Introduction

To most people, Tech jobs appear pretty obscure. Nadia, a back-end developer and freelancer on Malt since December 2019, sheds light on the subject in this interview. According to her, the key to success in carrying out a project lies in the transparency established from the first contact with a client. With this mindset, Nadia managed to reach “Super Malter” status in just one year. We met with her to find out more about her background and experience as a freelancer.

Nadia Boukchoud

Welcome Nadia, can you please tell us about yourself and your career? 

I’m Nadia and I’m a freelance backend developer. I have a pretty standard academic career for a developer: After my baccalaureate, I enrolled in a 5-year computer science program and spent the last couple of years of that degree in a work-study placement in the innovation subsidiary of the La Poste group. 

During my work-study years, I worked on a project centered around innovation: a banking solution for children aged 12 and under called Jaab. We got the opportunity to present Jaab at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and La Poste then gave us the financial backing to work full-time on the project for a year. This was an extremely enriching experience, however, unfortunately, we didn’t have the financial resources to continue developing the project after the first year. That’s why I left and embarked on my freelance journey. 

How did your registration on Malt go? 

An old colleague already on Malt’s marketplace suggested that I register. I quickly did so and then took the time to add as much detail as I could to my Malt profile, by describing my past experiences and adding keywords like #Nodje.js #Python and #Java. That way, potential clients would know what skills I had right away. 

Malt’s FAQs were also super helpful in the set-up process. They taught me how important it is to include recommendations from past clients and colleagues. These reviews really reassure potential clients, notably on the freelancer as a person and their soft-skills. 

What were the benefits of becoming a freelancer? 

Becoming a freelancer is simply the best thing that’s ever happened to me! I’ve had several permanent contract opportunities in my career, but I never felt that was what I needed. Becoming a freelancer has pushed me to constantly challenge myself and keep learning. I also love being able to work with different clients in a variety of sectors.

What were your worries about becoming a freelancer? 

Freelancing isn’t very common in France yet, so finding information can be complicated, especially on the administrative side, which I don’t like at all. 

Thankfully, Malt makes invoicing super simple. The VAT rate is already applied and when you send a quote, the order form is automatically generated. This saves freelancers a lot of time! 

The Malt Academy webinars are also really helpful. For example, this week I’m participating in a webinar dedicated to optimizing one’s income and taxation. And you can always watch the replay if you miss the live session.  

Your situation is a bit special since you have only worked on one project since you joined Malt, which is still ongoing. Can you tell us more about it?  

In February 2020, a month after I joined Malt, I received a project offer from the founder of Nostrum Care. He wanted to build a start-up in the insurance sector and asked me to help him with the back-end development. We both knew right away that we wanted to work together. He immediately trusted me with putting together the project’s team, which was a real bonus since I got to bring in people I was used to working with! David, who had been my partner during my time working on Jaab, was also a Malt back-end developer. So I sent his profile to the client and now we’ve been working together for a year on Nostrum Care’s project, which should go live at the end of February.

How has the project unfolded? 

Since the beginning of the project, I’ve been working full-time for Nostrum Care. The team worked in their offices before COVID-19 and now we have to work from home. To try and re-create a team atmosphere, we got new equipment including extra screens and more desk space. To be honest, I don’t think we could match this level of equipment if we were to go back to working in the office today!

Have you set up specific tools to work remotely? 

Since the beginning of the project we put several tools in place to ensure we had good communication with the client. I believe communication and transparency are key to a successful remote project.

Every day, we have what we call ‘dailys’ – mini meetings where we go over what we did the day before, what is planned for today and what we are going to do tomorrow. After this ‘daily’, we email our client with a rundown of the meeting. That way, they know exactly what we’re working on. 

We work in “sprint” mode for 10 consecutive days. We focus on one project per period, like the optimization of a specific feature for example. At the end of each sprint, we present our results to the client and wait for them to give us feedback and approve (or not) our work.  

We also set up a Trello account: it’s a task organization tool that allows teams to prioritize and assign tasks to team members. This way, our client is constantly aware of how we work within the team and can also easily pass on information to others involved in the project, like investors. 

This organization is crucial not only to move the project forward, but also to maintain trust with the client. 

What tips can you give a developer starting out as a freelancer? 

In these jobs, and specifically for backend developers, the client can’t really concretely see the result of our work. That’s why it’s all the more important to be transparent. This applies to simple things too, like explaining each team member’s role. 

Another very important thing to keep in mind is to explain things in the simplest way possible! The client isn’t supposed to know everything about a backend developer’s job and jargon (if they did, they wouldn’t need freelancers…). So it’s necessary to be as clear as possible. Start by breaking down complex words into sentences!