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What It's Like Being Self-Employed - A Three Months Recap

After working for agencies for five years, I'm now self-employed since July this year. What were the reasons I created my own company? What do I expect and how is it going so far? These are questions I try to answer in this article.

The Reasons Why I created My Own Company

As already mentioned, I was working for five years in agencies. Most of the time I spent at Liechtenecker, which was and still is a great company. I learned there so much, and I'm very thankful for the team I was able to work with. So why did I quite such a good job for something new and risky like an own company? Here are few:

Time For A Change

I felt it was time for a change. The why is hard to explain, but inside I knew I had to go. It doesn't take a lot of things that bother you to feel that way. Still, it took me about a year, to make the step and quit.

Client-work is frustrating

Everyone who worked in an agency knows exactly what I'm talking about. You often have to deal with challenging companies, and the focus is always on deadlines and never on the product. This is something I have always struggled with. I always wanted to see the meaning in what I was doing. If the client wanted a button to be red, I wanted to know why. If I didn't get an understandable reply, I didn't change it :-)

But the longer a project runs, the more difficult it gets to stay strong and focused. At the end everybody just wants it to be done. This last 5% of a project is where the worst decisions happen. I hated that.

My Own Products

This is something I hear from so many developers. They want to create their own product. Their own book or Saas application. Something they build themselves and what pays their bills. It was the same for me. Having my own Sass application is still my number one dream. But that is very difficult and hard to achieve.

Sometimes, you can work on side-projects next to your job, and it could be satisfying enough. For me, it wasn't.

The Right Time

Creating your own company is always something risky. Especially, compared with having a normal job. What If I don't get enough clients? What if my products don't sell? What if I have an injury and can't work anymore? A lot of things can happen, but for a few reasons it was the right time for me to try it:

  • I don't have kids yet.
  • I don't have a credit I need to pay off.
  • My girlfriend has a good job.
  • It is the right time for being a developer.

I Can Always Go Back

The good thing about being a developer these days is that there are plenty of jobs. If for any reasons, I have to find a job again, it will be quite easy. This makes my own-company-adventure not too risky.

Flexibility

When working as an employee, you always struggle with time. You try to get early to work so that you can leave early, so you still have some time for yourself at home. Of course, depending on your company, it can work out better, but still, the problem exists.

This is where I see the most significant advantage of having an own company. You can schedule your day yourself. You decide when you work. If you need a break, take a break. If the sun is shining, go out for a run. If the night gets a little bit longer, sleep a little bit longer the next day.

Our job and in general money is often the focus of our lives. But it seems that this is changing these days slowly. People realize that nothing is more important than spending time with the ones you love. One day, when I have kids, I would love to be able to spend a lot of time with them. As a developer with my own company, this is hopefully possible.

What Is My Company About

I have found a one-man business. I'm not sure if this type exists in every country, but as the name implies, it is just a company for one person. This gives you some benefits comparing with types like the GmbH/LLC. For example, my accounting is a little bit easier, and my costs are lower.

From what I heard, founding a company in Austria is much more difficult and expensive than for example in America. This is also why our startup scene is growing quite slowly comparing to other countries.

What is excellent about Austria is that I got a lot of help before founding my company. For several months, I was able to visit a program for new founders. They helped me develop a business plan and to deal with all the organizational steps I had to take. Additionally, I was also paid while being in the program. That helped a lot!

But what do I actually offer with my company? First, I'm doing freelance stuff. This includes everything related to PHP, Laravel, Chatbots, and Vue. Right now, the projects are mostly chatbot-related due to my chatbots background and my book. But for me, it was always apparent that I also wanted to create my own projects. This is why I wrote my first book this year and why I'm already thinking about a new product.

Freelancing is great because there is a big demand and it is quite easy to make some money. But I couldn't go for freelancing only. It doesn't bring me that much joy, and I need something else next to it.

How Is It Going So Far

Generally speaking, I would say it is going quite good so far. Right before founding my company, I already got a good and big project. This is what I'm working on right now, and what will keep me mostly busy for the next months. That was a perfect start, and I'm pleased about that. I imagine it can get quite frustrating when you start your company and then have to look for a project first.

