This post has been a long time coming, I think it's important that I document both for myself and for anyone reading my blog that starting a web design business isn't all bunny rabbits and dollar signs. Just like anything else in life, there are highs, and there are lows. This isn't meant to come across as moaning, complaining, or trying to scare you about any aspect of working for yourself - they're just my experiences so far.

The Day From Hell

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Sometimes you just have one of those days - where it really seems like "nothing else could possibly go wrong" - and then of course it does. The most memorable one of those for me so far was about 6 months into my first year of business; I had a client site due to launch the next day, and there was still a lot of work to be done. I had planned on working a long 12 hour day to make sure everything was ready to go, but that didn't quite work out.

I woke up, and went into my office to find that my broadband service was completely down for my entire area. In order to make sure I met my deadline for a client who was a real pain, I got in my car and drove 45 mins to the nearest cafe with wifi outside my broadband-crippled neighbourhood. When I got there I discovered that they didn't take cards unless you spent more than £10, so I had to buy 3 coffees, a sandwich, and bag of crisps - just to be able to use the internet. I sat down, started working, and almost immediately my server went down for no apparent reason. After an hour or so of frantic phonecalls: I got it back up again, at which point my mouse died. I swapped to my trackpad, got about 10 mins of work done and then the cafe wifi died.

It Gets Worse...

Not a great start so far - but at least to brighten up my day the client gave me a call and started shouting at me cause the site wasn't done yet, even though it was a day before the deadline. After that Twitter went down, which isn't really a big deal, but it was just one more nail in the coffin, and when Twitter had come back I discovered that Tweetdeck had been repeatedly trying to login with some SSL error for 30 mins and had disabled my whole account. After that my iPhone died.

Finally everything started working again and I went back to my coding, which was followed pretty quickly by me accidentally sending a system email to every single one of the client's 8,000 customers, and then overwriting the file I'd been working on all morning so I lost absolutely everything I'd done so far. Then I got another call from the client asking why we'd written page-copy for all the wrong products. When I pointed out that those were the exact products that they asked us to write copy for, they were still angry that we "hadn't double checked with them to make sure it was right".

At the end of the day I left the cafe and got back to my car to find a parking ticket. I'd paid up to 5:34pm and I got there at 5:38pm. Great.

When Money Flies Out The Window

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Another pitfall of working for yourself is that every now and then you just suddenly get nailed by a whole load of things that cost a lot of money, and this is where not having a "stable" income really kicks you in the face.

  • I got a call from my landlord a couple of weeks ago to say he's decided to sell the house that we rent - I now have 5 weeks to pack up and move somewhere else, and moving house is not cheap.
  • On top of that, a couple of months ago I made the genuine (but stupid) mistake of driving to the post office to renew my car tax. In the 5 minutes that I was parked, whilst inside getting a new tax disc, a parking attendant spotted my out-of-date disc and reported me for it. So this month I'm also paying a £500 fine for that little error in judgement.
  • A couple of days ago my dog (Herbie) started throwing up, a lot. He kept throwing up yesterday, and then again today. This evening I had to take him to the emergency vets. They don't even know what's wrong with him yet, but so far his overnight stay is costing me £250. Update: He now needs an £800 surgery to remove what is most probably a sock that he ate. Update2: It was a sock. Update3: Sock removed, total bill just under £1,200

All these massive outgoings - and for the first time in over 12 months I have no client work! I've been booked up 1 to 2 months in advance ever since I started working for myself, but this month I simply have nothing coming in.

Getting Fat

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I'm really not proud of this one - in fact I'm genuinely hesitant to even include it. By the time I've finished typing this paragraph I might've even decided not to include it at all, so if by some miracle I don't delete it, take this as a sign of my shame.

When I was 16 I lived in the Philippines, I was captain of the school swimming team, competed internationally, and I periodically trained with the country's junior olympic team. After moving back to the UK I didn't do nearly as much regular excercise, but I still maintained a fairly athletic build.

Since working for myself in a home office, my fitness has totally, totally disappeared. I've gained about 10KG's (22lbs), and most of that is unfortunately in the form of a beer-belly, rather than huge biceps or something cool. Don't get me wrong, I'm not even close to being obese or anything, but the difference between now and just 1 year ago is slightly depressing.

In Conclusion

Well, some of these things can be fixed, some of them can't, and some of them are circumstantial - but all of them are just "realities" of working for yourself. Sometimes, stuff sucks. I'm not going to let myself get down about it or dwell on the subject, if anything it'll just drive me to work even harder. But let me be clear, working for yourself sometimes creates huge amounts of stress, anxiety, and guilt. Not every day is a good day.

Photos by Juliana Coutinho - purpleslog - - and fireflythegreat