Going solo

Today marks 5 whole weeks since moving freelance and realise that a blog post was long overdue. Plus after the worst night’s sleep in a long time I thought would carve out some time to outline what I’ve been up to, where i’m going and where I’ve been.

Some looking back

Well the end of February was pretty exciting. The day before Felix’s second Birthday and with about a weeks notice I found out that my employer Net Resources was going into administration leaving me in panic mode. The choice was to find alternative employment or to try something I had been thinking about for a long time: brave freelancing.

I had considered freelance but was too worried about the hiatus in earning between salary and then invoiced freelance work. I just couldn’t see being able to fill that gap without financial assistance. However the hand was now forced so I decided to give freelancing a shot and after some frenzied tweets managed to secure some work carried out under freelancing identity, TINY v. I’ve now got a couple of projects under my belt and learnt a lot in the relatively short period of time since making the shift from full-time, salaried work to independent trading.

It’s been a pretty rapid and steep learning curve. I’ve never had a head for accounts but fortunately Freeagent Central has made invoicing, estimates, account and expense management a breeze. I cannot recommend this software enough and it has paid for itself 100 times over already!

Also lots of effort and time going into communication, meeting new clients, securing future work, writing proposals but that is the nature of the beast. So five weeks on how have I found it?

The positives

Working from home has been great. I do not remotely miss the stress of the morning commute – from the frenzied getting two adults and two children dressed and fed and out the door to catch an over-crowded, over-priced train into Edinburgh.
I’ve also found that not commuting and splashing out on lunches, snacks, coffees, etc. has saved me an absolute fortune.

I’ve loved being in control of the work I produce and the clients I work with. That was something I felt I never had at Net Resources and being solely in charge of and accountable for my own destiny has – I’ve found – made me much more productive.

Since working from home my ongoing back troubles of the past eighteen months have been conspicious by their absence. I can’t figure out if this is working practice, desk set-up, etc or the fact that despite the stresses of losing my job a great load has been lifted from my mind. Time will tell …

I thought I would really struggle with loneliness if working from home but since moving from full-time work I’ve made much more time to socialise than have done in a number of years and am trying to get into Edinburgh at least once a fortnight. Am also finding a range of lovely folk on twitter and skype keeping me sane.

A big positive for me in going freelance has been learning to say no. This is something I’ve always struggled with and when starting out freelance it has been really tempting to say yes to any offers of work. For the first week or so I did and was quickly overwhelmed. I started reading Too Nice for Your Own Good which I bought on a whim at Christmas with some Amazon vouchers and have to say it has helped put how I communicate with people in perspetive (but that’s another blog post entirely …).

The negatives

Working from home has its downsides. At days when the boys are home it is hard for them to appreciate that daddy is now working from home. There is a lot to be said about the physical separation between home and work environment and whilst I’ve managed to carve out some space at home to serve as an office it can be quite distracting when all your son wants to do is play football or swingball.

Keeping the separation between home and work has been really difficult, particularly in time keeping. I’ve thrown myself into work and some evenings will work into the small hours atop trying to do a 9-5. This is something I’m hoping is just a short-term thing as I try to push work out and get cash flow up but am wary that this shouldn’t become regular working practice – for my family’s sanity as well as my own.

Looking forward

So overall the move has been great and long overdue. I’ve been really enjoying working for myself and whilst I’m not sure if this will be a permanent switch am relishing the freedom and control that was certainly missing at Net Resources.
Looking forward there are some things I definitely need or hope to do:

I really hope to carve the time out to blog more often. Blogging kind of fell by the wayside for me around almost a year ago and now my time is my own I really hope I can make time to structure my thoughts and put them out there to foster debate or just to get things off my chest.

I really need to *Redesign the TINY v website* – the site was put up as a holding page when I started doing drips and drabs of freelance work 4 years ago. Whilst it has been great to have been too busy to do personal projects I really need to focus on my shop window! I’ve been pointing folk to a holding CV on Dropbox which has worked so far but will need remedying!

I have to slow down – I’ve been putting in long days and late nights and this has not been compatible with a small family. On paper enough money is coming in to cover out outgoings and I really need to weigh up the positives or more money against the negatives fo the time that takes me away from my wife and children.

Finally, apologies – if you’ve got this far – to anyone who is waiting on the result of the freelance rates survey I set up in February. I was amazed by the volume of responses (almost 250) and hope in the next week or so to get the results down in some form for public consumption.

So look forward to hearing more from me. Hopefully …


Very, very happy that it’s all panning out so well. You’ve earnt it Cole, nice going!

Good to hear the jump to freelancing has been positive so far :)

I found the toughest bit for me was having a baby in the house and that it was really tough to not be a dad when he was crying etc and mum needed a bit of help.

It’s something you have to manage but I’d strongly recommend looking at co-working in an office with other creatives every now and again to retain your sanity and avoid living in your own little bubble!


Good news. When you went solo, I decided to cook up a blog post of advice. You see how well that went, eh?

Anyway, yes, they key thing to remember is that time is something you can choose to spend now. It’s as valuable as what you buy with it, and that can be money, or it can be time with your family. Freelancing gives you the option to choose, but balancing both is the trick you learn sooner or later.

Be intentional with your time. Spend it actively and you’ll be all right.

Best advice I can give: get an office. You need to have some separation, and it will focus you on achieving that balance.

Nothing like “going to work” to remind you that it’s equally important to come home.

Best of luck with the freelance lifestyle Cole, I really hope it works out for you.

I always found it a challenge for some of the reasons you mention here, mostly the saying no equation, and personally I really need the distance from home in order to work effectively and efficiently. I remember 18 hour days with not much relish and I hope you manage to find that balance.

Onwards to better things.

Good luck Cole, I’m sure it’ll work out well for you.

One of the worst problems I have is family and friends turning up at the door for a “quick cup of tea” because they know you’re in. Got into the habit of turning the entryphone buzzer off and putting my phone on silent.

The other main problem is trying to find the time to get my own website redesigned as it’s been down for about 6 months now and I’ve been too busy to do anything about it. Like you say though, a good shop window makes a huge difference!

I couldn’t imagine having children at home with me! I think the idea of a co-working space or office while you have paying work coming in is crucial. Also, closing the door to friends and family and having formal office hours is key. I also DO NOT keep Skype open because I mostly chit chat with people there, resulting in zero output, which is why I just “contact requested” you there!

My biggest problem was having to do “everything” from sales to project management to testing, development, accounts and so on.

I hear it is not so bad for design work which is usually smaller jobs.

Let me know how you get on :-) I had to go back to contracting because I couldn’t handle all the responsibility.

Glad to hear it’s going well Cole.

Looking forward to the freelance rates survey results…

I’ve done the opposite to what everyone usually does when I started as a freelancer. I started out sharing a room with another designer, then a few years ago I moved back home. I was lucky that I built a studio at the bottom of my garden, which helps with separation from home/work!

My two children know that when I’m working they don’t come into the studio. They just see it as normal that is where I work. If they get a bit noisy in the garden during the summer I just turn the stereo up a bit!

Best of luck with the freelancing!

Best of luck with it all. So many upsides, and as you recognise, the road ahead is littered with potholes as well. I’ve always found it best to trust your best instincts and stick to them. Occasionally, you’ll get it a bit wrong, but overall it’ll average out to a more than positive life!