Besides that, I'm selling my ebook and video course about building chatbots. It is nice to get some income there as well, but to be honest, it is not much. There will probably a separate article just about that.

What Are The Difficulties I'm Facing

Working From Home

To keep my costs low, I'm working from home right now. In the beginning, I loved it. You suddenly have so much more time every day, and you don't have to use public transports anymore :-) The biggest problem right now is, that I don't have a separate room. My desk is in my living, which can quite be distracting when my girlfriend is at home as well. I hope I can change that soon somehow.

Distraction is, in general, a problem when you work from home. There are so many other things you can do next to working like doing laundry, cooking, playing Nintendo Switch and so on. This isn't always a bad thing. You need breaks from your work, and if you can use them for doing some housework, that's fine. The problem lies in finding the right balance. Sometimes doing housework is more interesting than your current challenge at work and when this happens, a day can be over quite fast.

What I find helpful is time-tracking. I use it for tracking almost all kind of work I do. Tyme2 is my tool of choice because of its beautiful design and minimalistic feature set.

My goal is to have about 4-6 hours of tracked work every day. It doesn't matter if I do client work or working on a blog article. For me, both are import parts of my company and work. For some of you, 4-6 hours of work a day might sound easy, compared to an 8 or 10 hours day at work. But this is just the time I really work. There is no getting a coffee or talking to your colleagues about last night's football game included. When you track like that, 6 hours becomes a quite productive day.

Screenshot if my time tracking tool Tyme

Accounting

I would say this is reason #1 why people not create their own company. There are so many things you need to be aware of when dealing with your company's finances. It is tough. Some people pay an accountant to take care of most of the work, and I think this is a right decision. This way you can concentrate on your clients and don't have to deal too much with the numbers. Still, it will always be a part of your job in some way.

Despite, I decided to try to do everything myself the first year. I find accounting annoying but interesting. It is crucial for me to have an overview of my finances. Having your own company makes it much more difficult to do so. You get money from your clients, but this is not all yours. The state will collect their proportion of it later the year, but you don't know exactly the amount. It is still hard for me to deal with that. Sometimes you have to wait for your clients to pay you, but your monthly payments don't wait.

Where it gets really difficult is when you want to sell digital products world-wide. This is when you have to deal with VAT. It is so much effort that I will think twice before selling another book.

In the end, I am not dealing with accounting entirely on my own. I have an accountant that I can call at any time. After my first year, I will decide how to proceed with accounting and if I will go on dealing with it myself.

Social Life

Switching from spending all your day with your team at your company to being alone at home is quite a challenge. But I have to say I actually liked it. I'm often more productive when I'm by myself.

But now after working for nine months from home, I noticed I'm missing being with other developers, designers or work related people. Events like meetups and conferences are much more important to me now. What also helped me is knowing a lot of people from Twitter I can talk to every day.

Food

People who know me are already aware of that: I'm always hungry. I can eat all day and this why I have to do a lot of sports to stay in shape. I'm pleased to do more sports than to have to skip a meal ;-) So this may be only applicable to me, but still an important point. Now that I work next to my fridge, I can eat all day. So for me, it is far more critical than ever to have healthy snacks at home!

What Helped Me The Most

The last years, I have been quite active on Twitter and "in the community." I did my part of open source work, blogged a lot, and I regularly went to meetups and conferences. Additionally, I'm speaking more and more there as well. It is always difficult to tell how much those spent and not paid time will pay off, but now, I can say it did for me.

The reason I got my first project so fast, was because people knew that I work with chatbots a lot. Also when selling your products, it is crucial that you have your name in the community. It would have made no sense to publish my ebook on my own when nobody knows me.

What Are My Plans For The Future

I saved this question for the end of this article. Probably, because I don't have a good answer yet. I know that I should already look out for new projects, but this is an annoying part of my work now. I would much rather work on a product like a book or a video course, but this is something you just cannot force.

Let's see what I can tell in a few months. Everything is still new to me, and I am still figuring stuff out. If you have any questions or want to hire me, please contact me on Twitter.

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