You're not going to quit your full-time job, are you? That's nuts!
How are you going to pay the bills? You have all these costs, but no clients!
This pretty much sums up a lot of the reactions I got when I told my surroundings I was going to go self-employed. I've been told it was one of the biggest mistakes I'd make in my young career. Only I saw it completely different. Let me first rewind a bit and explain what my situation looked like before I went self-employed.
My Full-Time Job
At the time I worked at a company here in The Netherlands, whose name I won't mention. It paid well, only it wasn't close to home. Every day I had to travel about 1 hour and 15 minutes with public transport. Lets do some calculations, shall we..
- 3 hours
- 8 hours
- 30 minutes
Total 11,5 hours.
This was nearly half of my day. Although I liked what I was doing, it didn't really suit me well. When you spent half your day on work, with travel included, what time is there left for learning new techniques, experimenting with approaches like TDD and DDD, etc?
Now, before I continue, the purpose of this post is not to complain about how bad my time was nor how bad 40 hours a week is. I'll come back to this later.
But, in other words, I had to make a drastic change to actually continue doing what I love and not get sucked in. There were three options that I could take:
- work part-time at the same employer (if possible)
- find another job closer to home
- or quit and start self-employed.
Well, I knew for a fact that my employer didn't want to have part-time employees and I could just search for something closer. But, honestly, I really wanted to start my own business. It actually was a childhood dream. A seed planted into my brain (like in the movie Inception) ever since I was a child.
Before I continue about journey. I do want to mention that I had a good time at this company and I want to thank my old colleagues and employer for having me.
The Road Towards Self-Employment
Here in The Netherlands you can start your business in a matter of minutes. This is literally the case. Only what happens after that? I suppose the biggest fear for everybody who just starts is that they won't have any clients. Obviously, this is different for every situation.
Stashing a good amount of money is required, in my opinion. You may or may not struggle in the first couple of months. One other thing I had been doing for months before I became self-employed was going to User Group meetups.
This literally changed everything.
I believe this is the best place to network, learn and have heaps of fun. I got to know some awesome people, whom I consider my friends now. Investing a tremendous amount of time in yourself (and your business) is crucial. Even if you have a full-time job. Having one doesn't mean you have to stop learning. You will become more valuable for your employer and yourself if you visit these meetups, watch presentations and talk to people there.
One other thing that I did was have a client ready for when you start. This mitigated the risk I was taking.
What worked for me was getting involved with virtually everything, expose yourself (with cloths), engage with communities, actually visit local meetups, go to conferences, read books, learn new techniques and stand out. For example, I read The Clean Coder and this book explained to me what it meant to be a professional and take the responsibility. Right now I'm reading Growing Object-Oriented Software Guided by Tests (GOOS), because I really think tests are an important aspect of the applications we make. Drown yourself with these things.
Also get an accountant/tax adviser if you're self-employed, because it's not worth the risk. They will take care of everything for you. Of course this costs money and maybe because you just started working for yourself you might want to hold that off. I can strongly advise you not to. Their costs outweigh the possible tax fines
Being Your Own Boss
It was January 2nd and I started working for myself. I believe a month later Shawn McCool, Nick Spelt and I rented an office together in the best city ever known to mankind... Utrecht. I love that city. I was working every day and having real fun! Getting new clients from people I met from these User Group meetups. Things were going well, better actually, things were going great.
I believe this is due to a mixture of luck and being passionate about what I do. I can, and have, spent countless hours reading and watching presentations about various techniques.
Unconsciously I prepared myself for being self-employed all this time. Every minute I spent behind my computer programming and going to meetups all worked really helped me out.
What Will The Future Hold?
Honestly, I have no idea. What I do know is that I won't be standing still. I want to keep my business moving. Improve the relationship with my clients. Craft applications that are held up to the highest possible standards. Also iterate. If some approach doesn't work for you, change it. Revise. And if needed, change again.
Before You Go
At the beginning it would've been nice if my family and surroundings supported my life changing decision. It didn't scare me and neither should it scare you. The only person who, from the start, truly believed in me was my dad. So, thanks dad!
I've been self-employed for nearly 6 months now and it has been the best decision of my life.