***Note: this post is mirrored on my blog, chrisfrew.in.
Exactly a year has passed from my ‘I Quit My Job’ post, in which I promised I would write upba post-mortem — so here it is.
Ironically, I realize I’ve been off the grid ever since that post. All will be explained. (Note: I can hear you: Aren’t you freelance types supposed to have more freetime?) Well, here’s the thing…
Ha! This Fool Thought He Would Spend Less Time Working as a Freelancer!
So let me be clear right away — I did end up working a lot more at the beginning the switch — as in, a lot more — hours more — on a good day, I would be lucky if I could head home around 18:30, and even then there were many many days much longer, taking the last train home at 23:00 (my girlfriend can attest to that — read: she was not very happy)
In my usual fashion, I overdid it starting off, as a result of being paranoid and having paycheck trust issues, as well as ‘proving myself’ and whatnot. Still, the project I took on right after leaving my old job had truly enough work to be done for a whole team of devs, let alone a single one.
As it was, my final work day was November 30, 2018 — then I started working full time on the next project on December 3— after taking the whole weekend as a break in between 😂
I think I did it wrong 😂
But there Are Some Advantages…
So looking back on the year, here’s some immediate advantages I can think of:
- Work location flexibility. I’m writing this from a café in Bregenz, Austria, just working through programmatically attaching an ICS to an email for our e-commerce project. That’s a nice change from sneaking away during my lunch break to be able to write posts. My main coworker I usually work with in Switzerland is currently enjoying the sun and surf in Croatia, so I figured I’d head Bregenz today to switch it up a bit.
- Vacations. Less than a month ago, I returned from a roadtrip with my girlfriend through the entire US (east to west, then back again) in May and June. We visited a huge amount of amazing national parks, went line dancing in Chicago, drove through a possible tornado storm (😱 scary 😱, I do not recommend) in Wyoming, saw Rocky Mountain snow and the sandy Utah desert in the same day, skimboarded in the Pacific ocean, we climbed the tallest peak east of the Missippi, Mt. Mitchell, and best of all, saw family and old friends I haven’t seen since graduate school! Whew.
- Hours/working time flexibility. Even though I was working some 12 (or on insane days, 14 hour days), in never felt like a ‘14 hour day’. In a way, it’s the restriction of a 40 hour job that makes you feel like 14 hours in a day is way too much, since you’d be required, as is custom, to be in the office 8 hours just the next day. God forbid, if you were to leave early that day (if your manager or boss even allows that in the first place!), you’d be heckled by your coworkers with those side comments we probably all know, like ‘oooo, slacker’ or ‘where are you going?’, or, my personally hated favorite ‘going out to lunch?’. I’m sorry, but I HATE that mentality. Being a good software/IT employee should NOT be measured by how consistently you hold hours in the office. As a ‘freelancer’ (I still don’t like using that term for myself 😜) — I don’t feel as bad with a 14 hour day when I know the next day I can take a half day or just go hiking or biking if the weather is good.
- Mindset. Perhaps the single most important benefit is the mindset that is a result of the entire situation. Sure, we have tasks that need to be done for the customer. But somehow it feels not as pressured and you can take some slow days to dive deep and learn something properly (like how the hell a stupid Magento 2 plugin works 😂), so that you can complete tasks for the customer the right way, and not just a working way. In this way, I really feel I made the correct decision as my career as a developer grows, focusing on learning paradigms and patterns as apposed to just a company specific. I am confident now that I can pick up any OOP language for any project and be productive with it within a few months.
…And Things I Learned
Originally I thought I would like working in different places. It turns out I actually prefer now going to an office-like space where I can work. So while I still will do a rare day every few weeks somewhere new, I like my office. Additionally, I like having multiple monitors too much and of course going to cafes and such you don’t have that priveledge (yes, I know you can set up those super neat triple monitor ditigal nomad setups — but I’m not a digital nomad- I still have an apartment to return to every day, so such an expensive setup is hard to justify and a bit overkill.)
Nothing Has Changed…?
As I mentioned, I was able to see family and friends on the roadtrip I haven’t seen in a while. Many were curious how my career was going, since they had heard whispers of my transfer to the freelance life. The conversations would always go generally like this:
“So how is the freelancing going?”
(me, always having strange reaction) “Freelancing? Huh?”
“Well, you’re not fixed at any company, right?”
“Not really, but I am doing 100% of my work with one person right now…”
“And do you have a contract?”
“So you’re freelancing!”
“Hmm, yeah, I guess I am.”
The whole situation is a bit of a foreign concept to me. When someone asks me about freelancing, I suddenly picture myself running around as a flustered, overwhelmed developer that can’t accomplish much of anything of value— that’s at least how I always pictured ‘freelancers’. In fact, I feel the same as I did when I was working a ‘full time’ job: get your tasks, do the work, learn along the way, and complete the tasks, repeat.
It’s funny. I know I’m not an expert in really anything. But what I am is a very hard worker, and that simple, simple fact is what in the end is so valued in the workplace — at least in the region where I work. Once you get past the bullshit politics and any other corporate nonsense, that’s all department heads want in their groups — people who get down to business and get work done. So even though yes, I am technically a ‘freelancer’, the way I work hasn’t changed from when I was a full-time employee.
Really all that’s changed is the fact I don’t have a peice of paper guaranteeing me money (indeed, this is a scary for some, there is a lot more about getting over that general concept in Part I) — but I greatly trust who I am working for and in return I keep my high work ethic— perhaps a bit too high for some weeks back in February and March 😉.
Ultimately, Things Are Looking Up
While the beginning of my transition to freelancer last winter was fairly rough, this 1 year anniversary post is coming at a good time, because in about the past two weeks, the project has started coming together to the point where I finally feel like I will have time for other more ‘freelancy things’. (The very fact that this post exists, and that I had time to actually write and published it on the exact year anniversary day is evidence to that. 😁) Some of these other ‘freelancy things’ include getting back to some Skillshare courses I had promised all the way back in November 2018, posting to my blog (my last post was April 1st, 2018 — yeesh!) and working more deeply into photography and my printwork / illustrations (crossing my fingers for an art expo here in Austria (see chrisfrew.in/portfolio if you’re interested!) at the beginning of November — decisions will come out in August 🤞)
I’ve also been looking into property… 😉 big things coming in the future… but that’s for another time…