Frenetic Freelance

Deciding to go freelance full time back in January was a liberating experience. But it's times like these that I miss working in a stable day job.

Making the decision

It was a both a tough decision and an easy decision to make. Going freelance allowed me the opportunity to work on my own projects and choose the clients that I get to work with. It was tough knowing that I have a wife and son that counted on me but I felt confident that I'd be able to pull it off, that money wouldn't ever really be an issue, and that if I did run into any slow periods, I could find myself back into a day job quickly.

And for the past ten months, things have — for the most part — gone smoothly. In the first couple months, I rented an office space, ironically from a company I used to work for a couple years prior. The expense seemed unnecessary so I decided to give up the office space and work from home. However, because of my son's daycare and our unwillingness to disrupt his routine, I found myself driving an hour or two back and forth each day. If a huge snowstorm hit, that travel time would double. Work was good but the travel was bad.

Once August rolled around, we found some place closer for our little guy to go and I cut my travel time to just 10 minutes a day. A sheer joy, for sure. In fact, in some ways, I was really enjoying the freedom. I chose when I wanted to work, when I wanted to go out for lunch, or maybe run some errands. This was what working freelance was all about.

Adopting

But it was also around this time that my wife and I had an opportunity to adopt another child. With an expected due date in mid-November and the anticipated $20,000 to $30,000 costs that go along with an adoption, I felt it I needed to turn up the crank.

I took on extra work. More work than I should've, I'm sure. I brought somebody on board to help manage things. Before I continue with the story, let me just say that bringing people "into the fold" as it were doesn't necessarily cut down on time. There's always the management and testing overhead that is required and when I'm pressed for time, it's probably one of the first duties I shirk. In fact, throughout the year, I tried to take on additional projects and often outsourced them. From design to production, it was a lot to manage and occasionally didn't save me much time. I'd find myself receiving poor results and with deadlines looming, I'd just end up staying up late and getting the work done myself. That's never a good situation to be in.

Burning Out

By mid-September, I was starting to feel burnt out. I was eight months into this and, while I've had the opportunity to work on some fun projects, I found myself still unable to work on my own things. I was no further ahead with some of my ideas than I had been in January.

I was also finding less and less time to work on the blog, which I felt and still feel, the need to post to consistently. The blog has been my sales and marketing. I haven't had to make sales calls or answer RFP's or do pitches. People have either just come across the site or I've gotten work through referrals. If anybody asks if running a personal site like this can be worthwhile, let me be the first in line to say yes. I'm sure many of the freelancers out there would agree. As a result, I didn't want to fall behind. I had some article ideas but started seeing others beating me to the punch, as it were, making much of what I wanted to write redundant. This led to some of my frustration with my own site that pushed me to get the redesign out.

By this time, I was looking forward to my vacation. It'd be a time to just forget about work and relax. It was fun but how time flies. Once the vacation was over, it was already mid-October. There was still plenty of work on the burner and I was turning away even more (although contemplating the thought of hiring somebody else again). This wasn't a 9-to-5 business, for sure. In any case, I trudged on.

Culmination

Then late last week, getting behind on timelines and desperately trying to catch up, we receive a call that the birthmom has gone into labour. That's the heat getting turned up a notch. Luckily, the baby doesn't come and gives us some time to try and complete the remaining paperwork that we needed before we could head to the States.

Yesterday morning, we get a call that the baby was born. A beautiful baby girl. (That notch? Turn it up a couple more.) We're ecstatic and frantic at the same time. A flurry of phone calls and a mountain of paperwork to organize is under way. In the meantime, I still have my work commitments to meet. Client meetings get rescheduled as they did the week before and timelines shift some more. Remember, no work = no money.

Twenty-four hours later, and our world is flipped upside-down again. This morning another phone call, one I assume is just an update on how the baby and the birthmom are doing. Instead, it turns out that she's going to keep the baby. It's a decision that I have to respect and regret at the same time. It still feels like somebody kicked me in the stomach, though.

Alas, no time to rest. No time to relax. For I still have bills to pay. Clients are still waiting.

It's times like these that I miss working in a stable day job.

