the Fajr (early morning) prayer. I’d spend the first hour ‘charging’ for the rest of the day, then I’d grab a very early healthy breakfast – preferably a traditional Lebanese dish – grab some water and head to my desk.

I find that I’m at my most productive when I work between 6am and 10am because I get a lot done. This time is also my favourite because it usually means I don’t get interrupted by client calls, emails or even family members (since I work from home this can happen a lot). Scratching most tasks off my list by 10am leaves me with lots of time to do the remaining tasks throughout the rest of the day, all the while being able to take breaks (which are very necessary when you work long hours sitting in front of a glowing screen), read and answer emails, and stay active and connected on Twitter during the day. So the rest of the day is split between 50% work and 50% slacking off doing other things, which helps me feel refreshed.

I start slowing down after lunch and at around 5pm I consider my work hours closed. I exercise and then relax for the rest of the day. Sometimes I have a Skype call scheduled with a podcast between 6pm–7pm, which is the ideal time to chat about work without having any tasks that I need to finish.

Unless I feel like watching a movie at night I like to get some more work done ‘off the record’. This means it’s not official client time, and most of it is spent working on my own projects or reading and researching for what I’ll be doing the next day. I do this for an hour or two at night before I officially call it a day.

Regardless of how I organise my work hours I always make sure I get enough work done to meet project deadlines (I’m very strict about these!) with no (or as few) delays as possible.

Your favourite part of the job?

My favourite part is the flexibility – most importantly with time and the amount of activities that I get to do during the day without having to worry about a strict office schedule. My working hours and days are not fixed. I might work all weekend or take a Monday off, all depending on where in the project I’m at and how it’s progressing. Being able to work practically any time of the day at my own pace and in the comfort of my home office is invaluable.

And then comes the work diversity and my ability to choose the projects I want to work on.  Granted, it’s not always that simple or easy but I’ve had the chance to work with amazing people so far and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful.

…and the part you could do without?

I think the vast majority of freelancers would agree that financing is the least fun part of the job. The uncertainty can be stressful at times. You never know when you’ll get your next client and therefore the cash flow isn’t really consistent. And then comes work hours leaking into other areas of my life which can cause unwanted stress and interrupt my personal life.

How would your clients describe you in three words?

From previous testimonials: professional, open-minded and diligent.

Plans for the future? 

I’ve never really had any plans for the future. What I aspire to is to keep doing what I love, whatever that is at that phase of my life. I’m currently very happy doing what I do and hope to keep doing it for as long as I want and need, as well as finding more time for side projects. I also have some non-career-oriented goals that I hope will have a positive impact on my work life in general.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring freelancers?

When you enjoy your work it’s very easy to get so sucked in so that you end up neglecting other areas of your life. Make sure you find time for the things you love outside of your job. Travel if you can, find a hobby that’s completely unrelated to the kind of work you do. I’d also recommend that you be patient, don’t burn bridges with people and keep learning. It’s very easy to fall behind given the speed that everything, especially in the tech world, is advancing these days.

And last but certainly not least stay human, be empathetic and try to be a useful and contributing part of your community. LLY

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