It’s strange to think that it’s exactly a year since I became self-employed, considering that it’s almost hard to remember what it was like working for a full-time employer. Luckily the fact that it coincided with my father’s birthday is a handy reminder that 365 days ago I started working on my dining room table with an old laptop running Ubuntu, a notepad, and the idea that if I could survive for a year on my own I’d consider it a massive success.
And yet here I am at the same table, albeit on a much newer laptop.
Lessons from self-employment:
One of the best things about working for myself has been the massive learning curve which shows no sign of slowing down. Suddenly I became responsible for invoicing, accounts, new business, and everything else, rather than ‘just’ marketing or writing articles, and that definitely took a while to get to grips with. I’ve still got a way to go, but I’ve managed to get comfortable with invoices and tax forms, with a combination of asking advice and finding some decent tools to help manage things.
It’s also been a massive confidence boost to not only be able to get a business going by myself, but to actually survive and reach the stage where my earnings are slightly more than I was able to get in full-time employment. My financial situation, a young family and the start of the recession were all reasons not to go it alone, and I don’t have much disposable income even now, but I’ve actually been able to start reducing some debts which has been great, despite the need to buy a new car midway through the year. And it’s been amazing to not only attract some clients from contacts I’ve known over the years, but also gain new business through new referrals and sources – the fact that it’s all purely coming from my own efforts and from people who respect my abilities enough to recommend me is incredibly empowering, and it makes me more determined than ever to do the very best job I can for every single client.
And it’s been a strange experience working in a variety of industry verticals, from food and catering to mobile applications and software, with all sorts in between. My work combines all areas of content strategy and digital marketing, and my clients not only span a variety of industries, but also a range of knowledge and existing ability, so there hasn’t been a day that hasn’t had something different to offer. And having recently started doing more formal training and tutoring both under my own banner and for a respected training organisation has been a great experience and has helped me evaluate my own knowledge and particularly my communication skills in person.
But probably the biggest lesson has been in thinking about the future. I recently admitted to a couple of people that if everything stayed exactly the same for the next 40 years, I’d be pretty happy with my life – I’m getting to spend time with my son, work with cool clients, and spend some time on my own projects. But I’ve also been thinking about expansion and agency models, and wondering what would make the most sense. What I’ve realised is that I know a number of people who are intelligent and talented, and claim to be fed-up in their current roles – so maybe there’s a way I can work with them and help them to break free and pursue their dreams in a virtual agency capacity? It’s something I’ve definitely going to be investigating in the near future.
The massive list of people to thank:
I can’t even begin to list all the people who have helped and supported me, whether it’s been my family, including those who stood to risk the most if I couldn’t pay the mortgage or put food on the table, or friends and colleagues who have offered referrals and client leads. Then there is a list of great clients, including those I’ve worked with directly, and those who I’ve helped whilst sub-contracting for other organisations.
There’s a huge number of people who have shared tips and advice, including creative coaches, business people, accountants, marketing experts, advertising people, writers, etc. And an equally huge number who have inspired me in some way, whether it’s by following their own adventures, or by their approach to life.
It’s pretty much guaranteed that a list of names would leave so many people unaccounted for, so basically if we’ve spoken, emailed, tweeted, exchanged messages via Facebook, or you’ve linked to me or shared one of my articles, and you think you might be on the list – you are!
One of the most interesting things about becoming self-employed is that I’ve experienced the frustration of having ideas buried within large organisations, or letting them gather dust because I didn’t have the confidence to go off and do them myself.
That’s changed forever, in a process which started 5 or 6 years ago when I first registered on Blogger and began writing under a pseudonym. That eventually became this site after a couple of false starts, and the transition to WordPress (which I again timed to be memorable – timing it with my son’s birthday).
At the same time, alongside my client work, I’ve had time to start a small group of sites (OnlineRaceDriver, FPSPrestige, ResCogs) which are growing steadily and gaining a reasonable audience thanks to help from a great group of contributors – Cheers to Kalps, Tom, Thomas, Don, etc. And also thanks to the PR and Marketing people from various game developers and associated companies who have started to support us with kit to review, competitions to run etc.
And I’ve been able to start a small experiment in website design and development which is still taking shape in many ways, but has already delivered some clients and is starting to deliver more, thanks to the input of Jonathan and two Matt’s.
I think I’ve now finally started to find the balance between feeling unable to pursue ideas, and trying to launch all of them at once, and the next year should see a more focused expansion of what works, and some changes to what doesn’t. And hopefully the ideas I don’t feel able to pursue can be shared with the right people and help them find more success.
So thanks, cheers, and I can’t imagine what will happen over the next 12 months, but I do know I’m looking forward to every single day…