Two Tales of Software Freelancing Freedom
Witted was founded to create the best work life for developers. This is a story about exactly that. This is about two people making a change in their careers – and not only careers, but also their lives.
What warms our hearts here is the fact that Witted was able not only to provide them their dream projects, but also to help them take the leap to a new life as independent software consultants. Now, their work at Spotify brings joy to millions every day.
A Family Man Finds Freedom in Freelancing
João Stange hails originally from Brazil. After 30 years of growing up, studying, and working in the same Brazilian city, it was time for a change. He moved to Finland in 2016. Change was definitely something that he got.
His mobile developer skills were in high demand, so not long after moving in, he was employed by an international hardware company to develop a mobile app. Doing well in one job led to another. He got an offer for a job in a consultancy company, where he worked for 3.5 years. Then two life-changing events happened.
João became a father in 2020. All priorities changed right then and there. Another life-changing event was much more down-to-earth. He realized how much his work was worth to the consultancy’s clients. He was doing fine but didn’t get to save a lot of money – even less now, having brought new life into this world. That becomes even more important as one is responsible for the whole family.
It was time to level up. He wanted independence – independence financially and in terms of how to work.
A Little Help from Witted Friends
Enter Witted. João had heard about Witted helping people become software freelancers and finding them very appealing projects. He was in contact, and soon enough he was introduced to Spotify in cooperation with Witted’s Swedish partner Tingent.
The interviews went well and Spotify wanted João. This went both ways: João also wanted Spotify’s interesting mobile development project. A perfect match! It was time to jump ship. Salaried worker life was over and it was time to become an independent contractor. Spotify was an impressive client to start João’s freelance life.
“One of the questions I asked them in the interview was how nice it is to say that you’re working for Spotify. Both interviewers smiled. They said that it gives them a lot of pride. Folks are impressed to learn you’re with them.”
The team is led from Stockholm and the rest of the team is all over Europe – Sweden, Spain, Croatia, UK - and of course João in Espoo, Finland. A wide range of different locations and backgrounds.
“I’ve gone to the headquarters only once for a company event – and even then it wasn’t required, I did it voluntarily to spend a week there meeting the team members and other folks at Spotify.”
One of the best things about working as an independent contractor at Spotify is that you are treated just like an employee, which might sound like a paradox.
“I have the regular one-on-ones and get invited to all the meetings, just like any other employee. That makes me feel safe. I’ve got all the Spotify credentials and email addresses – everything that Spotify employees have.”
Saving up for Freedom
Freelancing life has its great perks. One of the big ones is getting paid according to the value you create for the client. João’s skills in mobile development are in great demand and it shows.
“When I was an employee, I could pay for my living, but I wasn’t able to save much. I wouldn’t be able to live with my investments eventually. Now, when working as a freelancer, I can save up to 70% of my salary.”
There are many misconceptions about entrepreneurship. Many people were telling João that he’d be drowning in bureaucracy and bookkeeping. That is far from the truth.
“I spend only one hour per month on bookkeeping, paying bills, and other company things. I don’t think it complicates my life at all. I repeat what I did last month in bookkeeping and that’s it. It becomes easier all the time.”
“If somebody’s thinking about income, you definitely should become an independent contractor. If you really want to think about what you’re doing in 10 to 20 years, you should go for it.”
Freedom is not about money only. When you are your own boss, you get to set your own terms. If you want to work from Lapland or another country, anything goes as long as the client is OK with that. And in João’s case, they have always been. If you keep on delivering and work the same hours, why would anyone object to that?
João is playing the long game. He’s aiming to take another leap in the future, as soon as he’s set financially. For him, freedom is more than just not getting told what to do. Freedom is opportunities, enabled by his skills and future financial independence.
“I couldn’t just live my life without doing anything. I see myself in 5 years developing my own product. I would have a couple of years without pressure to make money off it. In 10 or 15 years I could already give the CEO position to someone else and just be a member of the board.“
From 80s BASIC Experiments to a Spotify Consultant
Teemu Pöntelin got his first computer in the mid-80s. Even as a kid programming was thrilling. He was typing in the MSX BASIC programs that were printed in Finnish computer magazines and ran them. That seemed borderline magical.
"Back then, it was fascinating that you could write some code and then the computer does something cool that you have told it to do.”
Fast forward 35 years. Teemu is still writing code. He has upgraded MSX BASIC to React and TypeScript and instead of showing off the programs just to his parents, he develops software that enriches millions of people’s lives. How did he get here?
All’s Good - Now Let’s Level up!
A couple of years back he was working at an IT consultancy in Turku, Finland. Everything was fine. Yet, a perfect storm hit, and many little things nudged him out of the salaried life to consider a life as an independent contractor.
The pandemic hit and the world went haywire. Remote work became the new normal. He realized that he wouldn’t be confined to the clients in the nearby area only. The IT market was, despite Covid-19, very hot. Coming from an entrepreneurial family, he had always had sympathy for the entrepreneur life. All these factors made him consider taking the leap.
The last push toward the new life was when he heard about Witted’s services for software freelancers. As a Witted freelancer, you don’t need to spend your time doing sales as Witted gets you the projects. Being an entrepreneur who makes absolutely no cold calls ever sounded pretty darn good for Teemu. This is it. Now or never.
The Birth of a Company: Teemu from Turku Ltd
Teemu contacted Witted and things started rolling. Anssi Ketopaikka from Witted helped him with starting his own company. Just like dozens before Teemu, Anssi guided him through the best practices and practicalities in founding a business. The scary bureaucracy wasn’t that spooky anymore, nor was it hard. It was all smooth sailing. Turun Teemu Oy, also known as Teemu from Turku Ltd was founded.
Teemu got access to Witted Hub and browsed available projects. There was an interesting-looking project for an exceptionally interesting-looking unnamed company that was providing streaming entertainment globally for millions. Remote work for this project was OK, so no need to commute from Turku. He applied for the project. The company was revealed to be Spotify, in co-operation with Witted’s Swedish partner Tingent, and the project looked exceptionally satisfying professionally.
The interviews with Witted and Spotify went well. He was offered the project. Decision time. This was the sign. It was time to resign from salaried work and go all-in on freelancing. He took the shot. And now, six months in, he’s happier than ever.
The New Life: Just Like the Old One, Only Better
On the surface, the contractor life for Teemu isn’t that much different from the old life. He’s part of the Spotify team and is treated just like one of them. The most notable differences are that he’s got his freedom, being his own boss and he’s got a big perk of being an independent contractor: getting paid vastly better than a salaried employee.
“The creative and fun atmosphere at Spotify is the best. We work as a team and have fun as a team, stay together every day after the daily meeting and play something online. Lots of humor flying around in Slack. The vibe is very non-corporate-like.”
This is where Teemu and his one-person company are now. Seems quite nice, doesn’t it? But how about the future?
“I don’t intend to make my company a big consulting company that employs a lot of people. This is my thing. At some point I might want to create a mobile app or game on the side, but that’s not the main idea - I want to get the company financially stable and then utilize the freedom of being a freelancer, maybe going for a 4-day work week or taking longer vacations. But the most important thing is that you get to dictate your direction. It’s all about freedom.”
This Could Be Your Story
These were the stories of two developers who transcended the limitations of salaried work and country borders and got the dream projects at a stellar client and the freedom and income that they deserve. Now that remote and hybrid work have become commonplace, the world is open for a skilled developer. When companies look for the best talent, they often don’t (and absolutely shouldn’t) limit themselves to their immediate surrounding area. Both João and Teemu work remotely from Finland. A great opportunity is great, whether it is in your zip code or not. An awesome software developer is in great demand, no matter where they live.