Past, Present & Future

I’ve been self-employed for quite some time, that is no secret to my friends and families. And it’s also quite a surprise to myself that I chose to do this at a very early stages of my career, as I believed nothing in my personality encourages such risk to be taken upon. But I did, and looking back, these are the things I believe I did right by myself, and what I got in return.

Now that I am contemplating leaving it all behind, here’s some advice I could share.

Tough love for your self-esteem & confidence

I’ve always been a bit introverted and shy when I was growing up. It was directly contradictory that I choose this path to start off my career. It was a lengthy battle of perseverance, meeting strangers and convincing them that me, a young, solo developer would be able to deliver something made completely by myself. No teams, no mentors and no guidance.

Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. I was fortunate that most of my projects were delivered, somewhat satisfactorily as I put in my full energy to them, working nights and weekends in delivering them.

Self-employed is not for everyone, and that’s not an elitist statement

It’s hard. At some point, it doesn’t even make sense to some. I’ve got friends coming up to me upon a few years of experience, asking me, ‘Why did you choose this path, when someone with your skills could easily net 2x in my company.”. After a while, they stopped asking once it was obvious that I was able to support myself through my efforts, through my own means.

Just like every gamble you choose to pursue in life, it doesn’t always work out. It’s hard work, and the amount of work and dedication you put into it doesn’t always translate into comparable payoff that you would expect.

Was it worth it?

To a certain extent, yes. During this writing, I am heavily contemplating if this is still the road I want to be on. I am starting a family, and everyone’s priority is shifting towards theirs. We’re less dedicated to the cause, and even more skeptical to the vision that we held on so strongly a few years back. We’re burnt out, tired of the same promises, the industry and the fleeting earning potential compared to our more corporate counterparts.

I get to build myself to be much, much more confident on my abilities. I am always thirsty for new technology, the thrill of learning new languages and being able to implement them. New paradigms, methodologies and software practices. That is always fun to find out. And I’d reckon I would’ve been so if I didn’t start off my career the way I did. I had tremendous fun leading teams, working together in tough battle in the trenches.

I also had the opportunity to meet amazing people, network of aspiring software developers and their continuous pursuits. And for them to acknowledge our presence in the industry as their comparable counterparts. That we were making grounds, building traction and to a certain extent, build our reputation as of what we are capable of.

What if everything turned out as I’d hoped?

I had this vision of how everything would turned out. In this parallel universe, if everything would work out the way I wanted:

  • The people I worked with, my team, would now be able to lead their own teams. I would be managing the bigger picture.
  • I would worry less about the runway. About the money we need to recuperate and the cost of overheads month-by-month. About the projects that pays us 1x month overhead and kept us busy 3 months later.
  • I would finally be able to have my own medium-sized Development Firm, working on big, complex but visionary software projects as how an Architect would dream working on a modern landmark.
  • Having intelligent, dedicated people to work with, in their endless pursuit of knowledge and perfection.
  • Clients who paid on time, demands for what they paid for, and a better market to work with, minus the corruption, ‘finders fees’, middle-men and lobbyists.

But then again, wishful thinking isn’t helpful. It’s what you do to achieve them is what matters. And what you’re willing to sacrifice as each of us has a different cost to success. Me? I gave it my best shot. At least I believed so.

Would I ever be able to see through these aspirations? I don’t know. I’d leave it at that — because life doesn’t have a binary ending, nor a fixed perspective of where you finally are. Currently, I’m focusing my efforts to prepare for my first child, and I realised in a way, my priorities are slowly shifting towards it. At 34, I am finally felt like 30 and the inevitability and the reality of it.

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