A New Chapter – Beyond Freelancing

Last year I spoke at WordCamp Manchester about freelancing. The talk went down well and I enjoyed sharing my experiences of finally being an established freelancer. Fast forward nearly 6 months and I am no longer freelancing. Today I can introduce my new business, in partnership with Keith Devon, we have launched Highrise Digital Ltd.

A New WordPress Agency

I have worked with Keith for 18 months now, as a freelancer on a number of projects. We met at the WordPress London Meetup in September 2014 where I spoke about my development setup. At the time Keith was on the lookout for freelancers to help him with projects that he had at the time.

We worked really well together with complementary skills sets. Keith very much more front-end focused and me liking to work in the back-end of WordPress. The projects we worked on were a great success and it became obvious that we should go into business together at the back-end of 2015.

So Highrise Digital Ltd was born on February 5th 2016, when we incorporated the business and set things up officially. We spent much of the early part of the discussions deciding what to call the business and agreeing on some branding. You can find out about this, on this post Keith wrote about the experience.

The last few weeks have been extremely busy getting the business setup and in the right place to trade correctly. However it is very exciting and I look forward to working with Keith for many years to come on lots of exciting WordPress projects!

A Year into Being a WordPress Freelancer

Just over a year ago now, I quit my full-time, well paid job as a secondary school teacher to become a full-time (well nearly!) WordPress developer. You can read more about the decision I took at the time here. So a year on from that decision how has it all gone?

The story continues pretty much in the few days and weeks after I had resigned. I was looking at another local school’s website, I can’t remember why now but I happened to click on the vacancies page and there was an advertisement for a teacher of Computing for 1 day per week – perfect I thought. I had wanted to go part-time in the first place to ease the transition between careers, but for one reason and another it was not going to happen. Therefore I applied for this job, teaching year 7 and 8 students a bit of ICT and computing such as Scratch and Python. I thoroughly enjoyed this teaching but more about that later.

My biggest worry about quitting my job was simple really. Would I get enough work in order to pay the bills. With a small family to provide for it was alway the biggest concern. I had been chatting to friends and family and colleagues in teaching, all of which encouraged me that I would be fine and I should just go for it – they were right.

I think that is the first lesson to be learned here really. Sometimes there is no right or wrong time to do something like this, you have to just go with your gut, bite the bullet and do what you think is right. I came the conclusion that if I was thinking about this so much, it must be the right decision. Also I must add, having the support of your wife/partner really helped and I thank her for that a lot. She was always very supportive and pushed me to give it a go.

Getting Clients

Having already worked for a number of years freelancing part-time, looking back I perhaps should not have worried about this as much as I did.

I already had a base and now I could offer those clients and other agencies I did work for much more time and a wider range of offerings that I could before.

I did also do some marketing in the form of speaking at conferences, although that was not my sole reason for doing this. I first spoke at WordCamp Sheffield in April 2014 and have spoken at a number of WordCamps and local meet-ups thereafter. Speaking is good to let people know who you are and what you do, but perhaps more importantly it helps you learn. To talk to people about something means you need to know it well and therefore the research and preparation you do around a topic helps your career development too.

Getting clients has not turned out to be as problematic as I thought and I have had work on throughout the last year. There have been leaner times that others but overall I have had a steady stream. Lets hope that continues.

I think something that you learn more and more and remember for each client that you work with is that you want them to continue being your client (most of the time!) and therefore treat them as though you do.

Running a Business

This was nothing new to me really in terms of I was not changing from being a the sole-trader that I already was from being a part-time freelancer. However there are some things that I have learnt.

desk-laptop-book

The running of your business takes much more time than I ever thought it would do. Writing and sending invoices, communicating with clients, attending meet-ups and WordCamps and other marketing related stuff all take time. This is time that you are not earning and therefore you need to consider this carefully.

Think carefully about how many actual billable hours you can work in a day, week, month and year and then you need to adjust how much you charge for actual work in order to accommodate this.

Working Environment

One of the things that I was insistent on when I went full-time was that I wanted to work from home rather than getting an office somewhere or perhaps a shared work-space. However as I have found out working from home does have its difficulties.

My Desk in my Home Office
My Desk in my Home Office

When you first start because you are at home for the first few days it is hard to remove all the distractions of being in the house and get on fully with your work. However I found this easy to overcome after a week or two and now when I am in my office working, focusing is no problem.

For other family members living in the house this has been less easy. My children for example are always popping to ask this and this and still to this day I have not managed to train them well enough to leave me be during work time. My wife, although considerably better than the children does have the tendency to say thinks like “Can you just put the drying in the dryer?” usually when I am knee deep into something complicated!

However all of that is getting better and I have plans this year to do some work on my work space at home to make it easier to work in etc.

So what next?

Who knows I guess… A year on and things have changed again for me. I am no longer teaching at all, as my position of teaching for 1-day was never a permanent thing. In fact I have enough work on to not continue with that which was always the plan anyway.

This past year has absolutely flown by and I look forward to the next year in freelance and the opportunities that it brings – it has been amazing 🙂

A New Career Chapter

Today I quit my job working as a Secondary School teacher in a Lancashire high school. The job was well paid, with a good pension and a good salary. I am leaving to work as a freelance WordPress developer and consultant with no guaranteed salary or benefits. Why am I doing this I wondered?

I have been teaching for over a decade now. I have taught a number of different subjects but finally settled into teaching ICT and in fact was Subject Leader (Head of Department in old money!) for over 4 years. It was during my teaching career that I developed a passion for working with the web and particularly WordPress, making blogs for students to access as well as websites for students to use in distance learning.

Why Leave the Teaching Profession?

For the majority of the last 10 years I have enjoyed teaching. It is such a varied job with different things happening every day that, on the whole it has been fun. However over the last 12 months I have seen a sharp rise in the work that I have been getting in terms of freelance WordPress jobs and I have had the privilege of working with a number of top WordPress agencies and people during this time. It has become more and more obvious to me that my future did not lie in teaching.

It was at this point I then spoke to the management of my school with the view of dropping down to part-time, perhaps 3 or 4 days work before winding down completely perhaps a year later. However I became apparent that circumstances at the school meant this was not an option and therefore I was left with a decision to make.

Working Two Jobs for Over 5 Years

I have been a freelance WordPress developer for over 5 years, starting out working on small business sites and now working on larger sites including eCommerce sites. Throughout this time I have been working two jobs, teaching full time which as been getting harder and harder. Having two young children means I can no longer do this and be successful at both. Therefore I had to make a decision as to which path to go down. The decision was quite easy really when I thought of it like this.

I have really got to the point whereby I cannot get any better and progress in either job as one was pulling back the other.

Hire Me

With all that I am now available for hire as a full-time WordPress developer. I am taking on work now, but I will be fully available come the end of April.

This post reads very similar to Kimb Jones post after he did very much the same thing previously, helping me make the same decision. Inspiration for this post came from Kimbs post.