I started freelancing in August last year.
By that point, we had gone through a few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I was working full time for a company here in NYC that makes a marketing data aggregation and reporting platform. I was already feeling burnt out from my career, and having to do daily standups (at one point, I was on two different teams, with two different sets of daily and weekly status update meetings 🙄) for a product I wasn’t excited about while dealing with a whole pandemic had me rethinking what I was doing with my career.
So I quit the company I was working for and started an LLC for freelance development.
This August marked a full year of self-employment. And the end of this year will be the first entire year I did it on my own.
Here’s how it went:
Eh. I haven’t make all that much so far. Revenue wasn’t really my main goal for the first few years of this thing, so no surprise there. I was able to pay for my NYC apartment, my own health insurance, and all my bills (with some help from my partner Monique, my family, and a few contributors to the website 🙏🏾), so I did well enough.
I’m trying to balance client work, which pays very well, with working on my own projects, which does not (yet).
When it comes to expenses though, luckily this is a profession that doesn’t cost all that much to do, besides some hardware costs. That’s good for my bank account, but probably not so good for my tax bill I’m guessing.
I only worked with 4 clients this year. When I first started doing this, I thought I might end up doing a lot of small projects through Upwork or Fivver, or from people I knew who needed small websites made. But that route is way more work and pays way less than working on the bigger (and more enjoyable) projects I like.
Some of the client work was tough, like with a smaller client who was trying to get a site done on a tight deadline, but didn’t really know how they wanted it to get done. Or with very design focused agency that didn’t seem to fully understand or respect the development process. But it was a good kind of tough, because it was just me fighting for myself and doing what it takes to deliver good shit and get paid. I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far.
I love that I got to work with few different languages/platforms for clients this year:
- Plain HTML/CSS with heavy use of CSS Animations
- CraftCMS/React (Craft is a PHP framework, but I wrote a React app on top of it in headless mode)
- C/C++ (with GTK) on Linux (using libobs for webcam, screen, and mic capture)
- Multi-platform (macOS/Linux/Windows) Rust code
This is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping would happen when I started freelancing. I like working with all different kinds of tech and figuring out what the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches are.
I’m a freelance developer who still genuinely loves writing code, so work and life kinda end up being the same thing. Most of my time (post-COVID) is spent on a computer building stuff. But I made sure that I balanced how much of that time building was for someone else or for myself. And if I planned this well enough, the stuff I end up doing for myself should be able to bring in enough income that I won’t have to do much client work at all.
So this year, I’ve actually had a lot of time to do what I wanted (besides going out and exploring/hanging out in the city, which has been way too rare these last few years).
Hopefully next year I can actually comfortably work somewhere other than in this apartment and enjoy the mobility I’m supposed to have while doing this kind of thing.
One of the things freelancing was supposed to help me with is with focusing on networking with people. I was really excited about pushing myself to go out and talk with people more often to make my living. But then waves of COVID infections kept hitting, and I stayed inside and focused and didn’t really put that effort in. I ended up accomplishing a lot on my own, which both feels good and kinda sucks at the same time.
For a few years now, I’ve kept hoping the next year’s situation will be better. Here we go again with 2022. Networking (and generally working on my friendships and social circle) will be a big focus for me next year.
Freelancing is a pretty uncertain and stressful thing sometimes. But I definitely prefer it over having a steady income but feeling stuck in a position (or company) I don’t really want to be in.
This year, I’ve felt really good about how I made my money and really happy about the freedom I have to choose the projects I want to take on.
Of course, all of this is in the shadow of this terrible COVID situation we’ve all had to deal with. The pandemic is what pushed me to change how I do things, and reflecting on how happy I am after adjusting my life to cope with something like this is awkward.
But I do feel like I was able to adjust pretty well, and I’m very happy about the decisions I’ve made these last few years, so I would say overall happiness has been pretty good.
Luckily I feel very nicely setup to continue down this path and accomplish even more next year. I’ll be continuing to work with one of my clients through the new year, and I have some potential agency work coming up in a few months. 2021 was obviously difficult in a lot of ways, but overall things turned out okay for me. 🙂
I hope 2022 is a much better year for all of us.