The snow is melting. Spring is upon us. It's that time of year for new beginnings. And there are definitely plenty of new beginnings around the Snook household. On top of all the other things that have been happening, I've decided to make some changes, too.
After three long years, I'm leaving the life of freelance. What's old is new again, it seems. I'm going to be working for someone else. As of April 1st, I'll be working for Squarespace, no foolin'.
But what about the freelance dream?
There have been plenty of ups and downs over the past three years and I've learned plenty about what it takes to make it on my own and learned plenty about who I am, what I want out of my day-to-day life and what I want out of my future.
I went freelance for a combination of reasons.
- I no longer saw a growing role in the organization I was in.
- I wanted to work on my own projects, to see them evolve and to see them flourish.
- I wanted to be more involved with clients, having a larger say in the evolution of their projects.
For my time, I was able to work on my own projects. I released a bunch of applications and sites like Snitter, Overheard.it, and Snogs along with a version or two of my own site.
I enjoyed working intimately with clients, creating sites and applications that I'm still very proud of today.
What went wrong
All of it hasn't been rainbows and butterflies, though. I've had to come to some very hard realizations about who I am and what I want moving forward.
Despite the flexibility, I too easily put client work in front of my own projects, letting them linger and die (Snitter is a great example). Putting client work in front of my own meant that I was really in a similar boat to what I was in before: working project to project with little to show for it but the experience. I always felt that working on my own projects (well, ones that make money) would eventually allow me the opportunity to forego client work altogether. That obviously never happened.
I can't manage other people. This problem cropped up any time I got particularly busy. Do I outsource? Do I hire somebody? Trying to manage cashflow and workflow was too much for me. Making sure that people have enough work to do, without stepping on each other's toes, while making sure people can get paid, without going broke was something I just couldn't do. I commend anybody who can. Not only am I not a good business person, it's also not something I want to do.
Finally, I hadn't been very good at managing my own priorities which led to being overworked and possibly depression — something I had a tough time admitting to myself or those around me. This is probably the biggest issue and certainly the hardest to admit to so publicly. If a timeline slid, it'd mean that billables would slide, too. To make up the difference, I'd take on more work. With more work, I had to divide my time, ultimately getting less done than I would have if I focused singularly on one project. Of course, with more projects not getting done, billables slid, and I'd take on more work to make up the difference. Being overworked with little sleep and even less social contact left my mind frayed.
Thankfully, I recognized these issues and had taken steps to resolve them. My productivity in the last 3 months alone has been consistently better and I made the smart choice not to take on more projects. I used Rescue Time to track my sore spots, I blocked sites that sucked up my time, and I tried to set more realistic timelines with clients. Clients have been happier and so have I.
If the last 3 months were any indication, this would have been a great year.
But then an opportunity came from Squarespace. Never one to say no to an opportunity right away, I talked to Anthony Casalena — the man behind Squarespace — and even flew to NYC to meet the team.
It was the right opportunity at the right time and I took it.
It meant having a singular focus. Working on a single product for a single company and seeing it evolve. This is what I wanted to do. I don't have to manage a team of people. I don't have to worry about running a business. I just get to enjoy building things.
Squarespace is also a very open company. Check out their Live page, where you can keep tabs on some of the crew. They're cool with blogging and twittering, conferences and speaking. This means I get to continue to do the things that I enjoy doing in between doing the things that I enjoy doing.
I'll still be working from home in Ottawa but will be making the trip out to Manhattan a few times a year which I will look forward to each and every time. (I love New York, I really do.)
Finally, I wanted to share one last interesting tidbit: Anthony and I spoke a number of years ago about joining forces to work on Squarespace. I believe it was just him working out of his dorm room at the time. While it didn't work out then, it's been fun to watch the application and the company evolve. Now that things have come full circle, I'll (finally) be doing my part.