A few weeks ago, I realized it had been a couple months already since I quit my job to go indie. I figured I should probably write about the experience so far. I hope you will enjoy the read as I enjoyed writing it! I can’t wait to read it in five years.
The biggest thing that stopped me from quitting my job in the first place was the fear. I was scared of failure. In fact I always feared to fail before (and I still do today), but before then I knew the boundaries of the arena in which I had to fight. I learned the basic rules at college and became a programmer. I used this knowledge and learned a new set of tricks when I joined the industry.
But once I leave, I know I will need to fight in a new arena I never walked in before. How was I supposed to do that in this new arena? How do I fight the temptation to play one last game of Civilization? Will I regret this decision? Am I going bankrupt? I had no idea!
If you are thinking about quitting your job, you are probably scared, and you should be! It’s just a normal behaviour. Now, you choose: Do you stay on the safe path you know very well, or you take that leap of faith?
Years ago, I swore to myself I wouldn’t live a life filled with “What if”. I figured that getting an answer I don’t like was better than spending the rest of my life wondering. So I jumped.
The first few days are a real roller coaster. “Should I set my alarm clock?” my brain asks. Hmmm it’s no big deal if I wake up a little late, but I really should start that day of work early, I think. “Should I wear pants today?” It’s not like anybody will see me! But I know I’m more productive with my pants on. “Can I sip a beer at 10AM?” Hmmm I don’t see any downside to that one, so I totally should!
All of these things were possible now, and I was the only one to choose. Each of those questions were amazing. But asking them also meant that I would torture myself about what I should do. I wasn’t used to choose which of the best option fit me best. Now, I’m used to those questions, and I know when to do what. For instance, I always wear pants, but rarely set my alarm clock because I wake up early anyways. And the day starts much smoother when the sun is the one to wake me up.
I would have not left my job in January if I knew I’d go bankrupt in two months. So when I did the move, I already secured some income. In the first few months, I did some contracting work, most of which with a good friend. Working with him, in the same office, every day, got me in a nice transition phase. We were our own bosses, but I still had someone who counted on me. It was ok if I didn’t show up sometimes, as long as the job was done. I was somewhere between the “full time job” model and the “freelance” model. I think it’s been one of the factors that helped me to adapt faster to this new lifestyle.
On top of that, I also secured a teaching position in video game programming at a local college. It’s been an amazing opportunity for me because it is an income I know I can count on. I don’t have to look out for clients. Also, the job is incredibly satisfying. Think about it: I’m paid to enable the creativity in highly motivated students who strive to succeed. It also looks incredibly well on my CV. What could I ask more?
By February, a friend of mine presented me Mat. I met a few candidates for the “associate position” in the studio before him, but he seemed to be the first perfect match. I loved the guy at our first encounter and he had shown a strong sense of dedication and an immense artistic talent (who doesn’t like the art of Light Fall uh?). A few weeks later Ben, a friend of Mat, joined us. The team was complete.
We officially started working together in March. At that time, my job-less situation didn’t feel so bad. I was filled with motivation and excitement towards the future. The reason I quit my job in the first place was taking life right in front of me! I also had more income than I ever had before. Not enough to get crazy about it, but it was way better than I expected.
But then, I knew I couldn’t do contracting + teaching + indie. I had to cut somewhere, so I cut the contracting stuff. Which means that by the end of March, I was able to focus full time on our studio and I’ve been teaching part time. It also meant less money.
More money talk
Now, I have only 1 income. Since April, I can’t make enough money to pay every expense, which means that my bank account is melting. But at least, it’s at a sustainable rate, thanks to the teaching income.
For me, it’s a fearful experience. I’ve grown up in a family where they teach you to be reasonable, make sure you don’t spend more than you earn, and take safe investments. I guess the rebelled teenager inside me must be proud, because I’m quite far from the safe investment model here!
While this feeling of losing money every day that goes by is unsettling for me, I think it is also a great part of what makes the whole experience exciting. For now, and for a while I guess, we know that the cash is the beast we need to fight as a team. I hope this fight will shape us into an unbeatable team that can make it through anything. It would be sad if the opposite happened, if the beast would win and tear our friendship apart, which seems to happen so frequently.