My Company Of One Story - Episode 3 The Transition

#business

Welcome to this new blog-series of mine where I want to invite you to follow my path as one-man-company. I want to share with you how I survive working on my own, freelancing, building products, and how I try to follow my business dreams. This is episode number three, where I talk about my transition from being employed to become self-employed.

The transition from being employed to having your company is not something that happens overnight. It is a process and is different for everyone. In this post, I want to tell you about mine and share some tips I learned on the way.

Why I Needed A Company To Work On My Products

For me, it all started some years ago. It was the first time I was thinking about how it would be working for myself. Mostly these thoughts came from the idea of having my own products. I always looked up to Adam Wathan and Jeffrey Way. It felt like they were living the developer dream:

  • creating products people love and pay for
  • working from home
  • being your own boss

So I started early thinking about having my products too. That time I only had evenings and weekends to spend on side projects, and I tried to learn as much as I can. I was able to improve my skills a lot, but it was not enough time to work on a "real" project. I need to commit to something to finish it. Still, my job at that time was pretty good, and I didn't want to leave and or risk it. So I stayed.

I kept this idea in my head, and from time to time, it popped up again. After two years, it was in 2017, I realized something for myself: I will never be able to work on my products If I didn't start my own company. It was a big decision and hard for me to leave this company and my loved colleagues. We agreed that I stayed for another six months to help them with their transition to a new developer and to finish current projects. December 31, 2017, was my last day as an employee.

Looking back, two key points lead to my own company:

  • I wanted to try to build my own products.
  • I wanted to be more flexible in how and when I work to align it with the family better.

New Road Means New Opportunities

As mentioned, I had, in theory, several months to prepare my new business. In reality, it was too busy at work, and I couldn't prepare one thing. It was in January 2018 when I sat down the first time to make a plan. It was clear to me that I wanted to spend the first months on creating my first product. After some brainstorming, I decided to work on my first book about chatbots. It was the only field I thought I could teach people something new. I wanted to give this project a real chance, so I didn't take any other jobs.

This was only possible because I saved some money, and I didn't rely on immediately bringing money in. While working on my book about chatbots, I was contacted by a company that needed help to build a chatbot. It was crazy, I didn't even finish my book, but people already saw me as a "chatbot expert." Of course, I have worked with chatbots a lot the months before, but it still felt unreal to get my first paid project without doing any marketing. It was big enough and helped me to survive my first business year. I was working six months on my book, and a few months on this project.

It was the networking that helped me a lot. I regularly met new people at meetups or on Twitter. I shared my experiences during talks, blog posts, or conversation. I didn't realize it that back then, but all those things helped me a lot in the long run. If people know you, you have an advantage and don't have to sell yourself every time. This is also why a friend of a friend told another friend about this guy building chatbots in Austria and why I got my first paid project.

My Business Plan

In a perfect world, you take several months to prepare your new business before starting it. You would do a lot of research, create business plans, and spend as much time on spreadsheets as for coding. Financially speaking, this is probably the best way to go. But not everyone is the same. What works for one person maybe is not a good fit for another.

I planned to create a product I could sell and to give this whole process a try. That was the only thing that was important to me. I wanted to see for myself what it is like working on a book or video course. Do I like it? Am I even good at it? Would someone buy it? These are all things you need to find out.

It is like with people who like to play video games. They love it so much and want to make it a profession to create games. But making games is different from playing it.

What About The Money

Of course, money is essential when you leave your job. Especially one where you get a fixed amount of money every month and hopefully a little more every year. Having a business means you only get cash if you sell something.

  • You go on holidays, no money.
  • You get sick and can't work, no money.
  • Even when you go to the toilet, no money.

It is different when you sell products, but in the first years, you often have to work with clients to pay bills.

In my case, the decision to have a company was about trying something new I had a passion for and to being able to decide when and how much I want to work. Of course, I also wanted to make money, but it wasn't my first priority. I knew the first year would be hard, but for the second year, I had the goal to earn about the same amount of money I made in my last job.

It is not just about a number that sounds good to you; it is also about a certain amount you need for your situation. (family, rent, loan, holidays, lifestyle, etc.)

I don't want to go into detail here in this article. Maybe I do a separate one about real numbers, but I want to mention that it gets quite hard to compare your salary to a job as an employee. This is different in every country. In Austria, I have to pay various taxes and insurances in advance. Calculations are based on an assumption for your first year. This then changes every year, depending on your last year. Additionally, some of your expenses are now part of the business. This could lead to reduced prices, taxes, and similar benefits. Long story short, it is damn hard for me to compare my last job to my business now financially speaking.

One thing I know for sure: I work much less than before.

My 10 Tips To Create a Successful One Man Business

Number 1: Don't trust every headline!

Of course, I don't have those ten tips for you. Just like Jeffrey Way once said: "I'm just trying to figure stuff out every day." It is the same for me. It would be wrong to tell you to do this or that. I go my way step by step. I have no idea where it ends, but I know I have to keep going to find out if I manage to get there. And you have to go your way.

But still, some things worked out quite right for me, and so there are some general tips I would like to mention:

  • Always be aware of your goals! Never forget about Why you are going this road.
  • Networking will help you a lot. Go out and meet people, talk to others, listen to their stories, and share your experiences.
  • Having a business means doing the numbers. You will have to take care of the finances too. Get an accountant to help you here.
  • Marketing will be one of your main tasks. No matter if your building products or doing freelance work.
  • Freedom comes to a price. A business will always be part of your life and mind. Always! (Weekends, holidays, etc.)
  • Always look into the future but learn from your past. Do a lot of recaps to learn from your mistakes.
  • Don't be afraid to adapt. Everything is changing. Our industry, clients, people, and you. What works for your business now might change in a year. It is ok to adapt your goals, dreams, and roads.
  • Listen to your heart. Not everything is about numbers and money. Find happiness, whatever that means for you.

Conclusion

So this was how I went from "It would be cool to create a product" to having my own company. The last two years have been quite a rollercoaster, but I managed to release two products:

Still, most of my salary gets paid through freelance work, and it seems this won't change very soon. But it's ok; I keep going my way.

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