Student Success Story with Shai Schechter

By Shai Schechter

Today’s student success spotlight is with Shai Schechter. It’s our hope that we’re able to share a different story each week of how a past student has been able to significantly grow their freelance business by applying the concepts they learned from Double Your Freelancing (check out last week’s with Mark Hayes). 

If you feel your story would be a good fit, share why. We’re looking for more features for April, so apply today!

Shai Schechter is a web designer and developer, who recently started his newest company, Surreal Tech, in 2013. Surreal is a web/mobile app consultancy. Shai started his first business in 2001. How cool is this:

“I started early, building my first app when I was four years old and my first website at seven.”

What got you into freelancing? Was it what you expected?

It was never a conscious decision! I started early, building my first app when I was four years old (long before they were known as apps) and my first website at seven. When I was 10 I was asked to make a site for a freelance sculptor – that was my first experience of freelancing.

They paid £50 (split with my brother who did the graphic design). I was thrilled – the effective hourly rate must have been pennies, but £50 was a lot of cash for a 10-year-old.

We carried it on as an agency over the next few years. My time was split between school, seeing friends, and building and selling websites. As I taught myself more and my skills improved, rates went up, but I was still just selling “websites” or “software.” It wasn’t until I was at uni that I really started to understand the value of what I could deliver. I started my latest consultancy, Surreal, with that value in mind.

What’s been most challenging thus far?

Back when I was a 10-year-old kid running a business, convincing people I was credible wasn’t the easiest! It got easier as I got older and started to build up a portfolio / get good testimonials. And it taught me a huge amount about how to market yourself and what you offer, which I now realise is at least as important as doing awesome work for clients.

Did you ever want to quit or give up?

Until now, freelancing/consulting was always a side gig so quitting was never something I had to consider – first it was on the side of secondary school (= middle+high school?), and most recently on the side of FOMO – an event app startup I’ve been running for the past year.

Now that the startup is growing, profitable, and I’m able to outsource some of that work, I’m looking to scale up the consulting to more than just a few weeks a year and balance the two more evenly. They each bring their own challenges. I keep learning things from FOMO that help with the consulting and vice versa, and I’m excited to see where I can grow each one to.

What were you struggling the most with when you ran into Double Your Freelancing Rate?

Over the years I had started to realise that what I was providing clients wasn’t just my time, or some lines of code, or even “a mobile app” – there was all this value being created. But it wasn’t until I came across Brennan (and others: Patrick McKenzie, Thomas Ptacek, …) that I was able to really articulate that – both to myself and to my clients.

And that was a big shift:

“I suddenly realised I had permission—a responsibility, even—to help steer the entire process towards a client’s goals, not just to build whatever app they hired me to build.”

What are some big successes you’ve had recently?

“My rate now is approaching double what it was a year ago thanks to the ideas in DYFR.”

And whereas before I was constantly worried I was overcharging (but really had no idea), I’m now that much more confident about it – I get to watch my clients recoup their investment and then profit from it in a matter of months, so I have no problem justifying the rate (to them, and to myself).

What are some specific strategies or tactics that helped you grow?


marioThis photo sums it up nicely, and Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk makes a similarly great point. No one pays drug dealers for drugs – they’re buying the high. A product is just the vehicle that “a better tomorrow” is delivered in.

Learn what it is a client really wants (hint: it’s never what they ask to buy) and sell that. Once you get good at it, selling becomes easier, what you deliver gets better, client’s ROI gets larger, clients get richer, you get richer. It’s not a zero-sum game – everyone wins.

What are you most excited about for your business in 2015?

I’ve just started DYFC (Double Your Freelancing Clients), to learn how to keep my calendar full/overflowing as I grow consulting to more than just a part-time gig. What I offer is all over the place – over the years I’ve been hired to create everything from apps for two of the world’s five biggest organisations, to local charity websites, to club nights!

I want to really focus on app development, across just one or two industries, and see where that can take me. I’m yet to hire any full-time employees, but it’s something I’m tempted to explore once I’ve really defined my offering and hopefully got a full pipeline of clients.

ShaiShai lives and breathes apps – from the quiz game he developed as a four-year-old, to highly profitable solutions for two of the largest organisations in the world. He is the founder of Surreal—a UK-based mobile/web consultancy, and FOMO—an app helping brides capture every moment of their wedding. He grew up in Cambridge, UK and has a first-class honours degree from the University of Manchester.

Photo Credit via User Onboard