Quitting My Full-Time Job to Work as a Freelancer
And what to prepare if you are planning to do the same
I’ve been working in the IT industry for almost twenty years, from software engineer to project manager and finally running an IT department. But about two years ago, I’ve quit my job and have been working as a freelancer ever since.
I’ve released my first iOS app on App Store last June but the app itself is not important. I simply want to prove to myself — and some of my worrying family members — that I can build something and put it out there on my own.
What is important is what I’ve learned during the eight months working on this app. I’ve learned about what issues will come up after going freelance and how these issues can be resolved.
This article is a summary of my freelance journey so far and my advice for people planning to go freelance.
When I told my family about quitting my full-time job, the first thing they asked was: Why would I do that?
Well, I’ve always wanted to work for something I am passionate about, rather than just for making ends meet.
My generation of working in the IT industry is fortunate enough to earn a very decent pay. But I always feel the possibilities are much greater than the areas covered by the companies I was working for at the time.
I am by no means blaming the companies because they have to focus on an area they can excel at and has business opportunities.
After taking care of this first question from my family, the next two were: Will I be able to support myself financially? And how am I going to spend the extra time after quitting my full-time job?
To my surprise, my family members had no problems understanding my financial plan. But they really found it difficult to grasp the idea of spending my daily life with solely my hobbies, like developing apps and writing articles.
I was a bit frustrated in the first few months when I had to use different ways to explain the same idea to them. Then I stopped pushing them to understand the idea right away. Because I realized the best way to persuade them was not by explaining to them — but showing them how I would actually spend my time.
Nowadays, people spend most of their time at work, and they don’t have enough time left for developing their hobbies. So it will take some time for them to understand how a person can fill his time with only hobbies and not his work.
In my case, the time my family took was about six months. The time needed for every family will definitely be varied depending on several factors. Those factors include family member backgrounds and their general confidence in you.
My advice: Be patient, and your family will eventually understand.
My first issue after going freelance is that it is sometimes hard to deal with frustrations from work without my colleagues around.
One example of mine is, what is happening when I have issues on my mobile apps development. I can’t just walk by my colleagues’ desk and let off steam as I used to in my previous full-time job. For specific technical issues, I can certainly get online and discuss with other app developers on the solutions.
These discussions are extremely useful for finding specific solutions. But they cannot replace the direct human interactions — unless your other half is also an app developer or working in the IT industry.
My solution to this situation is usually to go for a one-hour run or even take a half-day trip out of town. Walking away from the monitor — and the technical issues on hand — gives me a chance to get myself level-headed before retackling the issues.
My advice: Do anything that can clear your mind — like taking a coffee break, or going hiking, etc. Talking to colleagues is one way, but not the only way.
Another issue I’ve noticed is, there are a lot of different things I want to do after going freelance. Because suddenly I have all the time in the world.
In the first couple of months, I was so excited that I could finally work on things that I truly love. I started to work on five different items on my list at the same time. And the result — which I didn’t expect — was disappointing and frustrating. Because spreading my time too thin significantly slowed down the progress on each item.
So after the first three months, I went to the other extreme. I focused all my time working on one item only for the next three months — and the result was again disappointing. The reason was, no matter how much time I spent on any one item, there would be times I had to take it slow or just wait it out.
Examples of mine were training for my first public running event or submitting my iOS app to the App Store. I couldn’t rush my training unless I want to injure myself, nor could I ask Apple to rush their approval process for the App Store.
Thus, at the present time, I would have at least two items — but no more than three — to work on at any time. When the progress of any one item is slowing down, I can always switch to a second or third item and keep myself moving forward.
My advice: Going freelance gives you much more time but it is not unlimited. Manage your time as if you were still working a full-time job.
If there is one single preparation you must do before even thinking of going freelance, it is to discuss with your spouse or family members.
From my experience, most of them need some time to digest the idea before they can come up with their concerns. And their concerns will inevitably impact your planning later on.
You wouldn’t want to do it the other way around — getting all the preparations done then tell your family. Because the last thing you want to surprise them in life is suddenly telling them you are quitting your job to pursue your passion.
Next, once all the preparations are done and you are quitting your full-time job, it is essential to stay in touch with your former colleagues.
Not because for the potential freelance work from their referrals as you might be thinking. But for the human interactions they can provide. Believe me, you are probably working by yourself most of the time after going freelance. Thus you will appreciate their company much more than ever before.
My final advice: Freelance can be a great way to enjoy life and work if you are well prepared for it.