Huh, it’s Friday the 13th. That’s not the reason for writing this post, but it’s fitting. I’m starting to doubt my choice to become a freelance web developer. Or rather, that doubt is looming much larger than at just about any other point in the 17 or so months I’ve been doing this.
I feel like I’m getting better, faster, and smarter at my work every day, which is good. Some projects are good, some are bad, some clients rock and others suck. That I can wrap my head around, process, and pay as little attention to as possible. But financially things are tight. This was my first tax season where I spent the full previous year self-employed and while I knew I had a tax bill coming up I thought I was sitting pretty and didn’t worry too much about it. Over the holidays in 2015 I polished off a couple of relatively lucrative projects and was sitting on a nice little nest egg that I figured would sustain me for the next few months even if I didn’t find any paying gigs. I rested on my laurels and contented myself with my side projects and generally enjoying life in southern California. I was aware taxes were coming up and they would take a chunk out of my account, but I didn’t sit down for the hour or two it would have required to get a general idea of what I’d owe the IRS. I told myself that because I needed to consult an accountant for the first time that it would be a waste of time to do any thinking about taxes myself.
All of that was a mistake. 5 months later I’ve had a few odd jobs and some fun passion projects but nothing that goes a long way toward paying the bills. I procrastinated until just about the last possible instant on taxes before I finally got serious and found a good CPA nearby. I realized as I walked up the steps to her office that I was woefully under-prepared. We sat down for a quick 15 minute consultation where I asked some really dumb questions and she patiently laid out a gameplan. From there I started gathering all the necessary documents still without a clear sense of how much I pulled in for the year and how much I’d eventually owe. About a week before Tax Day I logged on to TurboTax and ran through with some rough numbers and realized that even the lowest estimate would just about clear out my accounts. I’d gone from feeling super confident at the beginning of the year to wondering how I’d pay my next round of bills just 5 short months later.
On good days I tell myself that I’m a “purist” and don’t dirty my hands with marketing, networking, or any of those other plebeian pursuits. I’m a developer and I deal in pure thought and abstraction from dawn to dusk and people just pay me for it. Well that’s the ideal world. I’ve lucked into making a decent living in 2015 through the hard work and enterprising spirit of my friends back in Chattanooga who kept me occupied (and paid) with steady work throughout the year. It’s been nearly 10 months since I’ve moved to LA and I haven’t generated one measly gig on my own merits. I’ve had a few conversations here and there, but I have a whole box of business cards that remain untouched. I go to the occasional developer meetup, but I never make an effort to be social much less pitch my services and skills. I like to pass as social, but deep down I’m an introvert like most developers and I experience a healthy amount of discomfort when I