Daniele Besana is the founder of WP-OK. Claudiaexpat met him in Jakarta and learnt about his fascinating life and work experience. Daniele proves that it is possible to combine your job and travelling. Thank you Daniele!
There are many things I’d like to ask you, but let’s first give our readers a general idea of who you are…what is your professional background and when and how did you move to beautiful Amsterdam?
I have always worked in IT, specifically in customer service. Customers have changed a lot throughout my career. I started out in Buffetti stationery (Italian stationary chain, ndt), installing modems and antivirus for artisans and small enterprises in Brianza (Northern Italy, ndt). Later, I specialized in IT safety and networks. I started working in Milan with major clients all over Italy. After a few years, and out of curiosity, I decided to “experience abroad” in order to improve my English. In 2006 I actually posted my cv in English on Monster and LinkedIn. Almost immediately, I was called by a recruiter who offered me a job in Amsterdam for Juniper Networks in customers’ support in Europe and the Middle East. The network security field is highly specialized. Knowledge and experience count for much more than titles and degrees – I have actually never spent a single day at university. At 26 I arrived in Amsterdam to try out the experience, which has led me to live abroad steadily.
Do you remember how you felt when you arrived in Amsterdam? The biggest challenges, fears, if you had any? What did you like from the very beginning?
The last months in Italy and the first in Amsterdam were intense but beautiful. I had to say good-bye and prepare for my departure.
I spent the first few days in Amsterdam with my eldest brother Sergio. I was full of enthusiasm. And why not? Moving with a job made it a very easy start. I was fortunate to have a temporary home when I arrived and this made a huge difference as apartments in Amsterdam are scarce and require a year of rental contract from the very beginning.
The biggest challenge for me was the language. No, I don’t mean Dutch, I mean English! I thought I was ready. I had done the courses, watched the movies and read technical manuals and blogs in English. But once in Amsterdam, the reality of actually speaking the language hit me hard. It was a combination of things. The mother-tongue accent was different and so too were references to popular culture. It was difficult for me to understand the lack of words available in the English language to express the nuances of meaning in a sentence. It took me at least six months before I felt at ease with the language. I remember well when I discovered that Bud Spencer and Terence Hill are only known in the south of Europe. Speaking English well had been my main stumbling block and I suggest to those who want to have an experience abroad, good preparation is essential. However, I immediately fell in love with the international atmosphere in Amsterdam, the balance between work and personal life, and the use of bicycles that really changes the relationship with the city.
How I do understand you! Being able to properly communicate in a common language with those around us is essential to feeling at ease in a new place… 11 years have gone by since you arrived in Amsterdam, and you have started a new professional path, leaving your steady job behind to create something of your own. Would you like to tell us what WP-OK is, how the idea was born, how you managed to shift from a full-time dependent job to being an independent entrepreneur, and how everything is going?
I have been working on my own for five and a half years, wow! It seems like I started yesterday. I am a victim of the book 4-hour workweek by Tim Ferriss. When I read it, the idea of working and traveling, being independent and free really resonated with me. As a result, I started exploring online marketing. The web offers loads of possibilities to work remotely. I started buying up functioning websites. Few people know about this, but there is a buy and sell market for websites. At first it was difficult, mainly because I did not have the least idea of what I was doing. After several months I became independent. I began to travel a lot, which was a wonderful experience.
However Amsterdam is an expensive city so I also started as a consultant on WordPress. I knew that professionally this was like plucking the lowest fruit on the tree since I have always worked in the technical support field. At that point I understood that during the 12 years I spent as employee, nothing had changed in the outside world. Freelancers, small entrepreneurs and firms are not duly supported. I heard so many stories of webmasters who disappear, abandoned websites, e-mails that go unanswered for weeks, monstrous delays for small modifications…I soon understood the world doesn’t need yet another WordPress consultant. What is needed is a professional service which is fast and affordable with great support, even for those who don’t have big budgets. This is why I created WP-OK; setting up a team of experts that are always available for those who use a web based business.
That was in 2015 and little by little things have grown even though we’ve experienced one challenge after another.
We now have a hundred clients on four continents. We are now a “liquid” enterprise with no office and each one of us works remotely, which in the end, is the kind of freedom I wanted for myself.
What an amazing thing!!! I have been using WP-OK for a while now, and I can confirm the professional and trustful service you provide. You are a perfect example that it is possible to live independently, while working online remotely. What are the essential ingredients to create such a business?
Thanks a lot Claudia!
Nice question, I can think of three:
- Competence: professionals were once chosen from a narrow circle of friends or acquaintances. Online you are compared to professionals all over the world. I am sure mediocrity has a short life. Nowadays, clients can chose amongst the best of services and reviews are the new word of mouth.
- Discipline: if it is important when working independently, it becomes super important when working from home and uber important when one travels. Every day there are distractions, so keep focused on the right priorities.
- Passion: I started out by doing many things just to earn money but I understood this is not the right approach. Money is the consequence when something is done with passion and giving value. I also believe that with all the ups and downs, false departures and obstacles, without passion I would have given up a long time ago.
I often read questions like: “I want to travel, what kind of work can be done online to provide for myself?”, but this is not how it works. You must first find a passion and competency to create a profession, and then you can think about travelling. If not, start saving and take a sabbatical!
If you keep on answering with such interesting insights, the interview will never end! I want to ask you one last thing: how has your life changed since you launched WP-OK? And what do you see in your future?
Changes after WP-OK were gradual. It is only now, after more than two years, that I can see many differences.
I was already gaining online before WP-OK but with projects I had no passion for. I bought websites on the “do-it-yourself” market, job boards with job announcements, nice stuff but that I didn’t know much about. I just saw some opportunities there, that’s all.
On the contrary WP-OK is like MY child, it’s a project that was born to last and to grow with me. At the beginning, I did everything myself. I remember once in Ngapali, Myanmar, I bent over backwards to restore a damaged website in between power cuts – total stress!
Now I have a team which has changed the way I work and communicate. And, I finally have more time for marketing and to develop new ideas!
Let’s just say I am moving from being a technician to an entrepreneur…yes, my life has changed a lot.
Looking at the future; it’s time to make WP-OK grow and to reach more and more people with our services. People who like me and you, have web projects and do not want technical headaches! Possibly while keeping a good life-work balance, as I learned from the beloved Dutch…
All the best Daniele, and thank you for the time you gave us. Long live WP-OK!
Interview by Claudia Landini (Claudiaexpat)
Photo credit @Daniele Besana and Hanny Kusumawati