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4 Months in to a 3 Month Experiment

Josh Branchaud
I'm a developer and consultant focused primarily on the web, specializing in React, Ruby on Rails, and PostgreSQL. Newsletter: https://crafty-builder-6996.ck.page/e169c61186
・4 min read

During a long discussion on a long car ride back in September of 2020, I made a big decision. It's something I'd thought about doing for a while, but only in vague terms. During that car ride, Erin (my spouse) and I hashed out concrete details.

I decided to quit my 9 to 5 so that I could take a shot at being an independent software developer.

I put in my two weeks at the end of September with my sights set on November 2nd—a Monday—as an unofficial start date for this new adventure.

The main details we—I say 'we' because Erin's support and steady job made this feasible—figured out during that car ride were:

  • Where I'd get health insurance
  • What the composition of my work would look like
  • How I'd contribute to bills and rent
  • That this would be a 3 month experiment. An expiration date was built-in in case I couldn't make it work.

I'm writing this on March 15th which puts me a little over 4 months into this 3 month experiment. I'm still going strong and it has been a success in many ways. I'll talk more about that, but first a bit more about the plan.

On November 2nd of 2020 (after taking two weeks off), I'd hit the ground running. I devised two parts to this plan which would comprise my work. The first part would be freelance consulting work. I enjoy it, I'm good at it, and it would provide some cash flow. The second part would be figuring out how to do some indie product development. Something I've read a lot about, but never done. My hope was for a part-time arrangement with both.

To get going with the freelance consulting, I figured I'd reach out to people in my network and see if anyone was looking for a consultant. I'd worked at a software consultancy for almost 5 years, so I expected there would be a few leads to follow. I also planned to throw a landing page together, make a pitch on twitter, and hopefully see the retweets roll in.

There was nothing guaranteed in any of this, but it felt like a good way to start. If I came up dry there, I had a fallback. I'd reach out to some consultancies to do some subcontracting work. Though I'd prefer to work directly with my own clients, this would at least buy me some time.

And if I couldn't make any of it work, well, that's what the 3 month timebox was for. And back to the 9 to 5 job hunt for me.

In the midst of all that, I'd get started with the other half of my plan. I've wanted to try my hand at indie product development. In the Stacking the Bricks methodology, I'd start small with a tiny info product and go from there. With all the screencasting I'd been doing, I figured I could spin an info product out of that.

I joined the next cohort of 30x500 and I subscribed to ConvertKit to start my newsletter.

So, over 4 months in, where am I?

Before November 2nd, before I'd started doing any of my lead outreach, Joel over at egghead contacted me. He was looking to bring in a contractor to work on the Rails-side and Next.js-side of egghead.io. This project was a perfect confluence of my skillset and interests. We worked together for a few weeks. It went well, and we've been working together since.

I've since established an LLC for all this independent software consulting and development. The hardest part of that was finally settling on the name VisualMode.

I look back over the past 4 months in amazement. In some ways it has flown by. The challenges of going independent and starting a business have been a welcome distraction from all things covid. And I'm amazed at how much success I've had.

  • I've been booked with consulting work since Day 1.
  • I've been working on a badass product in the tech stack I most enjoy.
  • I'm building a business while paying my bills.
  • I'm doing hard things and learning everyday.
  • I've had enough consulting work come in that I've had to turn some of it away. I'm in the process of diversifying my workload so that I'm not dependent on a single client.

This whole plan hasn't unfolded perfectly. I've been stalled out on the indie product development side of things. I'm gaining newsletter subscribers and building my YouTube audience, but I keep putting off that first tiny product. I feel embarrassed saying it. The comfort of steady consulting work has made it easy to give into my fear of getting started with it.

I know I have some hang ups there. I'm intimidated by it, so it's easier to wait until I'm ready.

It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.
-Hugh Laurie

I'm looking forward to the next 3 or 4 months. I'm excited to learn more, take more risks, and see what I'm capable of.

If you're thinking about going down a similar path, I'd love to hear about it. Find me on twitter or join my newsletter.


Notes:

Discussion (1)

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Jake Worth

Thanks Josh; these are really great insights into starting out as a freelancer.