Rusted Farm Machinery
Rusted Farm Machinery

Rusted Farm MachineryA while ago now I mentioned here on this blog that I was quitting my 9–5 job. Even before leaving the job I started questioning the decision

Having been working for myself for 18 months I still haven’t achieved anywhere near as much as I had hoped. Now don’t get me wrong I have done a few things in that time that I am very pleased with. The problem is that I just haven’t found nearly as much time as I had wanted to, to spend on the personal projects I had envisaged.

Over that time I have had some good months and some not so good months…

Then I was offered some extra work for my old company but this came with some extra restrictions. This got me thinking as to whether I would just be better off returning to full time employment. Am I really cut out to be my own boss?

Time to reflect on my original decision and see if my feelings have changed in any way…

What’s Changed

One of the main reasons I haven’t tackled what I originally set out to was down to me picking work that would provide an instant income over work that would create a product for me to sell sometime in the future. Obviously I need a regular income to be able to keep paying the bills, so this seemed like the only way. Looking back though that isn’t the whole story…

I certainly didn’t spend all of my time doing this paid work. I had a lot of ideas but only a small few of which ever really got started, let alone completed. That is only to be expected though, not every idea you come up with is going to have real promise.

The problem is that in the excitement I found myself jumping from one project to another. I rarely put my head down and focused on a specific project of my own for any length of time. The projects I did work on were for other people. Designing websites, creating iPhone Apps and even creating a full blown Windows application.

Now all of these projects were enjoyable, I even learnt a lot from them. The unfortunate thing is that they are pretty much swapping time for money just like a proper job!

The plan was to create something for myself that would start bringing in a regular income without constant additional work. Whether that was from an iPhone App that I had created myself that could bring in money from selling the app or advertising within it, or from a program that could either be sold for a one-off fixed price or for a monthly fee.

Another cause for concern is the fact that I am not a salesman. I have developed an application that I think could sell for a reasonable amount of money. It’s not 100% ready yet but the problem comes with the actual selling part. I have no love for idea of selling directly to customers so I would probably rely on internet marketing and advertising. This is an area I know little about and so is completely unknown territory making my future income a bit unpredictable…

The majority of my work was contracting for my old company. The last big project I undertook was never fully specified and so went on for much longer than anyone had anticipated, especially me… The project was eventually finished though.

Up until now I had been able to decide how much time I spend working on my different projects. With a new project looming the rules changed a bit…

To help speed the next project up I was asked to put in a bit more time and hence relinquish some of the freedom I currently enjoy. This came as a bit of a surprise and scared me a bit for various reasons.

I was surprised to find that the main thing I was worried about was not the loss of freedom but the added tax complications of possibly having to deal with IR35

Previously I looked into this and as I am a Sole Trader with complete control over the work I was doing I was sure this wasn’t an issue. Now I was being asked to give up some of that control I was no longer sure where I would stand, especially if I wanted to turn into a limited company in the future to help protect myself financially.

So I decided to look hard into why I chose to work for myself again and see what my options are.

In the past I had mentioned that my job had become quite mundane. I was able to step away from that for a while but as I left on very good terms I was able to carry on doing work that I enjoyed for the company. Since I left there have been some major changes and there is definitely some forward momentum again. The time away helped me feel empowered and as I can see the potential future development prospects again I have regained interest in things.

Is that a good enough reason to give up my current freedoms though? This is not a decision I can take lightly one way or the other.

OK so what were my original reasons? I created a list in the Why Quit? post so lets take another look at the list…

Reasons

Freedom

Freedom is fairly pointless if you have no-one to spend it with. What I mean by that is that even though I have all this flexibility my wife is still in a normal job with the normal number of days holiday as are most of my other family and friends. So even though I can decide at the drop of the hat to take a day off and go for a wander or something I have to go on my own as Shirley wouldn’t be able to get the time off. So is there really that much of a benefit?

Another fallacy in my initial though process is that working from home would give me infinitely more time. This is a slight exaggeration but I was expecting to fit a lot more than humanly possible into the 8 hours a day that I was regaining from not going into the office every day.

With all the time I thought I had, I tried to tackle far too many things at the same time. Working from home is great for concentrated, productive work but the down side of that is that it is hard to find the balance between work and life. Initially I was worried that I would spend all day watching TV or playing computer games. My will power was strong though and I was easily able to avoid both completely during the day. The problem though was that it’s too easy to spend the whole evening working as well…

I touched on this ages ago in Strive For More Freedom but I still haven’t found the balance, in fact it seems to be a bit of a see-saw…

Productivity can wane. This something I hadn’t really thought about. Sometimes productivity can be through the roof but at other times it can go through a lull. From my experience it comes in cycles, if you push yourself too hard then you have to go through a quiet period to recuperate. This can be catered for in a regular job but if productivity is your source of income then you need to be ready for some periods with little or no income…

One thing that does still concern me is relying on a single source of income. If I do go back to work full time then I intend to keep my business going but on a much reduced basis. Restricting myself to a couple of nights a week and the occasional day at the weekend should help me focus on what is important rather than wasting time on all the pointless stuff.

