Full Time to Freelance: Taking the Leap, 2 years on

My freelance journey started at age 35. I didn’t have a long term plan to go freelance, in fact it all happened very quickly. By very quickly, I mean that I was looking to move on from my employed role as a developer for at least a year, but to another company. The very much real idea of freelancing to it actually happening was over the period of not much more than a month.

The End of being an Employee

When looking to change jobs, my thoughts were always to move to a larger organisation. I had spent 13 years in the same agency of around 10 employees and felt that it was all becoming quite stale. I was also already in the highest position that I could be there. A larger organisation may have given me a different challenge with more structure, but there were concerns around being a small cog in a large wheel. Moving to another agency wasn’t an option for me as I saw that being a side-step.

A change of career was always appealing. Health and fitness is important to me, so I was trying to think of a job which wasn’t so sedentary. These thoughts didn’t go very far as it always came back to starting from the bottom up again.

Being in a small company where we all knew each other well I was open about my desire to move on. I felt that it would give the company more time to find my replacement and I didn’t want to be ‘sneaking’ around speaking with other companies. I soon came to regret this. My time there became increasingly difficult. You still try to do your best, but start to get cut out of important decisions, even if you are the best person to be making those. Looking back, it was understandable however as I had indicated that I wouldn’t be in the future of the company.

My take away from this is that no matter how good you feel your relationship may be with your employers, don’t inform them of your intentions until your have a clear plan of where you are going, and an expected date for it.

Transition to Freelancing

Feeling like I was stuck in a corner, not knowing where I wanted to go and becoming isolated in my position, an opportunity finally came my way which would provide my way out.

It was the chance to work for myself, starting with enough work to keep me going whilst I could find my feet. I had concerns – not knowing anything about sole traders, limited companies, invoicing. It was the first opportunity that really picked up my interests, so I went for it.

Forming a Limited Company, and Naming the Business

To act under a limited company was the first decision that I had made. It was an easy one, just to give me separation between myself and the company in case anything were to ever go wrong. There may also be some tax efficiencies, but for the types of people that I would and may be working with, there would be enough cases where they would only engage with limited companies to justify it from that aspect.

Naming the company was an issue for me. It is something that you would be building your identity around. Matching it up with available domains, social media handles, how your email address looks influence the choice.

Due to starting up quickly I just went with Robert Kinsella Limited, with the aim to trade under a different name in the future. Most of my work (in my first year of trading at least) came in through people that already knew me and what I could do so it made sense to act under my own name.

Within a year I started to think about acting under a different name. It was time to detach my work from my name – to an extent. As I started to dealing with more people me, my name wasn’t as important to begin with in those cases. It would also help in the delivery of projects where I may be collaborating with others. The thought that Robert Kinsella Limited may tie everything too closely to myself.

This is where Arkay Digital came in to existence. I went through the same process of checking domains, social media accounts, searching for companies with similar names, the fields they were in and getting some validation on the name from others before making my choice. Arkay being R.K. and Digital to not tie me specifically to web development since I can work on app development and a number of aspects around coding in general. It was also a short name, easy to type and therefore hopefully to remember!

Co-working

Spending all of my time working from home wasn’t appealing to me.

Going from only ever working in a team to solely on my own was a concern. I wouldn’t have anyone to validate my thoughts, test my work or just to go out on lunch with any more!

Researching co-working spaces helped to convince me that this was the correct way forward.

Tramshed Tech, based in the centre of Cardiff was my initial choice but then I was made aware of Welsh ICE, just outside of Cardiff which I also signed up to. Working between both on a part time basis has been great for me. They offer different benefits but both offer a community where you can get involved with events that help you to meet with and learn from others and work alongside them.

I’ve never been the type of person that goes and puts myself out there, but made an effort to get involved and can, fairly confidently say that I met more people in my first 6 months of starting that I did in the previous 10 years going to the same desk every day.

It even brought about the opportunity for me to speak at multiple Enterprise Hubs in Wales. Public speaking would never have been a consideration, and something very much out of my comfort zone, but was a good challenge to add to my experience.

Robert Kinsella speaking
Speaking at an Enterprise Hub, providing an Introduction to Websites for pre-start businesses

Getting Help from Others, Making Closer Contacts and Collaboration

I didn’t have any idea about accounting and setting myself up for quoting and invoicing for work when I started. I had never needed to know. Of course, I was always around the quoting process when I was employed but didn’t set out the templates and get involved around the legal aspects with terms, etc.

It was another of the main concerns for me. Based on a recommendation I put my accounts through an accountant straight away.

My work usually goes in to other areas, including design, content, search engine optimisation, etc. I will work in those areas, but prefer to keep my main focus on what I do best, in development. The beauty of working in and around co-working spaces is in having access to that network of people where you can built your bank of people who specialise more in those areas and can support or collaborate with you on these projects.

Having to work through all aspects of your business, in administration and general management of projects, there were times where it would take away a lot of my development time. With the exception of accounting, it was the first time where I went to seek out some additional help. This came in the form of a virtual assistant.

Is Freelancing Working Out?

Up until this point, very much so yes. It is a lot of work, and involves losing a large number of weekends, but is more than acceptable in knowing that the work I put in is all for my own benefit.

My days are constantly varied, making new contacts, with different opportunities arising.

I am looking forward to the next two years…