Calling & Career Q & A: Freelance Web Developer & Business Coach

Categories: Calling & Career Q & A

Curtis McHale completed four years of studies at Columbia Bible College, majoring in Counselling. Today, he runs a successful web design & business coaching company (curtismchale.ca) How did he get from there to here? And what’s his advice for starting down a similar path?

Tell us about your current vocation. What does it involve? What do you do in a typical work week?

I split my time in a typical work week between two different businesses. On one side I build eCommerce and Membership websites for businesses. There I focus on helping them build a business that’s easy to run from a technical perspective and allows them to engage with their members.

The goal is to help them build a business they want so that they can do the rest of life well.

The ‘other’ side of my business is very similar. I coach people in their businesses. I help them get their time under control, do their marketing right, figure out their rates, and do it all while still getting to be an awesome parent.

So…I help them build an awesome business and still live life outside of that business.

Monday’s I’ll read and then review a book and work on a web client. Tuesday’s I’ll read and then work on whatever big content project (like a book) I have on the go at the time. I spend Tuesday afternoon in calls. Wednesday and Thursday I read then write and finish up the day with some client work. Friday is all about coaching and finally dealing with email because I can’t do much else between coaching calls.

What  additional education or training did you pursue after Columbia?

After Columbia I taught myself web development. I just read and read and read stuff online then tried to do things and when it broke, worked to figure out why and how I could fix it.

Much of my early web career involved producing training content as well. I wasn’t amazing or anything, but I was a step ahead of others so I wrote about it. That writing forced me to move the concept from something I sort of understood into something that I could teach and eventually led to me teaching programming at BCIT for a few years.

How did you find your way into your current role?

Curiosity mostly. Coming out of the Columbia Counseling program, I realized I didn’t want to do traditional counselling. It just wasn’t for me. I was super interested in programming so I taught myself and then got a few jobs with other companies to work on their website.

Then as my business became successful other freelancers wanted to pick my brain and I realized that I did love helping people. That brought me back around to coaching, which uses so many of the skills I learned at Columbia.

How does your job connect with your sense of calling/purpose?

My purpose is to help people live the life they wanted, and build a business that lets them do it.

Every client I work with, I’m looking for the deeper purpose in their work. I built an online store for an automotive shop. Their whole purpose is to do good work and build the cycling community in their town. I can get behind the community aspect there and having a great site that works and lets them sell their products helps their community. I know they’ve sponsored some Olympic hopeful cyclists over the years.

I got to have a part in that.

What are some ways your time at Columbia has equipped you for what you’re doing now?

Like I said, I spend much of my time now coaching people in their business. I wouldn’t be as well equipped for that as I am without my schooling from Columbia. I wouldn’t know how to read the research papers I read on business without my work at Columbia.

What’s the best part of your job? What are the biggest challenges?

The best part of my job is watching others succeed. I’ve always taught something (rock climbing, kayaking…) and I’ve always loved watching someone I helped make some sort of breakthrough.

Recently I was able to help someone reposition their business and turn it from something that was struggling into a business that brings in a healthy income. That lets him be with his family more and not have the stress of bills hanging over his head.

That’s the best part of my job.

The biggest challenge is measuring the Gain not the Gap. That’s the idea that you’re not measuring yourself against your goal in the future, or someone else, but how far you’ve come.

There will always be people further ahead than you and measuring against their perfectly curated life is a recipe for depression.

What advice do you have for our students who are considering becoming web designers/entrepreneurs?

You need to be a learner. You need to dig into not only your craft, code or design or writing, but into what it takes to run a business well. You’re in the business of sales, because if you’re not selling yourself no one is.