Should you go for self-employment?

I am now 9 months into my career as a freelance consultant and would like to share my experiences with it. The question if you should make that switch too depends on many factors and can not be answered in general. Much of it is about yourself rather than the outside world.

Did it work out?

This is the important question to ask when someone created a company. During the last 9 months I had a constant stream of work which was paid much better than all my time before. And this is despite me stepping back from managing teams of 20 developers to writing software myself.

Because a developer has less responsibilities and less meetings than a team lead, it is much easier to take a day off. This is very valuable to me as a paraglider, as it strongly depends on weather conditions. Last year I had several incredible (for myself) flights and great experiences. Before, I was trying to achieve this year after year as an employee, but there was always some important meeting or another reason preventing it from happening.

On the other hand I sometimes miss being important. I enjoyed creating teams of developers and optimizing the way we work on many layers. I also enjoyed being responsible for products with millions of active users. However, this is not typical for most employees but rather a special case of my previous role. And the fun was declining more and more at the end in favor of company politics, pushing Excel-Boxes and taking part in software-design-committees.

So overall, yes, it worked out very well. I am much more relaxed, more happy and being self-employed gave me the biggest income-boost I had by far.

Is it hard?

This depends a lot on what you already know and what type of person you are. Obviously there are some hard parts to creating your own company. The hardest is that you will be responsible for everything. You have to find customers yourself, sell yourself as valuable to their project, handle all the paperwork and taxes and never break any law.

Many of us hate responsibility. I am not talking about being responsible for finding a restaurant for dinner tonight. I am talking about make a big mistake and you go to jail-responsibility. If you are that type of person, you will probably find it difficult.

I was lucky to be responsible for several teams of developers in my last job. So my mind was already prepared for having lots of responsibility. Additionally, I have been self-employed part-time during university. So when I tell you it is not hard at all, take this into consideration. For many developers this might be a bigger change.

Keep your eyes open

In Germany, there is a subsidy for founders coming out of unemployment called Gründungszuschuss. I urge anyone interested to further look into this, as it basically is free money for nothing in return. The Gründungszuschuss is an incentive for unemployed people to start their own business. I will not go into more detail here, but it is pretty easy to become temporarily unemployed.

I knew this subsidy existed but I never believed I would be eligible for it. I needed my tax advisor telling me that in fact I was. You probably need the same in other cases. Talk to people in a similar situation and read about it. But most importantly, once you choose to become self-employed, take action.

Next steps

So currently I am really happy with my situation. I have a lot of personal freedom, 3 days of home office per week and a good pay.

The next optimization I wish to make is breaking the money-for-time relation. But this is another topic for another post at another time 🙂

Should you do the same? That depends on your own situation, but in many cases it is a big win. Drop me a note if you are considering it.

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