As I write this on the second day of 2014, I don’t know what I’ll be working on next week, let alone this year. While generally not an unusual feeling for me, I have gotten out of the habit after 12 months working full-time as an employee. I spent 2013 doing iPhone app development (among other things) at Project Clear, a startup you’ll probably hearing a lot more about in a few months.
I left the job two weeks ago and am now looking around at what’s next. I see three basic options in front of me: go back to freelancing like I did before 2013, join a company (presumably a reasonably young startup), or launch my own projects.
Freelancing again is the easiest thing to do, as I know it well and already have two small projects lined up. To that end, I now have a desk at the Open Coop, with an eye towards becoming an official member. I know that I can easily get enough gigs to pay the bills, and I really value the flexibility and freedom, such as to travel, that freelancing allows.
At the same time, I worry whether things have plateaued for me as a backend and iOS developer here in Amsterdam. By (very conscious!) choice and, I believe, by the nature of the market here, I’ve mostly worked on small-scale projecs in the past. I don’t see that easily changing, as the market here doesn’t seem to support many long term gigs or very specialized freelance projects. Likewise, working on smaller projects usually means working on less ambitious ones, and just making the usual social web services or iPhone apps gets old.
One solution, of course, is to just cast my net wider. I’ve previously had clients in London and Paris, and it’d be good to broading my playing field. I visited my friend Frank of Safello at his office in SUP46 in Stockholm, and I was quite impressed by the startups there. So, one thing I have in mind is to spend maybe a month or so in Stockholm building contacts and getting to know the scene there. I did something similar in Berlin two years ago, and it was a lot of fun.
If you or anyone you know in Stockholm, Berlin, or London is looking for freelancers for interesting projects (especially involving Scala or Ruby backend development or Objective-C iPhone work), I’d love to know! Just have them email me at email@example.com.
Furthermore, I decided to get a desk at the Coop because the designers, architects, cultural entrepreneurs, and others there are a lot different from the usual types I hang out with. I figure that hanging with a new crowd should only be good for serendipidous encounters and new, interesting clients.
But instead of freelancing, I may want to join a company. The despire to work in a team was forefront in my mind when I took a job at Project Clear, and the collaboration and positive feedback loops you get while working closely with others in a team are really great. While freelancing for a client involves collaboration with a client, ultimately isn’t not the same thing, even if you’re spending days working with them at their office.
Likewise, being in a team gives you much more leverage in taking on large challenges and tackling difficult problems. As I mentioned above, I think that the nature of freelancing is that you just aren’t able to work on the type of large, meaniful challenges that you can take on as a team.
With a mind toward not losing the benefits of working in a team that I had at Project Clear, I have been considering whether I would want to join another company. Robert has been great at getting the word out among startups he knows that I am considering joining a company. I’ve been talking to some interesting startups, so there may be something there.
Do you know someone I should be talking to? Are you hiring? Let me know about any companies out there that are working on big, meaniful things and are hiring at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the same time, I also have a 199 items in my ideas list (yes, really), and I’d love to actually start working on a few of them. In the past I’ve gone off by myself and sunk a lot of time into my own projects, namely Mobtest (since taken over by Dirk and completely relaunched) and Miogiro (which I still want to revisit some day), so I’m very wary about going down that route again.
To avoid those pitfalls, I see two decent approaches: one is to team up with someone (I really admire what Ben and Eelco are doing as Tupil with their Beamer app), while another is to continue working by myself but really focus on smaller projects that are truly achievable by myself and in a short period of time. For instance, I have a few ideas for Mac and iOS apps, including an app to monitor the upgrade status of your WordPress blogs and an app for travellers to monitor how long they can legally stay in a country.
Do you think we should team up to do cool stuff? Let me know at email@example.com!
Beyond programming, though, I’ve also got some other projects in mind, like maybe finally launching the @bbqboat next summer. To that end, I think being in the Coop will give me lots of opportunities to develop physical products and real-world services. The first will probably be a BBQ sauce.
With all these things on my mind, I’m quite uncertain of what’s next for 2014, but the only way is forward!