Saturday, June 30, 2007

Getting Started

On June 29th 2007 I left my 9 - 5 wage slave programming job to take advantage of an opportunity to go freelance. This blog is intended to chronicle that transition and the challenges and issues that will inevitably come up along the way.

First, a little background. I finished school about 5 years ago and have spent that time doing software development work for a couple different companies. In that time I also got married, had a baby, and bought a house. My wife hasn't had a day job since our son was born and we don't anticipate that changing any time soon. She tends to always be working on some project or another and keeps herself busy, I don't mean to make her out to look like a slacker. Though taking care of a one year old full time is work enough if you ask me. Over the past 6 to 9 months my day job had been becoming more and more of a stressful, draining place to be and I was quickly losing motivation. I was dreading going to work and I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere in an environment where I was pushed to learn and make things better.

I've done some freelance work with my evenings for a company of a friend of mine. There's been work when I want it and have the time, however due to my having a day job (and a wife and son), I wasn't able to dedicate a great deal of time to those projects. The fact that there was enough work to keep me busy full time had come up however I had never really given it the consideration that perhaps it deserved. About a month ago a fairly large project came in and he offered me a chunk of the work if I was interested. The scope and time frame of the project wouldn't be conducive to holding down a day job AND taking on the project. In addition my friend has a fair amount of work both internal to his company and customer facing lined up at this time and more work has and will be coming in. After a fair amount of discussion with him and even more discussion with my wife the decision was made to go ahead and give it a try.

Some of the key factors that have played into this decision are flexibility, incentive, and potential:

- I'm going to be working from home for the time being however with this type of work I have the flexibility to work from pretty much anywhere I can plug a laptop in with a wireless connection. My son recently turned one and I'm really looking forward to having the chance to spend more time at home with him. Granted moving to freelance will probably mean working longer hours but for the most part I can dictate when those hours take place.

- Working on the projects I choose means I have additional incentive to take projects and bust my ass when that's called for. This will be a tremendous learning opportunity, if I want to learn a new technology then I do it and it's a marketable skill. I don't need to try to convince a group of managers that moving to some technology will greatly improve performance, lower overhead, or improve employee productivity. Because I'm working on projects (at least for the time being) and will typically be getting paid per project I can work my ass of to make a nice chunk of change in a hurry and then take a couple weeks off to go take a road trip to visit family or travel abroad. That's just not going to happen at a day job where you have a set amount of vacation and if you work extra extra hard for a period of time you might get a bonus (or a company branded clock in the case of my last company) and maybe they'll even give you extra time off but that's not the norm. If you up your output because you're working 60 hours weeks they're going to wonder what happened when you decrease to 40-ish hours a week. Working 60 hours a week just because doesn't sound that good to me.

- The simple action of leaving my day job has created a great deal of potential not only financially but also in regards to life experiences. Now that I'm no longer chained to working on making money for someone else's company I can work on creating my own if I want. The goal of an employer in most cases is not to make you rich and give you the freedom to take time off whenever you want (NOTE: If any of you want to hire me and make me rich while allowing me the freedom to take time off spur of the moment and work odd hours let me know). If you're producing well it's in your employer's best interest to provide you additional incentives to stay with their company but ultimately it's about whatever is in THEIR best interest.

I'm not sure how this will play out but I have high hopes. Stay tuned, we're off to the beach for a week but I'll be getting started July 9th.