I'm a developer in Melbourne, Australia, and co-founder of Hello Code.

Published Mon 06 October 2008

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My lance is free

It's been a while, folks.

Just over a month ago now I waved goodbye to my previous job; to steady pay, job security, and working with some close friends. I gave it up for the chance to do my own thing. I liked my job, but was becoming increasingly bored and disillusioned with the work. What had begun as a chance to develop new applications from the ground up, to really be involved in not only the implementation but the core ideas behind the app's functionality (which is something I really love to do) had devolved into a cycle of "Hear from existing client -> Make arbitrary changes for client, often hacking apart code into a steaming mess -> Release -> Repeat."

But I'm not here to criticise my previous job, which really did teach me a lot and let me make a lot of great software without being overly constrained. The main thing I am here to tell you is this: freelancing rocks*.

Good things

My lifestyle has changed completely. No longer do I have to be up and out of bed in time for the morning commute. My hours aren't constrained by normal business hours, either. I usually get up around 9am and by 10, I'm ready to go. Sometimes I work past dinner, sometimes I take the afternoon off early. If there's something else I want to do or somewhere I need to be, I'm there, no hassles. As long as I'm getting my work done, I can keep whatever hours I like.

I cannot overstate how wonderful this is. My stress levels are down considerably. I get to spend more time with my girlfriend, and I get outside more. I'm saving money on petrol, parking and food (I used to buy lunch every day). I read much more, and have more time (and more inclination, as I'm less tired at the end of the day) to work on my own projects. Basically: I'm in control now.

Also, I charge more than double what I was paid as an employee. If I can keep work consistent, I'll be earning more than double as well. If not, well, it means I only have to work every second month to maintain my previous lifestyle.

Not as good things

I'm certainly not an extrovert, so working from home, alone, day after day, hasn't bothered me in the slightest. It may eventually, but for now Twitter does an adequate job of keeping me company.

However, it does mean that I don't have people around to talk things through with, or to help me if I get stuck. You know those stupid, basic bugs you write when you're not really thinking, and try as you might you just can't see them in your code without walking away and coming back later? Yep, they're more of a pain when you've only got yourself to help. Thankfully that doesn't happen too often though.

Also, I quit my job having about two months worth of living expenses saved — and it wouldn't have worked if I hadn't, because I'm most definitely living off them. The change from fortnightly-pay-cycle to not-having-been-paid-for-my-invoice-yet was abrupt and a bit of a shock. I know that I have invoices due and I will be getting paid, but I'm reluctant to spend money as freely as I did as an employee until I can see that money.

Obviously the lack of job security is also a related issue — thankfully I've fallen into another contract after my first finishes, but I'm going to have to make a lot more effort now to maintain my income, as opposed to knowing there will always be work for me as an employee.

Still, none of these came as a surprise, and nor should they; that's just how it goes.

What's next?

It's still early days yet, and I'm happy to keep going as I am for a while: taking on small jobs that I can do on my own, working from home, and enjoying the change of scenery. However, the long term plan is to do a 37signals if I can — use the freelancing income to pay for development of some products, hire an employee or two, and grow the income from the products until it's the main revenue stream, and I have a healthy little business going. I have some product ideas that are aimed at businesses, and of a sensible scale, so I'll be trying to get them started as soon as I can. I'd rather run it more like a small business than a startup though (ie. making money from day one, no outside funding), but the end-goal aspirations are largely the same.

I'm always happy to hear from interested parties, by the way, because having a co-founder/business partner would definitely be beneficial.

Anyway, I hope to blog again much more frequently, so I'll let you all know how that turns out.

(* so far.)

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