The first 3 months of a fulltime freelancer

It has been 3 months since I quitted my first and ever job. During this period, many friends and clients have been asking me how I am doing so far. My reply is always the same. “Things have been great. Been busy with quite a bit of projects.”

Actually there is a lot more to that.

Physical Health

I decided to get my body in a better physical shape. It started when I stumbled upon Chris Daughtry’s 90 days challenge to get ripped. I had always been working out in the gym but I felt that my body was not ideal with the bulky muscles and barely visible abs. Being out on my own means that I can control my time which gives me more freedom to control my diet and workout schedule. I started to count my daily calorie in-take and prepare my own meals. It was very tough in the beginning as I was uncertain of what I should eat. Sites like bodybuilding.com and builtlean.com were great as they had articles on healthy recipes and workout schedules. A lot of time was spent on reading the nutrition labels (products which are labelled low-fat do not mean that they are healthy!), preparing pasta, wraps, sandwiches, salads and working out in the gym with a structured program (i use this program as a start). After 3 months, I am looking and feeling fitter than ever. Chicken breasts, tuna, almonds, peanut butter, low-fat cottage cheese and eggs are now my best friends.

Business

I have been in this industry for over 10 years, but it was mostly on a part-time basis. 99% of my business were referred by friends and past clients as I did not spend any effort to market myself or to look for business. Now, the majority of my business still comes from word of mouth recommendations but there are a few clients who manage to find me through Google. If you google for “freelance web designer singapore”, I am on the 2nd page, which is a pleasant surprise. Although my website is SEO-friendly, I don’t do any SEO techniques on my website. SEO is certainly something that I want to look into once I have the time. One thing I am certain is that the links which I place on my clients’ websites play a big part in pushing my ranking. So, a big thank you to my clients! Looking at the next few weeks, I am going to be busy with a few e-commerce projects, micro-sites & corporate websites. A great way to start July.

Mental Health

Although I am earning lesser now and won’t be receiving a regular paycheck, I am feeling much more positive, happy and motivated. I gain new knowledge about different industries by talking to new clients. There is a great level of satisfaction when past clients and friends refer me (The peak was when I got referred to a new client by two different people). The different job requirements increase my appetite to learn new things about web design and development. It is nice and humbling to hear that people are respecting me and looking up to me. The tradeoffs are pretty awesome, isn’t it? Of course, in the midst of being busy, negative thoughts do creep in sometimes. Was it the right decision to quit? Why am I working till 1am while earning lesser than before? What will happen if I dont have projects anymore? All these thoughts are pretty scary if you ask me as they are powerful enough to throw me down. Fortunately, I did not dwell on them as I always remind myself of the law of attraction. As long as I focus on positive thoughts, positive results will happen.

I know that I am currently in the honeymoon phase of being self-employed. Things will not be rosy all the time. You have to suffer so that you can climb higher (just like how I spent 2 hours writing this post). But I am ready for the challenge and uncertainty ahead. It is the unpredictability which makes life exciting and worthwhile to lead.

Choosing the way to do your business

The main objective of doing a business is to make money. There are no doubts about it. Nobody wants to do a business which does not make money.

You can choose to make your money in a sincere and honest way by letting your customers know exactly what they are paying for. I take pride in having no hidden costs in my business. What I quote is what you pay. I believe in having a balanced amount of flexibility to achieve a win-win situation for myself and the customer.

It disgusts me to see other businesses (especially a certain genre) choosing to make money through hidden costs and clauses. Yes they can earn that few hundred dollars from the customers (who are forced to pay), but what they fail to see is that they are losing out on lots of potential customers whom the satisfied customer can refer. Never underestimate the power of recommendation through word of mouth.

The most disgusting thing is that these businesses continue to have hidden costs and there is nothing you can do about it. Yes you can post negative comments on social media and forums, but in the end these businesses will still have customers because they choose to believe in the salesperson’s sweet words and sincerity, which will be totally gone once the credit card has been swiped.

Quitting my job for the first time

This was how my office life ended. I cleared some paperwork in the morning. I packed up my stuff in the afternoon and headed home (My study table is in a huge mess with all my office stuff). And I left in the evening for a great dinner and drink session with my ex-colleagues (Interesting to note how we never hang out after work, until someone leaves the company)

I have just quit my full time job after 5 and a half years. It was an amazing journey, having acquired new knowledge and known great friends. It was indeed a hard decision to quit but it was necessary. Things were getting too comfortable until I felt so uncomfortable (Sounds crazy, isn’t it?) It is time to make myself uncomfortable and turn my dream into reality. My dream is very simple. I just want to work for myself.

I had led a scheduled life for most of my life, just like everyone else. From primary school to secondary school to polytechnic to army to university to working, everything was based on a timetable. I had to report to school before 7am. I had to attend the lecture at 2pm. I could only book out at 7pm. I had to reach office at 830am everyday. I had little control over my time and craved for freedom to do what I want at my own pace.