Learning

I still have a yearning for more knowledge. At the moment I am following a great free 30-day course on jQuery.

Luckily there is plenty of potential to learn some new skills with this company as they are looking to move into some interesting new areas. Web development is an area I am really looking forward to. I have been brushing up on my web skills for a while in readiness for this anyway…

So this isn’t much of an issue any more with the possibility of learning new things on the job. I would also have some time in the evenings if I still want to learn more off my own back…

Health

In the end there wasn’t really much of a health advantage from working at home. When I got caught out with three deadlines at pretty much the same time I started working pretty much constantly with a lot of late nights.

I realised at the time that I needed to do something about it when I wrote Taking Back Control. Unfortunately I never really managed to get things back under control and spend most of my time either working in front of my computer or in front of the TV. Some days I don’t even leave the house…

After the indulgence of Christmas, followed by the Winter weather, I haven’t had any real incentive to do much about it…

At least going back to work would force my into a short walk every day.

Sense of Achievement

Even though I did complete a few projects for myself over the last 18 months I never really found time to enjoy the achievement. I still feel proud of my accomplishments though so maybe I was wrong about the need to have a break to feel the sense of achievement.

In hindsight I think it is probably best take pride in what you do rather than try and get to the end of a task and then wallow in the sense of achievement. That wallowing might lead to complacency or even laziness when it comes to the next project…

The Decision

I originally drafted this post to help me get things clear in my head before testing the water to see if there was a possibility of a full time job. As you can probably tell from the post I was leaning towards going back to work.

I have since signed a contract and returned to work full time.

As I had a draft of this post with all my reasoning in it I thought it may be worthwhile cleaning it up a bit, adding in some links and posting it here to show my thought processes.

I still intend to keep my business going on the side, working a couple of evenings and maybe the occasional day over the weekend. The main difference is that I am going to be doing the stuff I want. If it makes money in the long run then great.

For now I have decided that I am not going to carry on with web design. Instead I want to switch to developing web applications for myself, hence the jQuery course. I do not really intend to even develop apps for other people unless there is some added incentive for me, and I’m not just talking money here.

I wasn’t brave enough to do this while working for myself, mainly because I needed a steady stream of income. But now I have that stream of income sorted I can go out on a limb and chance my hand at something…

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Image: Shirley O’Shea

3 comments

Shirl

This was great to read even though I have been there by your side through all your decisions.I’m glad you had the freedom to experience what you did.And here’s to your new/old job and all that it brings.

Michael Ludgate

Good to see returning to an office hasn’t defeated you, I can imagine others would feel they’d failed. I do think it’s a case of throwing too many resources at a project. I’ve been in plenty of situations where I’ve elected to map unrealistic goals to impossible time-frames that looked ok working like a machine. Now I view the natural dip in productivity caused by any period of sustained effort as an integral part of any optimisation of the working practices. Chaining up several blocks of efficient work can easily be more wasteful than working on both inefficiently. An example you’ve explored on your blog, email checking.

Time saved can be significant, but if it’s a buffer that delays exhaustion then you stand to lose any benefit. Probably sounds awful to a manager of yesteryear but, I think it should also be acceptable to look at efficient down-time activity. Maybe that means being allowed to go out for a 15 minute walk on a sunny day, playing a game or listening to a track of music. Instead of fervently working and then hiding the less productive bits with screen staring.

I guess you’ll continue to explore more efficient ways to use the reduced time available, something that will be more relevant to your followers here.

Thanks for the tutsplus link, loving the free video lessons. Getting sidetracked is a big problem though, tried out jQuery UI which is also awesome.

    Pete O'Shea

    Hi Michael,

    It did cross my mind that I had failed in my attempt to go it alone. The trick is to not worry about failure, so long as you learn something during the process, it’s worthwhile…

    As with any change there is always an adjustment period. At the moment I am still getting used to working every day. I haven’t really found time for anything other than cooking/eating dinner followed by relaxing in front of the TV when I get home. Hopefully I should get the balance right soon and get on top of things shortly, including this blog.

    I can really relate to dips in productivity. I have even experienced screen staring where I just couldn’t get motivated to tackle anything. As soon as I notice a lull I force myself to take a break, even if it’s just to get up and go make a drink. At home I would do exactly as you suggested, go for a walk, turn on the PS3 or crank up the tunes for a while and then try again. Worked a treat but not sure how it would go down in the office environment…

    Glad you are checking out the jQuery course. I’ve only got a couple of videos left and I’m very impressed by how much has been covered. I feel like I’ve learnt loads.

    Cheers,
    Pete

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