Yep, I’ve been full-time self-employed for 6 whole months already. Where on earth did that go? 😕
I was getting frustrated at the weekend, partly because of that milestone - feeling like I had nothing but an ever-expanding TODO list in that time. I’m generally always dissatisfied with my productivity - it drives Marie crazy, but it’s a trait that I can’t seem to shake off. Occasionally I’ll be contented (typically for a couple of days after the end of a project), but pretty soon that ‘I wanted to get more done today’ feeling will start creeping back in, the knocking-off time in the evening will start stretching out again, and the weekend working will sneak back, despite my best intentions.
Looking on the positive side, in the past 6 months I’ve worked for 5 different companies on 6 external projects, as well as making some good future contacts with a good handful or so more, have done another major release of Ogre, shifted some hosting about and started another project of my own. Not too bad I suppose. But does it stop me feeling that I could have done more? No. I can see my wife frowning furiously at me right now for writing that. 😉
Still, it’s times like this that it makes sense to take stock of how things are going. Finding the right work balance is pretty tough still - the trouble is, there’s something great about everything I can be doing, but I can’t do them all at once. Working on external projects has many positive benefits, such as working with some very talented individuals from around the world, and getting involved in things I otherwise wouldn’t - the variety has been a big bonus. It also brings in that important ingredient - money 😀 The downside is of course that you typically don’t own anything that results from it. I occasionally get paid work which includes some enhancement to Ogre (have one of those ongoing right now in fact) which is a lovely combination, and I give discounts to encourage it 😀But it’s also fairly rare - understandably most people expect to pay for things that they will have exclusive access to, at least for a fair while. Still, I’ve enjoyed getting involved in these projects and intend to carry on doing so when good opportunities come up.
On the flip side there’s projects I have a personal investment in - that’s Ogre obviously, and now my editor project. These have the benefit of being close to my heart so working on them is generally not a chore. I happily spent a lot of time getting Eihort done & dusted, about 2 straight months working on Ogre as a day job, but it soon became clear I couldn’t sustain that without further funding despite what I might want. v1.6 is chugging along and will involve the Summer of Code, and I did start a fair chunk of design work on v2.0, which I’m quite excited about doing, but financial realities have required putting that on ice for a little while at least. Whilst I’ve happily taken a significant hit in the pocket to do what I love as a day job, there are limits to how much subsidising I can afford to do long-term, hence why I’ve scaled pure Ogre work back again to a more sensible proportion, and am investing more non-paid time in something which I hope will pay both financial dividends as well as benefit the community. It feels a little dirty to have to make these kinds of calls, but making a living from open source is tough.
Having passed this milestone, you can’t help thinking ‘what next?’. I can continue for a while longer like this certainly, particularly if I balance my paid and unpaid work as I’ve done in the better months which keeps me on an even keel. It doesn’t come with a fat salary, glamourous lifestyle or a company car but it’s certainly enjoyable. The plan is that a constantly refined balance of contract work and my own products will provide a platform stable enough to outlast the initial tentative start-up time I and everyone else experiences. A lot of people seek external investment to get through that, something I’ve resisted in the past since I did this to control my own destiny and am loathe to give that up. Worst case scenario, if something ‘real life’ comes up that absolutely prevents me from pursuing this path any longer, I can always re-enter the regular job market again. But even if I do have to do that, there will be three benefits for having gone through this process - one, I’ll at least have tried. Two, I’ll have a bunch of interesting stories to tell. And three, my perceptions on what’s a decent salary have been ‘reset’ through months of under paying myself, so any salary offer would sound pretty good now 😀
Here’s to the next 6.