That power of freedom has arrived. I can wake up at 12pm. I can hit the gym at 2pm. I can start work at 9pm. I can drink till 2am. This power certainly sounds very exciting. On the other hand, it is equally scary. There is no one to force me to work. There is no one to pay me every month. There is no one to judge my performance. There is no schedule for me to follow. It is not easy to switch from a scheduled life to a life with total control.

I need to have a plan.

This is what I plan to do on my first day of independence

- Go for a run in the morning
- Meet a friend for lunch in town
- Work on my websites in the afternoon
- Meet my girlfriend for dinner.

The plan looks pretty good.

And this is what I plan to do for the rest of this year.

- Bring jjtan.sg to another level
- Improve my cooking skills
- Improve my physique
- Know more people
- Teach on a part time basis

Looks pretty nice too. Well, planning is one thing. Following the plan is a different ballgame. A good way to start the plan is to blog regularly (which I know I have not been doing so) about things that I have learned and experienced. It is a good way to keep myself in check and to maintain that sense of self-discipline.

I shall end this post by sharing this quote which I personally like

Self-discipline is a form of freedom. Freedom from laziness and lethargy, freedom from the expectations and demands of others, freedom from weakness and fear—and doubt. Self-discipline allows a pitcher to feel his individuality, his inner strength, his talent. He is master of, rather than a slave to, his thoughts and emotions.

Have an awesome weekend ahead!

Me, myself & JJ Tan

Hi, I’m not a potential client, but I would like to say I love your work. It’s innovative and clean, how design should always be like. Though I think you should reveal a little more about yourself, (a little biography never kills!) and even a picture would be good. Anyway, it’s been great looking at your stuff, it’s quite spiffy! (:

I was looking through my mailbox yesterday when I saw the above email which was received from a stranger in February this year. It warmed my heart to receive such encouraging emails from random people. So I shall dedicate this post to talk a little more about myself (a little biography never kills!)

I am a freelance web developer/designer who is in this industry for close to ten years.

My first website was a school assignment which showcased the food stalls in my polytechnic. Based on my memories, the website was very very very ugly (Unfortunately I do not have the website anymore, otherwise it will be awesome to show it here), but it marked the start of a remarkable passion.

My first client was a cybercafe owner who wanted to create a website to promote his cafe (I cannot remember who recommended me to him). Before I could finish the website, the cybercafe closed down after one week of operation and the owner was unreachable. The incident was devastating to a 17 year old who was trying to earn his first bucks.

Fortunately things got better. I became the webmaster of a intranet website during my national service period and continued with my freelance projects during my university days.

It is ironical that after creating numerous websites for so many years, I do not have my own website. It was two years ago when I decided to create http://www.wemeanit.sg to showcase my work. I renamed it to http://www.jjtan.sg after a year as I believe the best branding is to use my own name.

My style of work is minimal and clean. People visit websites because of content and minimalist design compliments content by using the simplest and fewest elements to focus people’s attention on the content.

I am very grateful that several people (including strangers) have recommended me to their friends over these years. I believe it is because I am passionate in what I do and this passion is shown through my work. It is important to love what you do because nobody wants to work with someone who treats their job as a chore. To end off, I will like to share this venn diagram about passion, talent & career. I feel blessed that I am in that sweet intersection. How about you?

Third Time Lucky

Third time lucky is the belief that the third time something is attempted is more likely to succeed than the previous two attempts.

It is interesting to see that three seems to be the right number of times to try. Two isn’t enough but four is too many. The reason why I mention third time lucky is because this is the third time I am starting a blog. I failed twice previously because of these two statements.

I shall do this tomorrow.

It sounds very familiar isn’t it? It seems that there are always more important things to do than writing my blog, hence it was delayed, postponed, adjourned until it died of natural death. So why do I want to revive my blog again? Recently, I have some free time to think seriously about the things that I want in my life. And I realize that I have always wanted to write a blog to share my thoughts and knowledge with others. It is through sharing that allows one to learn the most and i am always thirsty for new knowledge. And I hope to use this blog to inspire others to pursue their own dreams.

I am scared of writing

Writing a blog is something very new to me. It is very much different from report-writing or writing passages for my primary school examinations. When I previously started my blog, it was the case of typing a few words, then deleting a few words and the vicious cycle continued for 3 hours before I finally finished my blog entry. There was always this fear of using the wrong words or conveying the wrong message. It was unproductive and reduced my level of motivation for the next entry. I dreaded starting the next entry. When learning a new skill, you have to start from scratch and the best way to learn something new is to do the thing itself. There are books and online articles which you can learn from but nothing beats learning on the job. That is when I decide to conquer my own fear and revive this blog again. There are definitely mistakes along the way and learning from these mistakes makes me better in the future.

I will keep the entries short and concise.
I will share the huge number of ideas in my mind.
I will enjoy writing this blog.
And I will be third time lucky.