I guess the point of this post is to show that you can make the most of any opportunity and you shouldn’t be afraid to try a new approach to life and work if it presents it’s self to you, but ultimately you need to decide what’s most important to you and just go with that.
And it’s OK if that changes over time.
For me it’s time with my family right now, because they’re growing up so, so fast. I know I won’t be taking a full-time job that takes me away from them again for a long, long time. Hopefully never.
Full-time to freelance, round 1
Way back in 2007, I quit my full-time design job at Ripe Design in Leeds, and went freelance for the first time.
The main reasons was that my first child was due to be born. Rather than just having the standard 2 weeks paternity leave, I decided I wanted a lot more than that, and the easiest way of getting lots of time off was to quit my job – so that’s what I did. Plus, I admit, I was getting a little bored working on the same type of projects every day, then doing endless amends to those projects. It was all a little bit Groundhog Day.
Not once did I regret that decision to quit. Over the next 4 years I…
- got to spend more time with my wife and kids (number two came along in 2009) than I ever would have if I’d been commuting into Leeds every day
- more than doubled the amount of days off I could take
- got to work on more personal projects, and a much more varied range of client work
- learnt a lot of new stuff, mostly out of necessity but sometimes just for fun (skills, software, techniques, managing my own small business etc)
- earned more than I would have had I been on my same day-to-day salary
- generally felt I was doing pretty well with the whole mythical work/life balance
Freelance to full-time
Then in 2012 I was made an offer by First 10 that would have been silly to say no to. Good salary, really good people, the option to work at home nearly as much as I wanted, and an opportunity to help build something special with some ambitious folks.
Again, it’s a decision I don’t regret. Over the 4 years I was there (are you noticing a pattern!?) I…
- met and worked with some amazingly talented people
- learnt a lot more new stuff
- worked on some fun projects for some fun clients
- helped grow it from the 7 people that were there when I started to the 25-ish that worked there when I left
- became part of the management team, a director and a shareholder
- had an excuse to ride my motorbike every day :)
But, over time, as my responsibilities increased, the amount of time I got to work at home decreased. This wasn’t necessarily a problem in it’s self because for the extra work I was doing there, there would be big potential benefits.
Full-time to freelance, round 2
During 2015 a few things changed at home. Nothing major, but enough to make me realise the only sensible thing to do would be to start spending more time at home with my family again; to be there and support them much more than I could if I was in Leeds every day.
I tried continuing with my management role at First 10 but working remotely, but ultimately that didn’t work out. Working remotely as a creator is 100% achievable, but as a manager trying to run and look after a small team, not so much.
So, since early 2016, I’ve been freelance again – just wiser for my time at First 10. More experienced, more new skills under my belt.
And even though I was never unhappy working a full-time role, I realise now that I’m so much happier doing my own thing.
The extra time I get to spend with the people I care most about, and the adventure of working on my own things, is worth any amount of hard earned bonus in the future.