The first month06 Apr 2006
I thought I'd write a bit about how the first month on my own has been for those of you that are curious.
Oddly enough, it's taken some time to get used to a new routine. One of the things I like the most about working on my own is that I don't have to adhere to a 9-5 schedule, and can make the best use of my time as I see fit. However, I can't just work when I feel like it because some days I'd work an 18 hour day and others not at all (probably more often the former than the latter).
I've been experimenting with different schedules, and think I'm getting close. I'm trying to split my day so I can work some during the normal business hours and also in the evening since I'm very much a night person. But then of course adjust that appropriately so I get to spend quality time with my family.
I've touched on this a little before, but along the same lines it's interesting how much time I've spent doing things other than development or support — filling out insurance paperwork, filing for an LLC, getting legal contracts together, working on web design, learning about search engine optimization, and so on. I knew I'd spend a lot of time on this kind of stuff, but underestimated the time. I could probably spend the next week crossing off things on my todo list and not touch a single line of code. I'm constantly trying to find the right balance with this because it wouldn't be prudent to spend the whole week coding or the whole week not coding.
One of the tough things about working on your own is dealing with all the emotional highs and lows. I've experienced it before, and was somewhat prepared to go through that again, but that doesn't mean it's any easier. While I'm happier with my work situation than I have been in a long time, I frequently beat myself up with questions about whether or not the business will work, if I'm doing the right things, and so on. A little bit of this is healthy, but I might cross the line sometimes.
But again, I'm happier than I've been in a while. The highs have been higher than the lows have been low. I still feel energized, and at the end of the day think I'm on the right track. I'm really having a blast for the most part.
The custom development work is going at a steady clip. Acquiring new business is slow, but that's to be expected just because the normal time cycle for the kind of work I do is almost always measured in months, not weeks.
I'm still somewhat struggling with finding the balance between custom development work and working on products like Formstack. Long term, my plan is to use the custom development to fund such products, and then as the business grows make it a smaller and smaller piece. In starting out, I focused a lot less on developing and marketing the custom work than on Formstack — it took me a while to even settle on a name, build a website, etc. I frequently ask myself if I'm under-marketing and setting myself up for a long dry spell, or over-marketing and setting myself to over-commit.
It's still way too early to see how Formstack will do in the long term, but I'm pleased with how things have gone so far. I set the very modest goal for the first month to acquire one paid customer that I didn't know personally, and met that pretty quickly. Traffic is still holding steady since the buzz a couple weeks ago, and new accounts (not necessarily paid) are being created daily.
- I definitely don't miss the I-69 to downtown commute, especially when there's snow on the ground. It might even make up for the drop in income all by itself.
- I've rediscovered my love for barefoot coding. The mind is so much freer without the restrictions of socks and dress shoes. I think there needs to be a study about this.
- I really feel like I learn something new every day, and that's a lot of fun.
[Updated references to Formstack to prevent confusion about the name change]