Published November 01, 2006
Categorized as Personal
Short URL: https://snook.ca/s/711

Conversation

34 Comments · RSS feed
Thame said on October 31, 2006

Sorry to hear about the baby...your time will come, don't worry.

As for the whole freelance + outsourcing thing, it just isn't worth it unless the load is far beyond your capabilities.

I recently hired someone for a fairly small coding project and it turned out to be a nightmare. Not only was I literally robbed, but the product I was given was downright shitty and I was forced to completely redo the whole site while studying for an upcoming exam. It wasn't fun.

You'll be happier doing it all by yourself, even if the intake takes a hit.

Again, good luck with the adoption process...I have some idea of how harrowing it can be.

Matthew Pennell said on November 01, 2006

Really sorry to hear that the adoption didn't work out, Jon.

George said on November 01, 2006

A kick in the stomach indeed. It is difficult to know what to say with no experience of this other than I very much hope you will have more luck next time.

I also went freelance in January and reading your blog has been an inspiration to me.

I hope you don't lose perspective on what you have achieved both with your work and this blog.

I for one love reading your posts.

Matt Turner said on November 01, 2006

Freelancing, over-working, never getting your own projects done, the trials of life. Yes, I really feel where you're coming from, going solo can be very tough indeed. I've been freelancing for 2 and half years but next year I anticipate getting back to a 'regular' job.

I'd like to add I discovered your blog this year and have been enjoying the nice mix of helpful technical stuff on JavaScript etc and posts like this one. Keep it real.

Miha Hribar said on November 01, 2006

Sorry to hear about the adoption.

I don't know if I had the guts to go out on my own with a wife and child that depend on me. OK, as you said, you could get a job back fairly quickly, but it was a gamble nevertheless.

Don't know why so many people are freelancing all of a sudden. You said you can choose which projects you take on, but what if those projects run out. I guess that would be my biggest fear, not knowing where and when new projects would come from.

I am still a student but work part time in a company, but for some extra money I also do a bit of freelancing. I find that more satisfying as I have a steady cash flow with something extra on the side from time to time.

By the way, have you given any thought to opening your own company? I imagine you know quite a few good developers and designers. Or is freelancing just a first step in that direction? ^^

Niall said on November 01, 2006

Your post really hit home with me. I was freelancing for four years and some of what you are describing was very similer for me.

About 9 months ago I decided to take a job offer as a web developer and while it is good money I'm making about 20% less than I was when freelancing but my quality of life is so much better now.

I work much less hours, have time to do the little things in life like read and I actually have holidays now.

Don't get me wrong I loved freelancing and it is somethiing I'll probably do again but for now I'm enjoying having a stable job more.

Really enjoy the blog and I'm sorry to hear the adoption...

Niall

Nate K said on November 01, 2006

As others have said, I am sorry to hear about the baby.

I have found freelance to be very tough as well. That's the main reason I sought out a day job. Freelance isn't the glorious life many think it is (or make it out to be). You have to do EVERYTHING behind the scenes, as well as the work itself. This can take its toll.

Personally, it took its toll on me and I made the decision to step away from extra work. I did this because I was spending SO MUCH time with work, that I was too busy for my wife, family, and friends. Maybe poor time management on my part, or maybe I just picked the wrong clients and didn't know when to say 'no'. Regardless, the decision to move to a 9-5 was great!

Thats my story, not everyone else's. Personally, I think you are an incredible (and inspirational) web developer. I think that as time goes on, you will find the bigger and better jobs. The ones that don't require all your time for little return (maybe you are there now). Especially when 'life' hits from every angle, freelance can be even more tough.

For me, my personal website - though I try to at least keep up the content - is a poor representation of myself. It has taken the backburner for quite some time now. And, I don't mind that at this point. My full time job is where I put all of my energies. My wordpress blog is just that, a wordpress blog with my thoughts and book reviews. Not that I don't see it as valuable, I am just not 'selling' myself at this point - and I have to show people my work for anything, I show them the other sites. YOUR personal website is excellent from so many aspects - not trying to just praise you - but I think the simplicity and ease of your site make it one of the best around.

Anyway, I am rambling now. Just wanted to say 'keep chugging along' - your work will sell itself.

