New Ventures in 2013

Note: Today is Day 7 of my 30 day blog challenge. If you want to get my random thoughts about random stuff in your inbox, you can subscribe at the bottom of any post or mash the RSS button if that’s how you roll.

In November of 2012, I was liberated from my job of two years. It was my first job after getting my degree in web development. I learned a lot while I was there, and worked with some very smart people but turnover was ridiculously high and eventually it was my turn to become a statistic.

Jess was at work that day so I had to text her and let her know what had happened. She came home with a condolence card and a package of Reese’s peanut butter cups.1

“Are you OK?” she asked.

“Yeah, I feel great! How are you?”

Throughout the day I had gone from sadness to anger to worry and ultimately, a feeling of complete relief. Now that I was free of it, I immediately saw how soul-sucking and frustrating the job had been in many ways.

It can be so hard to see a bad relationship while you’re in it, whether it’s with a person or an organization. I remember in my 20’s, after breaking up with a bad girlfriend, many of my friends asked, “What were you thinking?” It was easy for them to see how wrong things were from the outside.

At first I was annoyed at them for not saying anything while I was in the relationship, but then I realized I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. I’ve been on the other side of the equation often enough to know that people have to come to their own decisions about making a change.

For better or worse, most major changes I’ve made in my life have come from the ‘pain’ half of the pain/pleasure principle. Being let go was just the push I needed to take action towards getting the life I really wanted.

In 2006, I was working for another less than stellar boss, at a tiny start up marketing company. I had jumped ship after the pain of being a cog in the Kinkos turned Fedex-Kinkos turned Fedex Office machine became too great.

I had a meeting with the web developer for the project I was managing. He skipped into the office, wearing a jaunty short brimmed cap with his Mac laptop in hand. We met for about 30 minutes to talk about the project, and then he skipped out again.2

I had two thoughts after he left:

  1. I was pretty sure he was probably making 2-3 times as much money as I was.
  2. I knew he worked from home and didn’t have to deal with my boss except during short meetings.

The very next thing I did was go back to my office and call Portland Community College to see about enrolling in their web development program. Although it takes a great deal of pain to get me to move, once I decide something, I pretty much turn the corner and don’t look back. In the course of my community college journey, I ended up winning a scholarship and decided to get my bachelor’s degree at the Art Institute of Portland.3

So now, seven years later, I have finally begun to fulfill the dream that was born that day. Having a skill and a profession that is location independent and allows me the freedom to work for myself.

After losing my job, I took the rest of the year off decompress and work on some major projects at home, including a complete remodel (paint, new floors, accessories) of the first floor of our house. We did it ourselves and it was mostly complete in about three weeks. I couldn’t imagine how long it would have taken (and how tired I would have been), if I’d been trying to work 40 hours per week for someone else at the same time.

In January, I officially hung out my shingle, and I’ve been doing freelance web development for six months now. I’ve switched over from the mostly Drupal based work that I did at my agency job, to creating beautiful, easy-to-manage sites in WordPress.

A lot of good things have come out making the leap to self-employment.

I get to spend a lot more time with Jess. As as nurse, she works every other weekend and has a lot of days off during the week. When I was stuck in the 9-5, we didn’t really see much of each other and most of that time was taken up with the management side of our lives–dealing with house issues or planning that had to be done together. Now I can flex my schedule to work weekends and we can do things like run off to Mt Rainier in the middle of the week or go blueberry picking on a Tuesday.

A lot more opportunities have opened up as a result of being free to say yes. I spoke at a conference for the first time at Open Source Bridge in June, and I’m scheduled to give my second presentation at Wordcamp Portland next month. I also attended Wordcamp Seattle and the World Domination Summit this year and met awesome people at both.

