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I started a company! Here’s what I learned…

As of 10th January 2014, I left my day job and I am now a full-time self employed coder. Or software engineer. Or software consultant. Or computer programmer. Any one of those titles, really!

I would like to have blogged about this sooner but the first month was an absolute whirlwind! I worked every hour I possibly could to ensure that I’d have enough money at the end of the month to pay bills, mortgage, accountant fees, and so forth, not to mention the equipment I had to buy… Any time I wasn’t coding, I was either doing the books or doing research of all the new tech I’m having to get to grips with. It’s been hectic – I’ve taken an hour a day to go to the gym and I’ve seen my wonderful partner twice a week, but aside from that I’ve barely paused to draw breath!

Well, now things are up and running, the boat has stopped rocking a little bit and I’ve finally started to come up for air. I’ve secured stable work for the next few months and I can stop tearing around quite so much… It’s a very difficult balance to strike when you start out – how much do you take on? I wasn’t short of offers (thankfully!), although I had to be firm on my rates on many occasions. I took on an awful lot of smaller jobs to start with, but now it looks like I can work mainly on larger projects, for at least the next three months, which is fantastic security.

If you’re thinking of going self employed, here are a few (very raw!) tips from somebody who has just done it:

  • Know people – get your name and face out there! Go to tech meetups (such as Unified Diff). Blog. Collaborate on projects. If you don’t know anybody, and people don’t know you’re good, you’ll struggle.
  • Get an accountant – mine is Clever Accounts, who have been wonderful. I guess you could handle all your taxes etc yourself, but you’ll have enough to do doing the work without having to read endless online documentation from HMRC, certainly at first!
  • Set yourself some time aside to go a bit mad – you won’t see your friends for a while. You’ll have to do some triage. Make sure you protect the most precious spaces in your life. For me, this was my relationship with my partner and time in church.
  • Register as a company and get a separate bank account – CAP do a good video on self employment
  • Do it scared – I do everything scared, pretty much, it doesn’t have to stop you if you’re scared.
  • Stay firm on your rates – if you drop prices for one customer, word can get around. Don’t do it. If you’re good, you’ll find customers who can pay for you. I didn’t want to end up working for too little money – running a business costs money, and I have a mortgage to pay.

Obviously, I’m a newcomer to all this, but I think that’s all solid advice – well, I would, wouldn’t I? 😉

I’m going to try to blog here a bit more regularly – I have plenty to say, it’s just finding the time to say it!

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