Happy Birthday Oikos – A Personal Reflection

This is a little late.  But the reason it’s late is that I’ve been really busy at work.  And this is a good thing.  As I shall explain.

Back on 18th June was the anniversary of me officially creating Oikos – my freelance web development and technology consultancy business.

With a good voluntary project on the go I’d manage to win, though some close contacts, a paid website development gig.  I needed paying, so I set up a bank account, registered self-employed and so became, in my own unique way, an entrepreneur.

At the time I was also full-time employed.  I guess I’d fallen into my job by mistake really.  It was a convenience and, over the time I was there, I’d gotten quite good at it.  But I’d spent a lot of time thinking about how to get out, what to move on to.

And Oikos was somewhat pre-meditated. I’d brainstormed what was bad about my old job, what I wanted from my work, and what I might do.

Brainstorm of my perfect job circa June 2010
Brainstorm of my perfect job

The things I wanted from a job were nothing like what I was stuck doing, and as time passed it became clear that I was stressed and unhappy.

I should also say that I have a Christian faith and I believe that God does guide us, his followers, in what we’re doing.  Friends had been praying about my position and their feedback was encouraging. I felt like my God was telling me it was OK to want to get out and that there was something better for me.

More specifically than that, people believed that God was saying “I will provide.  There will always be enough”, and that I would be led through a difficult place, towards the unknown, but there would be something good at the end of the journey.

Of course, I was praying too.

And I was keen!  There were some long evenings and weekends getting my first few Oikos projects done.  There was some slowness and stress as I got to grips with proper front-end development, cross-browser compatibility issues and the quirks of CSS and  JavaScript.  There were difficult questions about how much to charge people and when I really needed to work and when I really needed to stop.  There was LOTS of patience on behalf of my ever-loving wife.

In November a few things came to a head.  We had some savings in the bank and I handed my 3-month notice in.  To my surprise, no one really thought I was mad.  Many thought that, despite the uncertainty, I’d made a very good and wise decision.  I wasn’t so sure.  But I was going crazy and had to go.

Oikos quietly churned away in the background while I handed over my work and finished off my time at C&W.  Everyone was really good to me and I had a great send off.  I don’t miss my work, but I miss my team and colleagues.  They are good people.

And so, in February, I was cut loose.  I was officially full-time self employed.  Or, I would have been had I had enough work.

Starting out on your own is never going to be easy.  You’re not going to be rolling in cash or rushed off your feet.  Most people said two years was a good length of time to get going.  We didn’t have two years!

But.  Well.  Whether you believe in coincidence, luck, hard work, or – as I do – that God is true to his work: there was always enough!  Every time the work dried up a little more came in.  There were big projects and small projects. I’m indebted to friends and contacts who gave me work, and recommended me to others.

Some avenues opened.  Others closed.  Sometimes I was picky and chose not to take on work because it wasn’t what I wanted to do.  For a short time at least, I could afford to pick and choose what I did whilst building up my skills.

And you know what?

Oikos is having a boom. I’ve made a great contact who’s passing me a load of work that’s exactly what I want to be doing in exactly the sector I want to be doing it in.  And I’ve got a couple of smaller projects on the go in the background too.

And you know what else?

I’m LOVING it.

I’m learning new things. I’m using my skills for social good in the charity and non-profit sector. I’ve got the flexibilty of working from home and for myself. I can train myself up and take on new technologies. I can “make stuff” – be creative and innovative. I’m in control of what I do. I can work with others who have a similar vision.  I can invest in myself and my work.

And I’m happy. I’m physically and mentally stronger. I’ve not been ill (seriously!).

I’m probably slightly more geeky and bonkers than I used to be. But that’s ME. That’s what I’m like. That’s what I enjoy.  My work is hard, but it’s fun. I’m sometimes tired (no change there) but I’m almost always full of enthusiasm and energy for what I’m doing.

There’s been an added complication of a little Wintle coming along in November. But even the timing of that is perfect. Had it happened a few months earlier I maybe wouldn’t have left the stability of employment.

It was a risk to quit. It was a risk to pick and choose my work. It was always going to be a challenge to make enough money to live on in the charity sector. It was going to be hard work. It was going to stretch me and my abilities and my relationships.

But I’m so glad I did it, and I’m so thankful to those that have encouraged me in it and made it possible.