I’m often asked about going freelance or setting up a company and I’ve come up with a few set tips that I recommend. I’ll get to that in a different post but I wanted to write about things that go through my mind or have happened when I ‘quit the day job’. There are many tutorials on how to freelance and pick up clients and the best ways of networking but there are factors beyond that.
As soon as you start to work for yourself you are completely responsible for your income. If you work for a company and have a bad month then try better next month. If you work for yourself, oh look! I can’t pay the electric bill. The lack of a stable salary is a massive thing on your mind and it always will be. Work comes in peaks and troughs usually and you’ll find you have two months with work coming out of your ears then nothing for a bit (this can be tied to seasonal budgets).
It’s easy to miss all those direct debits that come out of your account automatically and in the age of SaaS, $30 here $10 there can soon start adding up to quite a bit of money and it matters a lot more when you’re doing your monthly budget.
Money has never been my strong point so the first thing I did when I wanted to set up a company was call an accountant, luckily I was recommended Stuart, who over the past few years has put up with my sometimes stupid questions and made sure the company stays on the right side of the tax code.
(Just an aside on this point, Heather does the accounts for Hodgetastic, I don’t know if it’s because she wants to know the finances or she just doesn’t trust me not to try and claim gokarting on the company)
Discipline is hard. When you’ve no boss it’s easy to have the day off and go and catch an early showing of the latest film, but unless you’ve built an app or subscription service every second you’re not working is time you’re not earning. That’s not to say you have to work 24/7 but it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking an extra hour for lunch, then going to do some shopping and before you know it it’s 5pm and the day has gone.
Choosing what to work on at times is as much as an issue as not having any work. It’s far too easy to say yes to several things then realise you don’t have time to do them all. One of the things people joke about with me is that I’m always doing several things, partly that’s due to enjoying working on different projects, partly that’s about me trying to have backup plans in case a project fails. It’s also down to not having the confidence in myself to say no to work, and if you keep doing that, you’ll find yourself overloaded, stressed out and you’ll let people down.
Discipline also comes to other things like eating well and getting out to do things like exercise, this is something I constantly struggle with (and not just because I own a sweet shop!), when you’re coding or designing and ‘in the zone’ it’s easy to just warm something up in the microwave or nip out for KFC rather than spending time on something good for you, snacking for me is a massive issue. When I worked from home the first time I put a lot of weight on because I didn’t get out much and I’m still trying (not hard enough) to lose it.
When you’re working for yourself you soon realise the 9-5 rules don’t apply. At the moment my working day goes something like: -
10am – wake up
10am – 11:30 – check server and answer mails in bed
11:30-12:30 – get up, walk to town and have some breakfast
12:30- 15:00 – find somewhere in town to work
15:00 – 15:30 – walk home
15:00 – 19:00 – watch TV that Hether doesn’t like whilst coding and waiting for her to come home
19:00 – 21:00 – catch up with Heather, eat food
21:00 – 04:00 – work
It’s not the best schedule but it suits me at the moment. The downside of that schedule is that apart from Heather and a few people that serve me a drink in town, that’s not a lot of human interaction.
Family and Friends
I’ve spoken to friends in a similar situation and there is an element of loneliness in working for yourself, especially if you’re working on a different time pattern, I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been sending emails and waiting for people to come on GTalk to discuss something before I realised that it’s a Bank Holiday and they’re off work.
I might be working wrong but I don’t take Bank Holidays off. When I went on holiday, I took my laptop. To me owning your own company means it’s part of your life and unless you’re in a position with a great team that you trust and clients that are settled, or a product that is generating revenue, it’s hard to break away for two weeks unattached.
Relationships are hard at the best of times, a relationship with someone who is working for themselves or in a startup, wow. I’ve been working for myself for a while now (I think close to five years) and Heather has been with me every step of the way, she has supported everything I’ve done (apart from the odd eBay purchase or two & the whole setting up of a sweet shop). It can really take it’s toll when I come home miserable after a mad meeting or can’t come down to eat because the servers aren’t up.
Recently I wrote about the closure of emberads and wrote about some of my feelings there, but I didn’t write about how that affected me or the people around me. I put on a lot more weight and I started scratching (which I do when i’m stressed) which flared up my eczema ( some of you have noticed what looks like a burn on my right hand).
All this was affecting me but also affecting family. Since Christmas I stopped visiting family and basically stayed in the house because I knew things were falling apart and I didn’t feel great. When you start working for yourself, the first question your family will ask is “how’s the business going” and I didn’t want to face it with them.
As unsettling and difficult both financially and mentally as it is at times, I try my best not to have to get a ‘proper job’, Hodgetastic doesn’t pay me a lot but to me, freedom is worth so much more (at this time in my life).
I love the freedom it gives me to be able to say yes to things straight away, Last year I had the opportunity to go to both Berlin & Tennessee with a few days notice. I was able to say yes straight away without having to worry how many days holiday I had left this year, sure I took my laptop on the trips and did some work but I’m in Tennessee!
My grandparents are often ill and my mum will phone and say ‘Your nanna is in the hospital’, working for myself allows me to say to Heather ‘I’ve gotta go to skegness, when’s the next train?” rather than ‘I’ve got to call my Boss to see if I can’t come in tomorrow due to family stuff’, I might be working on the train to the Hospital but I have the freedom to say Yes.
When Heather and I took a summer holiday to Delft with some friends, we laughed and joked one night we should do a trip to Disney World, then the next week decided we actually SHOULD do a trip to Disney World. We booked it and it was magical, now we don’t have the money to go to Disney World whenever we want, but we had the freedom to say yes and work towards it.
So I guess this is another feelings post, no real point or ending, I didn’t write this post to scare people off working for themselves, I think it’s a wonderful thing to do and it gives you some wonderful opportunities but I think many of the posts and guides write with rose tinted glasses that it will all be fine as long as you work hard, working hard is great but that’s not the only factor.
I’ll write a post soon about what I’m working on at the moment, I’ve joined a new startup with some friends and I get to work with my wonderful fiance as well which is fantastic. Startups are always a risk, but with every opportunity I’ve taken, I’ve grown and learned.
If you enjoyed reading, let me know and I’ll write some more, if your only commenting about the grammar, I know, I’m working on it please don’t.