Today is a special day. After today, I will no longer be employed as a software developer by anyone other than myself. It's a big move. It's a risky move. It's an exciting move. After writing code for fifteen years, I have come to realize there are three paths for a software developer's late career: 1) Become a Senior Developer or Architect and keep churning out code. 2) Go into management. 3) Strike out on your own (consult, write apps, contract, options, options, options).
I have done the first two. Being a senior developer/architect has been great, but I want career growth. After a few years I realized that management isn't for me. I didn't hate it, but I certainly didn't love it. For years I've wanted to go out on my own and work for myself, choosing the type of work I wanted and the type of clients I wanted. I did that on the side for years with lots of moonlighting gigs, but never full-time. Today that changes.
Everyone likes to say things like "be your own boss", or "work for yourself" as if it was all wine and roses. The reality is quite different. To be self employed means finding and retaining work so you don't go broke. It means keeping clients happy. It means you have to deliver. It means you have to use time effectively. There are tax considerations, health insurance costs and other things that complicate the romantic notion of being your own boss.
But, even with these risks, I can't help but see it as a worthwhile endeavor. There are so many options that open up if you're self employed. For instance, taxes. Yes, that's also in the risk category, but if understood well and with the help of a good CPA, the tax benefits are in the favor of the self employed. Self employment also means I'm no longer beholden to a single employer. I can work for as many clients as time permits. That's not a great long-term strategy to increase income, but it will work in the short-term.
There is also the unknown. Because I won't have the security and comfort of regular employment, I'll have to always keep my eyes open for opportunities, opportunities I would have otherwise overlooked if I was comfortably employed. It's not exactly tangible, but I think this may turn out to be one of the biggest benefits of taking the risk. I know, that's really vague, but there's something to it.
Anyway, I've wanted to do this for years but I have a family to support and couldn't justify these risks without some kind of stable, long-term contract, which recently came my way. I was presented with the opportunity to work for a client through the end of 2017 on some very interesting technical problems. I couldn't pass it up. It's the opportunity I was looking for. So this is it, I'm self employed. I'm jumping off. A new adventure in my software development career. It's exciting.