Pockets of Blue

musings of my mind

Category: Freelancing

Freelancing: One Year In

Well, technically it hasn’t quite been a year yet, but close enough for me to provide some perspective on my new career freedom.  I guess I quit my job at the end of June 2010, so I’ve been going at it for over eleven months now.  A few thoughts:

  • Holy God I’ve done a lot of traveling.  Several weeklong trips over the summer, dozens of weekend trips, an extended holiday trip: I’ve been all over the place.  Sometime around the end of last year I started realizing how much I’ve been getting around, and started collecting stats (this is for all of 2010):
    1. Overnight trips (at least one night away from home): 21
    2. Days away from home: 82 (divide that by 365, and I’m gone 22% of the time!)
    3. Nights sleeping in a tent: 36 (almost 10% of the time, which is kind of ridiculous as I’m a homeowner)

    And I was only freelancing for half of that year. This year has been pretty much the same, and this summer is shaping up to be the most epic yet — more on this later!

  • I’ve only had a handful of projects, but can already tell that I’m making leaps in my development ability, especially in Javascript.  I can bang out snazzy user interfaces in no time at all, much to my clients’ delight.  The short project timelines (typically less than a month) mean I’m regularly shipping code and building my portfolio.
  • I’m basically working for two companies right now, thanks to one friend who basically single-handedly launched my freelance career.  Thank you, Corey, you are amazing, and I’m so grateful our paths crossed not so many months ago.  Both are a joy to work with, are super laid back, and employ exceptionally talented and good-natured people (I swear I’m not trying to be a kiss-ass, though it’s probably coming out that way…)
  • There’s not a better time to be a freelance developer here in Salt Lake, especially in the advertising industry.  Even if freelancing isn’t your cup of tea, if you’re a halfway decent programmer, make sure you like where you’re at, because you have tons of options.  Just count the billboards advertising for programmers on I-15; it’s laughable.
  • One thing I run into from time to time is the feeling of being expendable (which, let’s face it, is often a reality).  Companies need to keep their employees busy before they can contract stuff out, which sometimes leave the less desirable projects for freelancers.  This might improve with a better relationship with each client (where they learn your strengths and weaknesses and can cater to them), and it may just be the nature of the job.

In short, though, so far so good!  I’ve got a jam-packed summer ahead of me, and I’m trying to save a bunch of money for my trip to Europe this fall while still packing in a few trips.

You’re doing <i>what</i>?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve met and caught up with a lot of people. Invariably, the topic of my quitting my job comes up, and it’s been interesting comparing people’s reactions. They fall into a few categories:

  • Fear/uncertainty. By far the most common response. I’ve heard things like “Oooh. Risky.” Or “You better have clients lined up before you quit.” (Yes.) As if not working for a couple weeks is a cardinal sin. These responses are always disappointing as they don’t drum up a lot of confidence. I think it might be a natural, almost motherly response though for certain personality types.
  • Indifference/confusion. This is the most surprising reaction. I can’t even think of any quotes as they seemed so foreign to me. I guess some people don’t understand that you don’t have to work for somebody else. A few people didn’t really understand what I was trying to do, and just gave me the ol’ furrowed eyebrow.
  • Enthusiasm. Naturally, my favorite reaction. At times the power of these responses have kept me from changing my mind. Things like “Yeah, sometimes you just have to set yourself up in a position where you have to succeed.” Hell yeah. Or, “you get to do whatever you want and dont have to deal with crap.” Haha, well, that’d be great, but probably not. 🙂 I can only think of a handful of people who have been genuinely supportive and enthusiastic of my decision, and, to those awesome few, thank you! (Curt, Katherine, Mom and Dad, et al)
  • Disappointment. I must have heard “Are you sure you still want to do this?” from my boss six or seven times, or every time the subject came up. This was the reaction from my boss and a few coworkers, but I guess that’s understandable. Workplaces have strange social dynamics, though, especially in fields where there’s typically high turnover (software companies for sure). I’ve felt the same thing before (usually tempered with excitement for them, though) when great colleagues move on.

I’m definitely not the only one, though, and that’s exciting. Ten more days of work, and it’s on.

New Beginning

At the end of June, I will no longer be employed.

This is my choice. From my employer’s perspective, I’m quitting; from mine, I’m just beginning. Over the past few years I’ve been putting together the pieces and gaining the requisite experience to make this decision. Not to mention enduring a growing dissatisfaction with my current job.

So what’s next? Well, it took a while to answer this question, but eventually all the signs pointed to the same place.

My next employer should be…me!

Yup, I’ll be striking out on my own, building websites from the ground up, using whatever technologies fit. Ruby and Rails, of course, are the preferred means of expression, but I can do PHP and all the client-side stuff, too. One project is nearing completion and another is in the works, and I must say, it’s really exciting. The opportunity to trade the nine-to-five for my own schedule is a huge draw, not to mention the freedom to use the beloved technologies of my own choice! Woohoo! Hopefully this will lead to a happier Alec, which will naturally yield a more satisfied, productive, and better Alec.

At least, that’s the vision. I’m willing to accept the risks; in fact, I feel obligated to try. But I can’t do it alone. I’ll need clients. Development work. Small businesses in need of a web presence. Entrepreneurs with the vision but not the programming chops. Perhaps there’s something I can offer for you?

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