2011 has been a bit of an odd one so far; it saw the end of my startup phase and the rebirth of my freelance career. I want to outline the chronology of the year up to now, talk about the future of oodavid and work into a few “freelance lessons” blog posts, so without further ado:
5th January 2011
Following a few face-to-face meetings with the founder of happiest (whom I met at my charity event in 2010) it is explained to me that as 1DayLater is only 2-people it will only go so far, and that I should join his exciting new team as a Director. I wholeheartedly agree!
Over the next few weeks I wind down my involvement with 1DayLater so that I can get my teeth into writing an API for happiest.
January - June 2011
Fall into a nice routine in the happiest offices; start early, finish late, be punctual, work some weekends - usual startup routine really :-) Over this period I write the API that now powers the happiest platform. Not a lot to say that you can’t imagine; it’s a startup, we do startupish things, technical achievements are made, releases are pushed etc etc etc
23rd June 2011
After a short morning meeting, it is decided that I should leave happiest. I give my keys and say adieu. Why am I asked to leave? To this day I’m still unsure.
Over the next few days I mull over the situation and come to some realisations:
- I was in a perpetual state of being made a Director - “the lawyers are in next week” etc.
- I was only paid £500 twice - “startup survival invoices”
- I still had 2 unpaid invoices
- Nothing was in writing - every meeting was one-on-one with no witnesses, over the phone, never by email etc.
- All of my code was on their servers
Ultimately I deem the first half of 2011 both a success and a failure - SUCCESS! The work I did at happiest was some of the finest of my life - FAILURE! I was duped into giving away my time for essentially free.
Last week of June
I speak to several lawyer associates about my situation and they all have the same thing to say: firstly a sigh of "I’m really sad to hear that", followed by "ultimately there’s very little you can do, did you leave a back-door in the system?"
Apparently the legal recourse would be arduous and expensive, but anyhow I am a stickler for the Programmers Code of Ethics; even if there was a back door I wouldn’t use it (there isn’t so don’t try). Petty revenge vs. reputation?! I like my reputation thank you. You live and learn eh?
Next up I realise that time is of the essence; no point in thinking about happiest now, money is tight at this point and I need to get the word out that I’m back in the game! In 6 hours flat I design and upload a new oodavid.com, knock together a quick tumblr blog and start Tweeting and emailing again - it feels amazing :-)
After this I make a promise to myself - no more startups, time to be the finest freelancer I can be! The last time I was a full-time freelancer was in 2006 and I did very well for myself, but as a 21 year old with no real experience of the world my freelance career was held up by brute force, my technical abilities.
So I make myself another promise - become a master of law and finance as a freelancer, for my health and wealth!
After putting the word out in June that I’m available for work I am inundated with offers, leads and even requests to join some other startups. I politely decline the startups and get talking to the offers and following the leads. In the between time I research and write up terms and conditions, legal timelines, cashflow logic, monetary projections and the nuances of dealing with bad customers. I must say that they are beautiful; a little symphony of documents that (when used as intended) sing a most calming harmony :-)
By the end of the month I have signed a 1-week-per-month retainer with one of my old clients - this seriously stabilises my cashflow for the foreseeable future. I start, complete and get paid for 2 small jobs which stabilises my current bank account a little.
The start of August is primarily concerned with a 3-week job; to create an easily-integrated ”Job-Bag-System” for local Ad Agency AdMast. This is a most enjoyable project; essentially a fancy online file manager with multiple file upload, drag and drop functionality, previous versions and the finest feature of all NON-BREAKING-FILE-LINKS. Meaning if you update, rename or move a file, your application will still have access to it via a bridge table. AWESOME.
The second half of August is spent in Devon with my gorgeous girlfriend and her family. There is no signal or internet. Life is beautiful.
Returning from Devon I hit the ground running: follow some leads that appeared while I was away, clear the email backlog and almost immediately take the reins for my Dad’s company for the duration of his honeymoon (2 weeks)
Sadly I have my first encounter with late-payments which harks all the way back to June, and that was an invoice with… sure you can guess it… not to worry though, my journey has since showed me something called the Late Payment Legislation, and it’s statutory! Ahhh, the law; you are most excellent :-)
Now and the future
Well here we are: I am 5 days into a very lucrative project which has a great potential for further work; I am working with my Dad and brother again, my finances have been balanced in a manner that will see me out of debt in about 6 months; my legal situation is much better; I have a new flat that has a view of my favourite part of Newcastle; I live 200 metres away from the girl I love. Quite honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been happier - and I’m one of those stupidly optimistic people!
Edit - pretty sure that’s a self-fulfilling feedback loop of optimism and goodness
Blog Posting Uncertainty
I wasn’t entirely sure whether to publish this article but I concluded that if one person can learn from my mistakes I’ll be a better person for it :-)