Going Freelance: Introduction

My name is Ian Lunn. I am a commercial web consultant of two years and graduate of Internet Technology. I was recently made redundant from my consultancy position though, and find myself -- during a time where web related jobs seem to be minimal -- going freelance.

As someone wanting to make the leap and become a self employed freelance web consultant, I want to document my experience as thoroughly as possible. I'd to like write for both my own benefit and for those whom may be heading down a similar path to myself either now or in the future. I hope to be able to learn from this process, sharing with people in a similar situation or maybe reading entries over in the future reminding myself of things I said I'd do but never got around to doing.

There's already plenty of successful freelancers sharing their experiences but I feel they are already talking from a position of success and as such, can't always provide an in-depth recollection of how they got to the position they are in.

When a seasoned freelancer is asked, "how do you juggle work life with home life?" or "how do you find new work?", the answer seems irrelevant to the newcomer because the veteran will tend to be dealing with fewer yet larger clients. The newcomer will most likely have to take on smaller clients and more of them. More importantly, the only people to answer these questions are those who have succeeded, what about the people that didn't quite reach their goals and had to take a different path? What advice and experience would they share?

Hopefully I won't be in a position to speak as somebody who never quite made it, but my intention is to be as open and honest as possible. If things aren't going well, I'll say it.

My Background

Spectrum ZX

I've always been a bit of a geek, when I was a kid I loved video games. At the age of 5 I had a ZX Spectrum, which allowed me to play games that were on tapes. If you friends/family had a game you wanted, you could just stick it in a Double Cassette Tape Deck and record the game (pirate at age 5 and proud of it). Just don't record a game over your mum's favourite Curtis Stiger tape.

When I left school I naturally went on to study Information Technology at college. It was a general course that covered a lot of different subjects such as spreadsheets, word processing etc. I didn't have a computer at home during school so going to college gave me the first chance to get on the Internet. After that initial one year course, I did a further two years, again studying Information Technology. I wasn't too sure what subject I wanted to concentrate on but I knew I liked computers so I continued on a similar but more advanced course that covered numerous subjects.

I started to take a fascination for programming and was getting good results in Visual Basic 6. I was also beginning to dabble with the web and found packages such as Macromedia Dreamweaver and Fireworks that would allow me to make some really "awesome" (read awful) looking websites.

I really liked designing for the web and Visual Basic was an easy web transferable skill in the form of ASP. So, after college, I moved onto university and studied Internet Technology. Not to go into too much depth, the course wasn't the best. I probably learnt more in my own time. In fact, I got to dislike ASP and started teaching myself PHP at home. I was also meant to be learning Flash on the course but when it came to it, my class was told that we wouldn't actually be learning Flash but "something just as good" instead. Multimedia Builder. Heard of it? Me either. Neither have I ever seen it mentioned in a job specification.

Website I made in 2003
Website I made in 2003

So, university wasn't that great for me and to join the long running debate: I'd strongly recommend you teach yourself rather than go to university, should you want to work a web related job. I was still interested in the web though, so I finished the two year course whilst teaching myself the skills I thought would be valuable for when it was time to join the industry. I left with a Higher National Diploma and chose not to study a further two years to get a degree.

I found it difficult to be taken seriously when applying for jobs. I had no experience other than my university background. I actually came close to giving up and took a completely unrelated job for a few years. I'd still do the occasion web related job for friends and family and continued to teach myself new web skills but it was more of a hobby than anything else.

Eventually, I decided what I knew and what I had already achieved was too much to give up so I did 3 months of work experience with a small agency based in the South West of England. They were impressed with how quick I worked whilst producing quality work and offered me a full time position. I was pretty much given projects from conception to completion so I learnt how to deal with clients as well as a whole range of skills relating to design, development and marketing.

Almost two years into the job and the company was struggling because of the recession. Eventually, I had to leave as people didn't have confidence investing in the web and the work wasn't coming in.

I took an 'all round' position in another web design agency where I was using my wide range of skills to assist developer, designer and Internet strategist. The company had done well, they had started up in the recession and had quickly moved from small clients up to really big projects. Unfortunately though, their success may have come to quickly, they took on a very big project that meant their eggs were in one basket. Cash flow became an issue and the company went bust. I was in and out in 3 months.


So, I'm currently unemployed, and feeling like my luck is out but at the same time, I've learnt a lot over the last two years, both about the web and business in general. The economy is still far from great and the number of jobs in the industry are worryingly low. I feel confident with what I am capable of though.  I have a wide range of skills that I feel outdo 95% of what UK agencies are offering anyway. I'm confident with what I have to offer and I feel now is the perfect time to step up and become self employed.

What to Expect from the Diary

At the end of each month, I'll write an entry that describes how that month went. At the moment, I am unemployed with the intention of becoming self employed, so to start with I will discuss my feelings on becoming self employed, what advice I may be taking to get set up and set up right as well detailing what I've learnt that month and what my intentions are for the next.

Each month I will include topics such as:

  • What I have been doing
  • What I've learnt
  • Plans for the following month
  • Resources I found helpful
  • What I could have changed about that month to make it go better
  • A section where I answer YOUR questions

You get Your Say too!

As I said, I want to share my experience. Hopefully some of you will find my diary useful, others may want to offer advice, either way, that's great! I'd like to collate as much information, advice, and experience as possible regarding taking the self employed path.

I'd also like your suggestions for how I can improve the diary each month as well as your questions which I will answer in the following month's entry.

So, feel free to comment, email or send Tweets.

Useful? Buy me a coffeeUseful? Buy me a coffee

Ian Lunn is a Front-end Developer with 12 years commercial experience, author of CSS3 Foundations, and graduate of Internet Technology. He creates successful websites that are fast, easy to use, and built with best practices.