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I quit my job seven months ago, this is what's happened (danhough.com)
41 points by basicallydan on June 8, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments

The thing that really struck me when I left full-time employment for consulting was sick days and holidays. One of the very first things you learn in independent consulting is the value of a billable day. At a salaried job, if you don't show up to work some day, all that happens is some abstract counter of "personal days" ticks down by one. But as a freelancer, you don't show up, you don't get paid.

It sounds obvious, but if you haven't experienced it yet, try it some time. It feels like a high-wire act.

Yup, and for me, it created a lot of unhealthy pressure to Always Be Billing™. Maybe for some people that sort of internal nudge is fine, but it made me push myself even when I was sick or majorly burned out lest I not make enough to cover my bills next month (assuming the client pays on time, which they may or may not).

Eventually I couldn't handle the self-imposed stress (and, at the time, uncertainty about health insurance), so I happily returned to employment. :)

Yeah - you really have to stop, note, communicate, bill and collect on every request that a client has.

Or else, you will feel tired, broke and like someone has their hand in your pocket all the time.

And if you just generally have bad health/chronic health issues, you need to consider that contracting may be 'wrong' for you, or that you need to really aggressively overcompensate. The standard guidance on how to function as an independent contractor really doesn't suffice here - the other people I know with ongoing health problems have had a hard time, and my expenses always manage to dwarf my income even though I follow the basic steps. (I keep raising my rates though, so I'll probably eventually reach the right balance...)

Right now it's all going really well but I can see how one might end up rejecting the stress. I may do too, but I hope not! At least, not for a while. Thanks for sharing :) good to see empathetic people here.

Yep, absolutely. I haven't yet experienced this luckily but I suspect I will eventually. I can say that since I started billing as a Ltd company, I haven't been able to get paid because my business bank account is taking so long to be set up. That certainly doesn't help with the high-wire-ness of this act.

It's important to note that hardware (and other business related expenses) should come out of your pre-tax income. Make sure to expense those things!

I also (personally) find it humorous that several of his downsides are extreme upsides for me. No conferences, no after hours schmoozing with my employer, no need for software that has expensive licenses :) and most importantly NO "team-building-moral-improving-bonding activities"!!

Haha! Yeah that is quite funny. I know what you mean to an extent, at times those things get old but generally I'd say I'm a fan, still. Each to their own I suppose!

And as for the tax thing, I was going to put that in my post but on the advice a proofreader, I took it out to avoid a moral argument. Thanks for the tip though, I absolutely will (and have) been expensing relevant business purchases :)

"A lot of advice says to only accept jobs which are willing to pay the rate you're offering..."

IMHO the rule is good, but you don't have to offer the same rate for each job. If there's a job that benefits you, work out what how much that benefits you and quote the appropriate rate. If there's a job that doesn't benefit you, double your normal rate.

Clients insisting on negotiating the rate is a negative signal. It may be a signal that they don't value your work at the rate you're quoting, and this is often a signal that they won't value your work. It may be a signal that they are under financial pressure (i.e. it's high risk for you). Better clients might ask for a discount but normally will agree if you stick to the quoted rate.

Good point, well made. That's partly what I was going for with what I said (money/learning benefits etc), but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't being a little bit forgiving with my negotiation. Especially with my latest contract, I was particularly unwilling to stick to too powerful guns because I'd just moved back to the UK and didn't have a flat yet. Things still seemed (and in fact, still do - I haven't moved into the new place yet) in flux. It's hard to make hard-nosed business decisions when things are a little bit all over the place. Nevertheless, the new contract has worked out quite well even though I was haggled down a little.

Great post, Dan. You might not have hit your original goal on the head, but nothing you did sounds like failing.

Small steps on a long road!

:D thanks buddy, that's very encouraging!

Nice setup as well. This being HN I expected a "This is how I made a fortune" when I looked at the link/title. The story starts with the admission of failure though and now I expected the (just as common) "Hire me please" post.

You made a different point and I enjoyed reading the article. Congratulations, it seems you found a nice middle ground.

I'm glad that the honesty is appreciated, thanks!

I quit my full-time job a month ago in order to pursue my Master's degree, which begins next month. To keep myself busy in the meantime I advertised myself for several short-term freelancing gigs.

To my pleasant surprise, I actually managed to earn the same amount as I was before, while putting in about half the hours. Really opened my eyes to how underpaid I was before.

"I failed".

Ouch. I'm a couple of months into doing something similar and I was contracting before it. I'm fairly resigned to returning to contracting at the end of my six months.

Churning out a product company from scratch without an obviously good and commercially viable idea is hard. A large part of me is resigned to returning to contracting and at best trying to keep what I've worked on ticking over at the same time.

There's no need for the return to contracting to be "the end" though, merely a setback. Unless you actually want it to be, and to just drop it and start something else another time. There's no shame in quitting and starting again another time!

Nice article - thank you for sharing!

You're welcome, thanks for reading!

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