Reflecting on two years in business

The end of the tax year marks my second full year in business. Shape Shed has come a long way but there is much more to do.

A good choice

Looking back on my decision to work for myself it was definitely the right decision. I had a steady job in a top 10 digital agency but I felt I had stopped learning. At the time it was a nerve-wracking decision to leave and start up on my own. I had no clients and no infrastructure. I didn’t even have a website. I did have the skills though and a hunger to learn more.

What went well

In the two years there have been some things that have gone very well. I have built up a happy and loyal client base. I feel that every job I have done has been done to the best of my ability at the time and I’ve worked hard to exceed client expectations. I still haven’t done any marketing and that is something I’m proud of, although don’t take for granted. If I need to market the business in the future I will.

I also feel my skills have improved out of sight. Being self employed means you have to learn everything from fixing the printer to administering a Linux server. I would now describe myself as a competent generalist. This is not without a downside but I feel I can hold my own on a very broad range of skills.

Reading and learning from blogs has been a large part of my education and I’m pleased to have created a reasonably popular blog in return. I’m happy to have so many subscribers and that the site makes enough money from advertising to pay for the server.

What went badly

I feel I’ve still got a lot more to learn on the business side of things. I’ve been over generous with some clients and this has impacted the profitability of projects. Clients rightfully push for as much as they can get and there have been times where I should have said ‘Ok but it is going to cost you.’ I’ve learnt from mistakes though and feel to a large extent I’ve addressed this.

My working life has been hugely stimulating and at times I have worked too many hours. When I started friends commented that they would struggle to not lie on the sofa if they were working from home. In fact the opposite is true. I’ve worked too much at times and have been stressed and even unwell as a result. Having a separate room in the house helps but ultimately I need to get an office I can go to and leave each day.

Being solo for much of the time has at times been hard. I have met with several people with a view to forming a partnership but for one reason or another it hasn’t happened. Life certainly would have been much easier with a partner.

Tempted by the big guns

During the two years at times I have been tempted to apply for positions at large internet companies. The lure of working with bright people on widely used products is very tempting and I think I have the skills to get an interview. A full time salary and no requirement to go out and find work is less stressful certainly but overall I’m happy with the status quo. Thankfully most of the really bright people I admire publish their thoughts via blogs so I feel I’m not entirely missing out on learning from others even though it is something I’m worried about.

The future

In two years Shape Shed has grown to a fully functioning agency, using freelancers and serving a broad range of clients. If I had been offered this two years ago I would certainly have taken it.

I now have a set of ambitions for the business and also for myself. In many ways this means there is more not less to do.

I love my job and I feel lucky to say that. I’m looking forward to whatever happens next.


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