Peace,
Nate

Peter Flaschner said on November 01, 2006

Jon - my thoughts are with you and your family. I really can't imagine what you must all be feeling.

Prashant said on November 01, 2006

I'm sorry to hear that the adoption didn't work out, after all that effort you put to adopt a child you really must be frustrated!

I'm pretty sure in the future things will work out better for you :)

Damian Karlson said on November 01, 2006

Jon --

I'm sorry to hear about the adoption. Your time will come though. Stay strong, pray (or continue doing so) and be patient. It'll all be worth it. I know of a couple that is working on an adoption as well -- it has been very hard for them to be patient, but they will be SO happy when it finally happens.

My question is this -- how did you manage the transition from working a traditional job to freelance? My freelance work provides about 50% of the income that I currently receive from a full-time job. It takes almost all that I have to do that much, what with raising two boys, spending time with my wife, time off, sleep, etc. I know that if I transition to a freelance only thing, I could do fairly well. How did you balance the risk? What sort of things should I think about before taking the plunge? (If there's a post I missed that describes your thought process in-depth, please point me to it.)

Chris Ellingsworth said on November 01, 2006

Jon,

Thanks for the post and for sharing the reality of your life. I definitely value and appreciate your honesty! I've been considering going from a stable job to freelancing and it's good to hear about the other side.

I enjoy the work that you produce and think it's excellent quality.

I hope that this turn of events works out for the best in your life!

Jonathan Snook said on November 01, 2006

Thanks everybody for your support. It means a lot.

Miha: The thought has crossed my mind. I've made some steps towards it by incorporating the business but I've always thought that the business would grow out of building my personal projects and not from the overflow from the freelance work. While I suspect I could pull off running my own web dev shop, I think it would require going after a different market. I peg some of my freelance success can be put on the fact that some people 'root for the underdog'. In other words, they are more willing to work with me because I'm freelance as opposed to a 'web shop'.

Damian: deciding to take the plunge was an interesting decision. Having done freelance work on the side for a few years, the thought of going full-time had always crossed my mind. I was just never sure that I'd be able to keep up the workload. I'm glad I didn't go into freelance sooner for a couple reasons. 1) I think I would have undervalued myself. In fact, one of the first mistakes I made in January was doing just that. 2) Having waited, I built up a larger network of contacts from which to get work from. What ultimately pushed me into freelance was an anticipated 3 month project right off the bat. I used that as my springboard. The work requests have been pouring in since.

Going freelance is a tough decision and the two ultimate factors that convinced me (and more importantly, my wife) were that 1) I had work already lined up and 2) If I didn't have work, I could find myself back in a new job quickly.

Eric said on November 01, 2006

Thank you for sharing Jon.

Keith said on November 01, 2006

Really sorry to hear about the baby. I'm sure that's got to be quite a blow.

I've never really freelanced on my own. I've got lots of "side jobs" while holding down a full time job and I don't think it's near the same thing.

I was just thinking about freelancing the other day and how hard it must be. I thought about it long and hard and decided to partner up and start a company. I'm really glad I did and the main reason is that you have people who can cover for you and have your back when you need to focus on yourself, or family or whatever you need to.

I mean, I get stressed as it is with lawyers and accounting and deadlines and all that and I could only imagine what it would be like if I had to deal with it all on my own.

I guess what I'm saying is that you should be very proud that you've done so well -- it's not easy, that's clear.

Having said that, if you ever start thinking of something full time, gimme a call! ;0)

Brent O'Connor said on November 01, 2006

Sorry to hear about the baby. Hang in there, I'm sure there is a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere.

Michael Montgomery said on November 01, 2006

Jon - As an adoptive father, I know the feeling.
Don't know what else to say except that I'll pray for you and your family.

Nathan Smith said on November 01, 2006

Jonathan: Man, that would be a punch to the gut. I am sorry it didn't work out, but on the flip-side, at least you will have more time to catch up on work.

Kenny Saunders said on November 01, 2006

I understand the frustration. I'm currently going through an adoption, but not quite the same circumstances. I'm adoption my wife's son from before we were married. He's lived with me for the past 2 years, but all of the sudden the biological grandmother wants to get involved just to start some beef.

