My first quarter-year of freelancing

How's it going, J-P?

You know I hate that question. I used to have a micro-manager that kept interrupting me by saying that in a Midlands accent. I bet you were thinking of a Midlands accent as you wrote it, just to annoy me; weren't you?

Sorry. But is the freelance life treating you well?

Golly, yes, on the whole. I've completed over three months of true freelancing now (I worked my notice period part-time until the end of November.)

Despite warnings from several people of a post-Christmas slump - or maybe because of those warnings making me panic - I've had plenty of work since the start of the year. Too much, if I'm honest, but I shouldn't complain: I've definitely found the mix of clients and projects really interesting.

Anything turn out more difficult than you expected?

Most freelancers complain about the feast/famine dichotomy when it comes to work; yet despite knowing that in advance I've fallen into the same trap: I over-committed myself from the start of the year, and my personal projects are therefore all on hold. It also means I'm having to do "back-office admin" - invoicing etc. - in the evenings, which isn't quite the relaxed, flexible lifestyle I was hoping for.

It's also been hard getting enough exercise: I used to commute by 14-mile round-trip cycling every day, so when I got to the weekend I could basically tick the "aerobic, cardiovascular exercise" box and do almost nothing. And eat almost anything. Now I'm having to fit in pre-work jogs, and work out exactly when I'm going to be able to go for a bike ride (see my over-commitment above, plus also a few frosty mornings keeping me off two wheels.)

But there are perks, right?

Oh, definitely. I mean, I'm sure the lifestyle isn't for everyone (and maybe in a year I'll decide it wasn't for me, so I don't want to enthuse about it too much.) It's great being at home more, and spending much more time with my wife and the cat. My seasonal mood swings have been better now that I'm going outside more during the day, and not having to psych myself up to a pitch-black cycle ride home every evening.

It's been lovely actively performing the "being a freelancer" role too: working from different locations - home, coffee shops, with friends, in a co-working space, with clients - or (occasionally) at different times; having lunch in the town centre occasionally, popping in like I'm totally a successful businessman, and even occasionally talking shop. And the feeling of representing me, myself, and nobody else at conferences or business events is weird, exciting, frightening, novel.

Any regrets?

I've had a few; but then again, too few to mention. I think I would have regretted it far more had I not made the decision, especially as it turns out that someone else I knew was indeed thinking of going independent themselves, and I - unwittingly - beat them to it. I never wanted particularly to steal anyone else's thunder, but I'd have been gutted if the tables had been turned.

Otherwise, no. I don't regret it. It was absolutely the right decision for me to have made at the time, and I'm very glad to have made it. As to what the future might bring; who knows?

Well, I was going to ask you about that, actually.

I bet you were. Well, my plan - such as it is - is to take at least a partial sabbatical in early summer, to immerse myself in Drupal 8 and especially IMP ("migrate in core".) I'd also like to free up my calendar somewhat, as being so over-committed has meant I've not been able to take on some of the interesting, smaller projects from interesting, smaller agencies: and that was part of why I went freelance.

I also want to set time aside over summer for "non-work" projects: I'm getting more interested in permaculture, sustainability and grow-your-own: as my adventures in square-metre gardening might suggest. That's something I'd like to really get more involved in, but we'll see what I can fit in, really.

You're going to play it by ear a bit, then?

Absolutely. Right now it still feels like one big adventure, and I haven't decided on all of the rules yet, let alone the goals. The rules are the goals. No, wait. The goals are the rules.

Thank God you're a freelancer and not a footballer!

Well, quite: apart from anything else, I've got terrible knees.

Do say:

"All that is truly great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labour in freedom."

Don't say:

"Two of you plus a cat? What's your small shared office, with its south-facing window, going to be like in the middle of summer?"