My stress level has dropped 1000%. Despite often not knowing where my next paycheck is coming from, I generally feel more relaxed and stress free than when I worked in an office. As I’ve written about recently, the tech industry is not the easiest field for anyone who’s not a white, straight, cis male in his 30’s to make their way. Working from home, I don’t spend daily energy on navigating the dude-fest that makes up most of the companies in this industry. No matter how nice many of them are, the fact is that until the industry can grow up and start welcoming the full spectrum of diversity, my sanity is greatly increased by the ability to choose when I want to engage in those environments and when I prefer to stay home and code with only my entitled cats for company.

Cats take over my desk
These two are very happy when I work at home.

Of course it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. There’s a lot I have to learn about running a business, and I know that dealing with clients won’t always be awesome (though I’m trying hard to choose the right clients). Working from home means ignoring the constant array of chores that scream for my attention and having complete freedom means I have to be good about kicking my own butt and sticking to deadlines.

But those things are a small price to pay for all the other awesome things.

As I said to a friend who also started a business this year, “Nobody tells you how awesome the ‘FREE’ in freelance, is!”

If you want to help me in my new venture, here are a few things you can do:

  • Spread the word! My business website is http://karveldigital.com and explains the kinds of projects I like to do and a little about my rates. If you know someone who could use my services, pass it along or I can be reached at kronda [at] karveldigital [dot] com.
  • Are you a designer? Let’s chat. I prefer to build awesome websites, not design them. I’m always looking for great design partners.
  • Do you have a question about web development or managing your site? Post it in the comments. I’ll be starting up a blog at my business site soon, and I’d love to answer your questions.

 

  1. I have the best wife ever. (Back)
  2. OK, maybe he didn’t skip, but I often do at the thought of not having to go to an office anymore. (Back)
  3. If you’re reading this and thinking of getting a similar degree, I’d advise you to take advantage of all the awesome online learning resources and in person accelerated code schools instead. Cheaper and more practical, relevant education. (Back)

2 Comments


  1. As hard as it can be to see a challenging relationship when you’re in it, it can be difficult to see progress and change as well. I enjoy seeing you 1000% less stressed and appreciate you taking the time to break it down not only for yourself, but as an opportunity for others (ok, me) to reflect on our (my) recent decisions and paths.

    Can’t remember if I shared it with you or not, but in response to online learning resources and unicorns I can’t help but share http://codeforunicorns.com

    I’d love to hear more about your experience working with both Drupal and WordPress. While I don’t mean to ask in hopes of continuing a flame war between the two, I am curious if you’ve shifted focus due to one being better able to suit particular client business needs, technical costs (such as maintainability), client’s ability to manage their own content … I’m sure the list could go on.

    And I’d love some WP tips! Maybe a swap session if we can find the time?

    Reply

  2. Ha! Code for Unicorns is so appropriate in so many ways. Thanks for sharing that.

    My old boss used to say that WordPress is a nice mid-level sedan and Drupal is a box of car parts.

    I’m not interested in a Drupal vs WordPress war either. They both have their place. Drupal is great at enterprise level projects like this one, where there are tons of moving parts and complexity and you need to be able to stitch it all together in a very custom way. But custom usually means expensive. Drupal is a great tool for developers and the people who can afford to pay us.

    WordPress on the other hand, has always been made with the user in mind. And I would argue that’s moved up in sophistication from a mid-level sedan to–something nice. Car metaphors aren’t really my thing. 🙂 Honestly at this point, there’s probably nothing you might want to do that you couldn’t do with either framework. But for the kind of clients I look for as a freelancer, who tend to be smaller, independent businesses, I wouldn’t do them the disservice of forcing the complexity and expense of Drupal on them. WordPress is a joy to use out of the box. Drupal needs to be crafted into a decent user experience and it’s usually the first thing to be kicked out of the budget.

    As for WP tips, I yearn for more time to dink around in the codex myself and experiment with different theming frameworks. So far I like Foundation. I have a little project idea that I hope to have time to work in before summer ends. I’ll let you know when our next Friday co-work session is, maybe you’d like to come hang out there.

    Are you coming to Wordcamp? I’m definitely giving out WP tips there. 🙂

    Reply

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