This whole process is frustrating no matter which side you are on. I'm sure things will work out great though, keep up the good work, I enjoy reading your blog, and occasionally commenting....

Jeff L said on November 01, 2006

very sorry to hear the adoption didn't work out....that doesn't seem fair that she can change her mind at the last minute.

David said on November 02, 2006

As many have said, sad to hear about the adoption, that happen to one of my former coworkers as well.

I made the plunge into full time freelance about a year ago, forcealby because of Katrina(hurricane, New Orleans) I was weaning myself from other jobs, had quit my full time for a part time and then was going to cost the part time job into full time. Then the hurricane hit and I lost the part time job. I don't know, you have to really be head strong to manage freelance in a way that doesn't suck up all your time and allow you to work on your own projects. I have managed to hang on to a couple clients (literally 2) that keep my bills paid. and i get referals from those guys and others.

Dont get me wrong its been hard at times, especially supporting a family of 4, now 5 (had a baby girl yesterday making 3 kids my wife and myself) but the experience has been great. i work on my own projects in my down time and my wife has recently started teaching so now i don't have as much of a burden of HAVING to get jobs.

My suggestion to anyone thinking of freelancing is layout your business plan and plan of action before hand as not doing to will greatly affect how your road goes. and when possible i would highly recommend becoming the design arm to a PR/marketing company, and get a long term contract signed. i have a working relationship with one business that they market and i design and they are the lion share of my business.

Only issue with that is if they dry up, i will need to get out there, but again with my wife working now, the pressure to succed or die isnt there and I can focus on running the business for the enjoyment of running the business and not tring to figure out if I will have the mortgage next month. i dont think I will ever go back to a 9 to 5 this is liberalting to me being my own boss, I think that is what I have always wanted anyway, not to be undersomeones thumb, having been under thumbs was a huge expeience in gaining knowledge of the entire design and really company proecss, and now its time at 10 years old to 'handle my business'

Good luck Snook

Chris said on November 02, 2006

Really sorry to hear about the baby fiasco, Jonathan. And the freelance problem sounds familiar. Like Miha I work full-time for a company but do freelance work on the side. Sometimes I wish I wasn't being pulled in so many directions.

My thoughts are with you and your family.

milo said on November 02, 2006

Sorry to hear the bad news, thank you for your help, my prayers ar with you, Jonathan.

Matthias Willerich said on November 02, 2006

that's one personal post! As I went freelance-only last month, coming from the full-time dayjob + freelance on the side scenario, I thought this is going to be an interesting read.
And it sure was. I'm very sorry about what happened, and you surely have my thoughts and respect for having to deal with the new new situation and the work as well.

Matthew Anderson said on November 02, 2006

I'm with Keith, dude! I always have a ton of side projects, but I've never gone freelance full time. Your fortitude is definitely impressive. Sorry to hear about the adoption not going through. That's one big rug to have pulled out from underneath you.

Keep your chin up. Heres to a complimentary optimistic post shortly hereafter ;)

Johan said on November 03, 2006

Maybe you should try to run your own design firm like a partnership. Just throwing ideas here. Eg you and Dave Shea! Just kidding!

Mike Waller said on November 04, 2006

My stomach just dropped. I really feel for your situation with the adoption. Do yourself a favor, and make sure you carve out some of your time to 'grieve' your loss of sorts. There's alot of emotion behind that, and you and your wife need to make sure you get everything out.

As for the freelancing, I know how you feel... and imagine there's a majority percentage of folks in the freelance world who feel the same way you do. Its the age old problem of someone who's really strong at doing the work trying to start a business around it. Unfortunately, not everyone who is skilled in a particular field is also talented at managing & running a business. I highly suggest reading through the book "The E-Myth Revisited". Recognize your technician side, and work on your manager side if you'd like to continue doing what you're doing. With some time and planning, you can make a freelance world feel just as stable as a day job.

Carolyn Wood said on November 04, 2006

I was just catching up on stuff in my newsreader (that's a laugh...it says I have 801 unread articles) and saw your reboot. You just nail it every time.

