Lessons From Working for Myself (9 Months In)

I left my previous job at the end of September 2021 to focus on BookStack and OpenSource work full time. The initial plan was to spend 6 months away from work but here I am 9 months later, with no immediate plan to start job hunting just yet. In this post I’ll run though some of the discoveries I’ve made during this time.

Disconnecting the Past

One of the reasons I desired an extended break from work was to mentally rest from the anxieties built up during the 7 years of my past job. Over that time, as tech lead, I had become fairly responsible, and somewhat on-call, for a variety of applications/systems. Personally I don’t deal with this kind of thing well and each event/issue would build anxiety & mental obsession.

Even 3 months after leaving I’d find a thought drift into mind, that would cause my heart to palpitate. Now, 9 months later, I find myself appropriately disconnected. I’d estimate it probably was around the 6 month mark I found myself no longer anxious about old work projects.

Freedom in Totality

Something I have found to love while working for myself is the total freedom of my time. Being able to sleep, go into town, walk to the bakery, see family, work, or lazily watch TV, whenever I desire, has been wonderful. It removes a lot of the stress of having to fit your needs and wants around the somewhat arbitrary time blocks consumed by a job.

Thanks to this freedom I now feel a lot more in control of my own health since I can rest, stretch and exercise whenever I want without feeling guilty. Previously I’d often skip these activities with the mood not hitting me after a solid day of work. Currently I’m often enjoying the >2 mile round-trip walk to the local bakery & shops almost every other day, while doing more exercise throughout the day.

These freedoms also trickle down to the actual work I perform on a daily basis. I pick and choose the things I want to work on depending on what I’m feeling keen for. I can choose to work on something new, or spend some time learning, to mix things up when needed.

The Requirement of Sleep Routine

One freedom that I was interested to play with was that of my sleep routine. I questioned if time of sleep really mattered or not, but I have learnt that it very much does matter, even just to be part of the outside world which generally works on a daytime schedule. Being awake and active during the time that shops and services are open is a great convenience. Adjusting for a 8:30am hospital appointment, at a time where I was waking at 12pm, was a struggle. Additionally, keeping asleep during the morning and daytime is much more of a challenge, with bin emptying, traffic and parcel deliveries proving as interruptions.

I now aim to keep awake time in sync with the daytime. I still enjoy lie-ins but I make adjustments if the schedule shifts too far.

Social & Working Environment

Leaving my previous job inflicted a large shift in my working environment and daily social life. The social side of things was one of my main long-term concerns with working for myself, being significantly introverted.

Initially these elements were a shock and struggle but it become less of an issue over time, especially as I introduced more variety to my day, disconnecting the framework of how I would previously work. Over the last few months I’ve introduced weekly events of remotely working from cafe, in an attempt to mix up the working environment and remain connected to the outside world. I’ve come to enjoy these much more than initially expected.

Back in February I was excited to got to the PHP UK 2022 conference, my first code conference, as a way to socialise in-person around a subject I’m passionate about, but this fell flat pretty harshly with no conversations with anyone else at the conference.

Motivations & Money

When it comes to my finances I’ve always preferred to play things safe and conservative, but this current venture has enforced a shift to that dynamic. After being kindly supported by my parents for the initial 6 month period (albeit against my own advisory) I am currently burning through my savings. Luckily I’m now at a point where maybe just over half my costs are covered by incomes. My majority income is via my wonderful GitHub sponsors. A lesser portion comes from my BookStack support offerings, provided via my new company HTTP Functions Ltd.

I feel a mixed duality in regard to my finances. On one side, due to a my normally safe nature, I’m concerned about being in a negative income scenario, especially with living costs crawling upward. On the other side, I enjoy the necessity of optimizing my costs and the idea of building up my own income.

Right now my main motivation is the idea of the continued freedom and flexibility of working I currently enjoy. I think I’d now struggle attempting to work to a regular work-day schedule. As a sub-motivator, I also have an aim to regain enough financial stability to consider adopting a cat again after my previous cat, Ruby, passed away back in April.

One of my primary hindrances to achieving my financial & motivational goals, is my own attitude and beliefs to my work. I give away my software for free, and I still strive to support users on GitHub & Discord while I provide paid-for support offerings (Although these do get my priority and additional benefits). I don’t see this changing though, Instead I’ll probably look into optimizing the attractiveness & reach of the current offerings to better scale what I already have.