It’s been six months since I changed my LinkedIn job to “Freelance Web Developer at A Computer.” In a blog post at that time (about starting as a contract developer), I mentioned the roller-coaster of entrepreneurship. I knew what I was getting into, I have launched several successful and not so successful businesses over the years. Now, looking back six months later, the ride has been a little different than expected. This is my opportunity to reflect.
I feel like my work at Voltage (my last job) was the initial ramp up the roller-coaster, the day I put in my two weeks was the crest of the ramp, and my last day was that point where you’re hanging on the other side of the crest but haven’t started moving because you’re in the front cart.
The free-fall (not billing hours while launching) was intense, filled with all the usual and uncertain emotions that come with setting prices, getting the word out, and landing clients. Most of my freelancing friends told me that I should expect about a three week decent. That made it all the more unnerving when I was ending week 3 and 4 with nothing! Finally, week 5 brought my first client, an acquaintance of someone I gave a card to at an event.
For the next five months, I never had a day where I couldn’t bill hours; surprisingly, it has been the least frightening roller-coaster ever. It has also been the most enjoyable.
I absolutely love what I’m doing. I love Mondays (can you believe it?), sometimes I even hate Fridays (yes, I probably have some issues I need to figure out). Here are some reasons why:
I Get to Choose the Technologies
The rate fluctuation generally keeps my projects interesting and every once in a while I have to turn down a project that too far outside what I want to be doing.
I Have a Truly Flexible Schedule
Lots of companies brag about flexible schedules, but then you find that most employees end up working the same hours anyways. This is because there is social pressure to be seen doing your part, even if you’re not.
Working remotely, and for myself, prevents any social pressure. I send my clients detailed outlines of how I spent my time and they don’t care if I slept in, or if I have to leave early for a camping trip. All they care about is that my projects are done well and under budget.
I Have More Time with My Family
Most days, I have virtually no commute. My wife jokes that the walk from my room to my office is pretty tough. It is great! That extra twenty minutes to an hour is valuable when I’m already stretched thin with work, church, and family responsibilities. I also eat lunch at home giving me more time with the family (and more money).
That said, I am willing to work on-site for the right opportunity.
I Get More of the Value I Provide
My freelance rate is much higher than I could get in a full-time job. There are good reasons for this, I pay my own taxes and provide my own equipment, benefits, and office. I also assume the risk of consistently providing my own paycheck. Even with all that taken into account, I am still better off financially if I can keep a constant stream of work. This premium is the reward for the risk.
Although my clients pay more for me per hour, most of them value that I’m a resource they can turn on or off at a moment’s notice. This often saves them money in the long run by not paying someone to twiddle their fingers.
There’s Only One Problem
Despite its benefits, contract work is not without it’s challenges, it is, after all, still a roller-coaster.
I recently finished up a long Angular contract and have been on a short free-fall again. The trouble with this type of work is you have to keep looking for new clients constantly, but new clients always need someone yesterday. So, when I have work I’m loosing potential clients and when a contract ends I’m likely to free-fall for a bit.
If you have any thoughts on other ways to soften the roller-coaster, leave them in the comments below!