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Well hello, my name is Tom O’Malley and I’ve been a freelance web designer for over 15 years. I live in Charleston, South Carolina with my wife, toddler, baby, and dog. I’m a lifelong side-hustler incapable of finding happiness in a day job. I may not be filthy rich, but I earn about $12,000 per month in extra income on my own terms—and I’m really excited to help YOU do the same!
I was a hard worker from an early age. At 14, I landed myself a minimum wage job washing dishes at a golf course and kept my hands in the suds for 3 years. I’ve never tried to get out of being employed—but always had a deep internal struggle with making someone else’s dream a reality. I needed more. Luckily, around this time, I got my first freelance web design gig for a (very) popular rock band. They paid me in t-shirts and stickers but, more importantly, I got my first taste of the side hustle life. Of course I had no clue how to make a website but that’s hardly significant.
I graduated from Syracuse University with a BFA in Transmedia Studies. It was a fancy title for the “video and computer art” tract that only confused potential employers. Nonetheless, I’m proud to have walked the stage as I was nowhere near smart enough to be there to begin with.
The first true passion of my adult life was film making. There was nothing I wanted more than to write and direct an independent movie that beats the insurmountable odds to turn heads in Hollywood and change the world as we know it. I actually had a short piece get some attention on the festival circuit—but my personal focus soon shifted to the business side of cinema.
Believe it or not, merely liking movies doesn’t pay the rent. So I got myself a job in the IT department of a prominent performing arts venue in New York City. This low-impact, entry level career choice afforded me the opportunity to build my very own film festival during nights, weekends, and lunch breaks. It was my first real side hustle and I was a man on a mission. I ran the annual event with my college roommate for 5 glorious, sleepless years—all while holding a full-time job. In fact, my role at work had evolved from fixing computers into maintaining the website and other digital marketing responsibilities. As my passion for movies eventually subsided (and my newfound interest in web development blossomed) I bowed out of the film industry on a high note.
Forget the dot com bubble. I knew all the opportunity in the world was online—and I wanted a piece of it. Over the years, I launched more than a few digital ventures, apps, and communities. None of which really took off… BUT I was honing my skill set and starting to get web design requests from contacts I made along the way. My path was clear; freelance web design.
I continued to work at the theater in Midtown Manhattan for 9 years while I grew my client portfolio in the background. Being employed by a non-profit organization is heartwarming and all, but the pay is laughable. I felt lucky to have a source of supplemental income. My coworkers had to make their paycheck work, but I had control over my financial outlook.
Fast forward to present day. I’ve been freelancing while holding a day job for well over a decade now. Sure, some of my peers have big deal Wall Street jobs with massive paychecks to match—but I get to keep my soul AND satisfy my creative sensibilities on my own terms.
Yes, it’s hard work. No, my professional life can’t be constrained to the hours of 9am-5pm. Oh, and far too many clients have my personal cell phone number. There are days this is too much (and days where it’s not enough) but I wouldn’t trade this freedom for anything.
My freelance business has grown substantially. Being let go from my job due to the pandemic slowdown certainly expedited my plan to make web design my full-time gig. I now run Vertical Fold; a one-man creative agency in a cozy little office space down the street from our house. I have countless lessons-learned to share with those who want to pursue supplemental income through freelancing—so, naturally, I started this blog and podcast called Making Money Making Websites. Join me or I’ll just be talking to myself like a crazy person…