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Looking Back at 2009

As is becoming a tradition for me, I’m writing a post to reflect on the last year as we’re jumping into the new. I will write another post later to talk about new tools and new technologies I discovered or started using in 2009. In this one, I reflect on the past year, the things that went well, the things I learned and what I intend to do different in 2010. If you run a small business or are a freelancer yourself, you may learn a thing or two from my experience.

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It’s Been One Year!

I missed the actual anniversary date which was August 8 (2008-08-08) but it’s now been one full year since I quit my job to go freelance full time. The road has not always been easy but I wouldn’t go back. I’m the happiest I’ve been in my whole life and I have a real sense of accomplishment like I haven’t felt since I played music in bands. I even feel better about what I do now as I help real people and organizations solve real problems.

I’ve recently put my company blog online and published my first article with 2 more in the works. That blog will be more business oriented than this one with the audience being existing or potential clients or anyone looking to have a Web site made or improving an existing online brand. The French version can be found here while the English version is here. I’m also tweeting for my company from here.

Things are going well for me and I’m looking to the future with optimism. I’ll be working on building my client base, my profitability as well as my skill set. I feel like I have so much to learn still but the fun really is in the journey and I’ve never felt more alive…

Thank you to everyone who has helped and encouraged me along the way. I truly have the best friends and I am grateful for each and every one of you.

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2008, The Year of Freelancing and Twitter

I am a bit late with the 2008 yearly reviews but this one will be shorter than last year’s. As 2008 has been a very big year for me I wanted to blog about it for posterity and this post will focus on basically 2 things. I’ll probably post more about specific discoveries (software, sites, etc) later but for now…

Freelancing

As everyone who reads this blog or follows me on Twitter knows, I quit a 20 years job last August to pursue my career as a Web design professional. It’s something I’d been doing for over 12 years anyway, slowly building up my skill set and client base. Once I felt ready, the decision to dive into the great freelancing unknown was surprisingly easy and I’ve never been happier in my life!

My work and my relationships with my clients make my job the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Music used to be the center of my life and had been for more years than I care to know… but since I decided to move on from it in 2000; I’d been missing that intangible but very strong sense of purpose in my life. That strong sense of purpose is back now and is driving me to try and become better at what I do every day. It had been a long time since I felt that way, like I’m really making a difference for the better in my clients’ lives. It’s a fantastic feeling but with it also comes a great sense of responsibility.

However, not everything in my new career is easy every day. I have to learn to deal with new kinds of stress like the lack of a steady weekly pay check. I have not lacked any money in the last 5 months and new projects keep coming to me but I’ve certainly worried about it more than I used to. Budgeting is the key that keeps my financial life sane.

The other major issue that I’m facing in my freelancing career is related to the other side of the working alone coin. On one hand, I love working from home in peace and making my own schedule but some days I really miss the social interaction of working in a “real” office…

Twitter

I’ve actually stated using Twitter last June before I started freelancing full time. Like I explained in my previous 2 posts on the issue (here and here), I’d resisted it for a long time and didn’t see the value at first. I’ll talk later about more technical aspects of Twitter like desktop clients and the like but for now, I’ll concentrate on the social aspects.

I have tried other social sites but Twitter is the only one I’m really sticking with for a couple reasons. The first is that it became a “presence” in my life. Unlike many people I am not afraid of solitude but, working alone day in and day out can become boring and lonely. I usually keep TweetDeck running on my laptop at my side while I work on my desktop. So when I need to take a short mental break, I stop my timer and check out what’s being talked about in my stream. I may shoot off a few replies, tease some of my friends or quickly follow-up on an interesting topic.

Other times, I may stumble upon a technical issue or have an idea I’d like to bounce off someone else. I just tweet about it and within minutes and sometimes seconds; I get useful answers and move on with my work. In short, in the last 5 months, Twitter has become an invaluable resource for me on many levels. Despite some of the technical difficulties the service runs into at times (fail whale!), to me it is the most successful social media service I’ve come across so far and I couldn’t go without.

In short, 2008 has been a very big year for me and 2009 is starting great as well. I’m learning all about faith. Faith in myself but mostly faith in life and its ability to bring me what I want and need. I wouldn’t have it any other way. For the first time in my life, I feel truly free…

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I’m Now a Full Time Freelancer

3 days ago, I started my new career as a full time Web design professional freelancer…

Well, it’s actually not a new career because I’ve been doing it for over 12 years now. But for a while in the mid 90’s, it did play second fiddle to music and working a production job in a screen printing company. But as it became clear I would not succeed professionally playing in my band, I put more and more time into working and learning the Web design craft. When the band ended in early 2000, I put all my “free” time into the Web work and built my clients base and kept on learning new skills.

In 2001, I got promoted at the screen printing job into a multi tasking position. I worked as a Customer Representative but also worked in the design and drawing of membrane switch keyboard circuits. I spent a lot of time in Illustrator which I’d started learning in 1996. I will keep doing that on a contract basis for the foreseeable future. I’m now realizing how much the customer rep work taught me even if it was truly challenging for me. I learned how to interact with clients, be there for them and support them and realized how much easier it is in a service industry like Web and new media design than it is in a commodities B2B market like industrial screen printing.

I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback on my service and attitude from my Web design clients and it makes me happy I didn’t rush into going into it full time until now. My basic work skills never worried me but I feel like it’s not until recently I developed the business skills that now makes interacting with my clients easy and fun.

I feel very excited about this new chapter of my life that is just starting and, although I’m the kind of guy that tends to worry about a lot of stuff, this decision and move just feel right and I have very little worries about the future. For now, I have a lot of work on my plate for clients I love to deal with and I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I feel like I just took back control of my life and it feels very empowering…