I risked my health to start this business. Was it worth it?

calendar 24 Jun 2016

After a trip to Atlanta in September 2015 I did a little soul-searching, and came to the conclusion I wasn't happy in my job. I worked for a great agency who was attracting diverse and interesting clients, but I'd lost that lovin' feelin', to coin a phrase.

So I gave myself until January to figure out whether I wanted to carry on where I was, or try the freelance life again, this time not just developing websites and apps, but pursuing some of my other interests and seeing if I could make them pay. In the meantime I'd worked on a couple of side projects which added to the coffers, and helped bolster my confidence. But if I was to make a success of this - or at least not fall flat on my face - I'd need a runway: some cash that would get me from my last pay packet to the first invoice settlement.

I knew this meant working hard; working late hours and maybe pulling the occasional all-nighter. I knew I didn't want my day job to suffer - even though they were now informed of my plan - but I had to make every minute count.

There's a sense of heroism one can get about working around the clock. But it's bullshit. I know, I did it for about three months.

Now let's rewind a little.

In 2014 I dropped over 50lbs and, in the latter part of the year took up running. I moved house in 2015 and that put a kink in my routine, and gradually over the ensuing time, I put all that weight back on. The worst of it started in October 2015 when preparations for the first Ignite Brum event began in earnest, but I really piled it on between March and mid-June of the following year.

During that time, I put my health, my family, much of my social life and all of my free time on the back burner while I focused on work. I stopped running, ate junk, slept poorly, rose too early, and do you know the worst of it? I barely remember how crappy it was!

I knew it was tough when I was inside the bubble. I had the pressure of a third Ignite event which wasn't going well (I was struggling to find speakers, sponsors, volunteers and people to film... so just about everything I needed [in the end I managed to pull it off, I'm pleased to say]), a paying freelance gig with a tight deadline, another one with a patient client, another with a client who didn't even know I still had a full-time job, another with fast and regular turnaround times, a weekly Sunday show I didn't want to cancel (partly as it was sometimes the only time I got to talk to a person that wasn't a colleague or client), the milestone birthday of a family member, a potential podcast project (unpaid to begin with but which was tied to another commitment)... I think that's it. They were all happening between March and June on-top of my 8-hour day job with a two-hour round-trip commute.

When I came out of that bubble, which was a little after June, I had enough money and had worked up enough good will to see me through for months. I'd built up my portfolio, proved to myself I can work under pressure (I managed not to drop a single ball) and got my runway.

It didn't go the way I'd planned. I'd had a couple of positive-sounding offers of work which never panned out, but I thought it would be those that might provide the stability. So I knew it would be hard work, but I wasn't quite prepared for how hard it actually ended up being.

But, was it worth it?

Absolutely it was. I now have a chance to build a freelance business, and if I play my cards right, I'm probably going to be paid up until the end of the year. This is untrodden territory for me, having freelanced either post-redundancy, as a way to bootstrap a startup, or because I was a daft kid working from a bedroom in his parents' house... but it took me until recently to put into practice what I always knew: it's all about cashflow. Crack that, and life becomes a lot easier.

So in my final weeks at the day job - but working from home - I've started running again (it's harder now that there's more to push around the park, but it's getting easier), I'm controlling the calories and cutting down on the blowouts. I hope to be very busy in the weeks and months to come. Busy is good, but I have to remember not to let work overtake life again, lest it become a habit.

On weekdays I get up at 7 - without fail - and run round the park for half an hour - or however long RunKeeper tells me to - then head back for shower, breakfast, reading and coffee. It's a great, healthy way to start the day, and is a routine I'd like to keep.

I don't have specific plans to get down to a fighting weight, but to try and live as healthy a life as I can, while making sure the business runs smoothly and I get to see my nephews. Oh, and no more hour-long bus-rides is a bonus.