Early in 2016, I left my job, became self employed, and never actually announced that fact to the world. Here’s why: It’s scary. Terrifying, in fact.
At first, I didn’t share because I was adjusting in the same way anyone with a new job adjusts. I had left my full time job as a senior web developer at an agency to work part-time rebuilding the technical infrastructure of a non-profit I am passionate about. They had been repeatedly targeted by hackers, and so those first few weeks were spent full-time fixing the biggest security holes. At first, it felt like I just had a new job.
I became preoccupied with setting up a business, which, turns out, is confusing to do in the District of Columbia. Then, I started taking on other clients while setting up administrative structures for myself. All of these logistical parts that have nothing to do with my skillset overwhelmed me. I wondered if I could figure out small business administration, if I could make enough money to make this adventure sustainable, if I could really do everything I wanted to do on my own.
I had a lot of self-doubt (imposter syndrome is real!) and the part of me that is really shy encouraged me to keep to myself while I got used to what I was doing. At the same time, I appeared on WP RoundTable, which was the first public indication that I was self-employed.
Meanwhile, I realized something really important: I loved my clients. Big love. Unicorns jumping on rainbows love.
I was happier than I’d been in years.
It was feeding my soul to work on projects that are focused on making the world a better place. Every day, I was delighted to work with my talented, passionate, amazing clients.
I traveled a lot to attend conferences and spoke quite a bit (WordCamps Lancaster, Northeast Ohio, New York City, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and US). The total quantity was perhaps too much for my homebody self, but I absolutely love teaching through public speaking and enjoyed every second of these trips.
WordCamps have been a constant in my life for years now, as have the WordPress Training Team, the WordPress DC Meetup, and DCFemTech. I can not explain how much I adore the people in these communities. For me, 2016 highlights from these areas of my life include the training team building out their first full workshop, speaking at the DC meetup about one of my favorite topics: color, leading a workshop for the Women’s Information Network on getting into WordPress, helping organize DCFemTech’s very first Inspire event, and helping organize DCFemTech’s second annual Hack for Good. Dear friends in these communities also connected me with opportunities to my very first guest blog post for Design TLC and do an AMA for ManageWP.
The support of these communities, friends, and family buoyed my spirits in the times when my confidence dipped. And it did dip: there is nothing like being totally on your own to cause self-doubt. In spite of this, not once did I feel lonely in 2016, even though I spent most of my time working by myself. When I felt discouraged, tired, or otherwise doubted myself, I’ve been so thankful to have people in my life who help pull me back into a productive place.
I worked more in WordPress and less in Drupal. I ended the year with an 80% WordPress/20% Drupal split in work, which is exactly the opposite of what this distribution looked like in 2015. In doing so, my skills as a WordPress developer grew tremendously, which was a larger goal I’d had for the year.
Consciously leaving the security of full-time employment is easily the biggest professional risk I’ve ever made, but is also perhaps the best thing I’ve ever done. In 2016 I worked with many of my favorite people from all parts of my life and career. I worked with designers who pushed me technically and projects that presented new problems. I am a better developer, project manager, and all around problem solver than I was a year ago.
I got over being afraid of being self-employed and started to revel in the possibilities of it.
So what’s next?
In 2017 I want to focus on expanding past client work. Don’t get me wrong, I am still doe-eyed in love with my clients and intend to keep supporting them and working as a developer. It’s just that I also want to spend more time writing, speaking, and teaching. My clients and others I’ve met this past year have helped crystallize something I already knew: web development and the internet spark a lot of anxiety in people who are trying to learn to code or who are trying to manage their websites. I love working with these people so that they are empowered with the tools and skills they need and I want to do more of that work outside of my one-on-one client engagements.
With that, stay tuned! I’ll be blogging regularly in 2017 and also have a few other projects sitting in the wings. I’d love to have you along for the ride, so please consider being one of the first to join my brand spanking new email list!
What are your plans for 2017? Let me know in the comments!