Looking Back On Three Months Of Freelancing

—Wednesday, November 09 2005

Not to long ago, I gave up the security of my full time job in order to pursue the wild world of freelance. I’m about 3 months into it and was thinking about where I am now and where I was then.

How it started

I had a pretty good full time job, I enjoyed working with everyone at the office but there were a few things about it that I didn’t really care to much for–I’m sure we all have this problem. I was being underpaid based on my skill-set, but this was the first in-house place I worked at and I was just happy I had found a job after 3 years of being unemployed and doing very little freelance work.

Myself and my wife got married, got two new jobs, moved to a new city and out of our parents house in a very short period of time. It’s amazing how fast your life can change. I needed a job and I was really excited to get a job doing design work for a small company.

As time went by, I started taking on more and more freelance work at home and ended up working 16 hour days almost every day, but it was the kind of work I really wanted to be doing so I kept up the pace for as long as I could and then eventually decided to throw in the towel on my full time job.

Taking on too much

Right before I quit my job I started taking on a lot of work in fear of eating off the floor. I didn’t want to struggle with finances so I took almost anything that came my way.

I had just started talking with Tobias Lutke about joining the team at Jaded Pixel working on Shopify. This in itself was going to be a huge job, on top of that I took on another big project working with Ezra Zygmuntowicz building a recruiting application for Select Methods.

While both of these project were still in the phase of working out the details, I had taken on a lot more standard freelance design work and I was also doing consultant work for the company I used to work for. This was a huge mistake, everything kinda of took off at once and I’m still overwhelmed with way to much work. I left my full-time job thinking I would have more time to spend with my wife and away from the computer, but I dug myself a huge hole by taking on so much work.

I am making headway though, and I’m turning down an average of two job offers per week. It’s unreal how much work is out there for designers now thanks to this new gold rush of applications being built. I owe a lot of my success to the Rails community because this is how most of the people who contact me find me before hand.

Balancing work and home

I found it extremely hard to balance work life and home life now that they are both tied so closely together. I couldnt’ get a schedule to save my life and rarely got a chance to spend quality time with my wife. This seems to be common among those who work from home.

I finally did get a grip on my schedule and it feels good. When I was working weird hours, mostly in the wee hours between 12a.m. - 8a.m., I didn’t get near as much work done because there was always something in my mind that told me I didn’t have to do a lot of client work because it was after hours, play time if you will.

Now I’m getting up between 7-9 a.m. every morning and it works out great. By the time I get up and get set, Tobi, Daniel and Scott are just getting their morning coffee and ready to start hammering away at Shopify. I’m the only one from Jaded Pixel who isn’t in Ottawa, but it’s important that I can work the same hours as them because we get a lot more done from my perspective. It’s great to be able to exchange a quick idea over IM rather than waiting long hours for an email reply or comment on a Basecamp post. It was always the later when I was working from 12-7a.m. because about the time I was going to bed, they were all getting up as was the rest of the world.

I don’t have a secret solution for how to get and maintain a schedule, but I would advise that you do what works best for you, your family, and your team(if applicable). Now I get to spend better quality time with my wife, I’m working about the same hours as the rest of the Jaded Pixel gang and I’m awake if any of my other clients email or call.

Is it worth it?

Definitely! I’m doing what I want to be doing and taking my career into my own hands. I love the fact that I get to work with Rails every day and also the fact that I’m working with some very intelligent people who push me to do what I do better and challenge me every day. It’s been an awesome ride, and I’m looking forward to see what another 3 or 4 months brings.