But, I was stunned by your news. My heart really goes out to you and your wife. It must be very difficult. I remember reading the wonderful description of your family that you put online for prospective birth mothers, and I believe there will be another young woman who will just know that your family is the right one to raise her baby. But, still, this is quite a loss and you must just feel exhausted. I wish you many blessings in the future.

Johan said on November 05, 2006

For starting out a design business I am reviewing this book:
- Talent Is Not Enough: Business Secrets For Designers (VOICES)
- More info
It is a perfect guide for anyone wanting to start a design business. The marketing chapter is amazingly well written, how to charge your clients, working freelance etcetera.

Keukens said on November 13, 2006

I'm working as a freelancer for about one and a have year now and my findings are that I'm not going to earn the amount of money I would like an find reasonably, by just performing a one man show. The solution to this point is employment, but this will also take a some time before running smoothly and so finally be saving you time and money

Adrian said on November 13, 2006

Thank you for sharing. This is an eye-opening read that is good info to hear before going full-time freelance.

Mathew Browne said on August 13, 2007

This is must-read for anyone considering freelancing full-time, be it IT/webby stuff or otherwise. It can feel absolutely awesome being your own boss but also it can be quite disheartening if you're having a slow work week (which coincides with a stack of bills piling up!).

musicaditorkiev said on January 16, 2009

Как случается
Приятный тёплый вечер. Издалека доносятся приглушённые звуки города. Смеркается. Вы мило болтаете о чём—то лёгком ненавязчивом и замечаете, что у вас много общего и беседа идёт как бы сама собой. В один прекрасный момент вы замолкаете, и её глаза говорят тебе: «Поцелуй меня». Но, какой—то щелчок, какая—то скованность. Ну ничего. Ты снова бросаешь какую—то шутку. Вам снова весело. «Вон смотри, какая там смешная собака бежит. У меня была в детстве овчарка, так она умела…». И выясняется, что вы оба любите животных; она рассказывает тебе о своей любимой кошке и, переходя дорогу, на светофоре вы останавливаетесь и как—то внезапно снова замолкаете. Опять её глаза молвят: «я хочу поцелуй», но перебороть себя сил не хватает…

Знакомо?

Эта проблема — лишь частность. А если смотреть в целом, то важно лишь одно: постоянно контактировать с телом девушки. Если ты хочешь, чтобы твой поцелуй, твои обнимания и откровенные ласки воспринимались ей «на ура», тебе нужно, обязательно нужно постоянно трогать (кинестетить) девушку.

Итак, кинестетические трюки.

Лёгкое кино на улице (активное):

В начале прогулки сгибаем руку в локте, так чтобы девушка могла за неё взяться и отдаём едва ли не трансующую команду: «Цепляйся!» :)
«Боже, как здесь скользко… Я тебя поддержу!», — приобнимаем девушку за плечи или держим за локоть.
Любой сколь—нибудь интересный предмет. Приобнимаем за талию и вещаем: «Смотри—ка, какая там яркая звезда. Как ты думаешь, оттуда на нас кто—нибудь смотрит?»
«Давай руку, сейчас будем переходить через дорогу.»
В дверях, в транспорте мы повсюду подаём руку и придерживаем девушку за талию.
Лёгкое кино на улице (провокативное):

пикап и соблазнение

goltyn said on January 17, 2009

Кайт Тотальная распродажа кайты, доски: кайт. Зимняя кайтшкола.

Elena_zamuzh said on February 16, 2009

Оглянись и посмотри на других женщин.
Ты видишь: они не так молоды, умны, стройны, красивы, образованны или материально обеспечены, как ты.
Но с некоторыми из этих женщин рядом находятся такие мужчины, о которых тебе можно только мечтать.
Ты можешь думать, что эти женщины совсем не симпатичны, но они пользуются успехом у мужчин.
Почему же они замужем, а ты все еще одна? Долгое время я тоже была в категории одиноких женщин,
пока не создала анкету на сайте http://zamuz-blog.freehostia.com - выхожу замуж где сразу же познакомилась с 2 мужчинами. Один из европы,
второй из Америки. Я безумно счастлива, через неделю уезжаю в Америку

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