Freelancing and Back in One Year - A Retrospective - Part 1

Almost exactly one year ago I started my freelancing business. It's been one of the best years of my life. Not only but in parts due to my freelancing.
And not only but also because I'm stopping freelancing after a year already, I want to take the time and reflect on what happened, what worked and what didn't for me.
(As I'm writing this, it turns out, there's rather much to reflect and tell, so I’ll turn this into a series).

The preparations to go freelance of course started way before it actually happened.
The business side prep started after I quit my full-time job some months before. The mind prep (including getting confident enough that I actually have something to sell and convincing myself and my wife that the risk involved is manageable and it's not just some kind of fluke I'm doing, but a serious thing I want to do) took several years. But relax, I won't bother with all these details. If you still want to know them, buy me a beer.

My Goals for Freelancing

One consequence of this prep was that I knew pretty well, what I wanted to achieve by going freelance. At least several people I talked to during this year said that. It seemed unusual that I knew exactly what my reasons and goals were for going freelance.
(Sidenote: I prefer to say that I opened a business instead of going freelance)
These goals were and are:

  • I wanted to have a much greater freedom (compared to the standard German full-time job) when it comes to when and were I work.
  • I wanted to do more technical work.

Background: Why more Technical Work?

I guess they are not uncommon and therefore pretty easy to understand. Still, to really understand the second goal a little background is necessary.
After studying and getting my diploma I worked as a developer for several years. It was great. I had some interesting (though not overly awesome) projects. But I always thought that there should be more, and I always was one those “I want to do more, gimme more responsibilities” kind of guy. In retrospect, I totally was one of those Generation X people, that’s described in Theo Schlossnagle’s quote, which is at the beginning of John Allspaw’s brilliant “On being a Senior Engineer” article.
Besides making me restless, changing jobs quite often, or at least being on the lookout constantly, it also lead to getting a teamlead role someday. That was in 2008. At the time it felt like “FINALLY, I can do what I want and really do stuff I always wanted to do but no one ever let me”. Boy, was I clueless.

Still, or because of that, I learned loads in the following years. But it didn't take long for me to miss development, the actual hands-on coding. So instead of losing interest in technical stuff and focusing more on management topics, I tried to keep up-to-date with what happened technically, but of course lacked the actual day-to-day coding experience. Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed the people-part of my job. Really talking to people, being somehow “responsible” for them and trying to help them have a good job, trying to help them advance their skills and themselves. Doing stuff I’d today call coaching. I really enjoyed that, and still do.
But still, that interest in everything technical never left or even got less. Quite the contrary it increased over time which lead me to goal no. 2 above. I wanted to bring my technical chops back to life and wanted to dig deep into code and other technical challenges.

So, how did I start working on achieving those goals? I'll write about that in the next post of the series.