TJ Kelly

Self Employment Lesson #2

Well sports fans, six weeks have screamed by since I published Self Employment Lesson 1. I’ve learned a few more valuable lessons in those six weeks: agencies, motivation, and time are this month’s focus. Some of this repeats or reiterates last month’s lesson, but it also has a 6-week-newer perspective.

Agencies always have work. Use them.

Creative Agency Mockup by Ivo Pesevski (from Dribbble).
Dribbble shot by Ivo Pesevski.

I knew this going into my independence. Or I had been told it, at least. But I didn’t appreciate it. I wrote it off and decided I didn’t need an agency. After all, I am an agency. I can do this alone. Please see the “It takes time” section below for more on how well that idea worked out for me.

I eventually came around on the idea (read: necessity) of contracting for an agency when I heard from an acquaintance who worked full-time for one. She put me in touch with their hiring people and I had a signed contract with them within three days. Finally, things were moving along. Since then, I’ve worked on-site in their office several times and I’ve worked from home on their projects several times. They are an entire company of contractors, so hiring and working with sub-contractors like me (or you) is nothing extraordinary. It happens all the time, which means it’s an attainable goal for you and I.

The downside to agency work, in my opinion, is that the final product is not my work. It’s their work. In some cases, it might be ok to include your/their work in your portfolio, but that’s rare. In most cases, you hand in the final product, invoice the agency, and move to the next thing. I think it’s less satisfying than the total ownership of independent work, but it pays the bills. And agencies also have resources to tackle bigger, cooler projects than I do. That means I get to work on bigger, cooler stuff that I would without them. So it feels like a win-win in the long run.


Courage Wolf: Bite off more than you can chew and then chew it.Here we are back at the motivation question. I named this section r/GetMotivated on purpose. You need to visit the r/GetMotivated subreddit. Spend some time there. Read some other Redditors’ posts, check out their inspirational stories, images, and quotes. If you look around for even just a few minutes, I think you’ll find it impossible to come away unmotivated.

If that doesn’t work, check out the level-two counterpart: r/GetDisciplined. 60% of the time, it works every time to get my inspiration cranking away. Before I know it, I’m in there opening up cans of code like a boss. It’s the Chariots of Fire for web nerds. See where I’m going with this?

Last month I said “do what works.” I still believe that. But I also believe it’s more complicated than the right environment and a positive outlook. Sometimes a little outside influence can go a long way. When I’m feeling bored, distracted, or “over it,” I spend a few minutes in r/GetMotivated and it does the trick. I hope it will help you too.

It takes time. Hang in there.

Hour glass.Easier said than done, but you might have to wait a while for business to pick up. Last time, I said you’ll need to be prepared to struggle for a while. This time, I’m less concerned about the struggling and more with “for a while.” You’re building a business here. Rome wasn’t built in just a day and neither will your empire be.

This pill has been a difficult one to swallow, I’ll admit. The rate of change is slower than I wanted. I expected that I could take 2 or 3 clients with me when I made the jump and that, after 2 or 3 months, those projects would be over and the next few would be around the corner. What I learned is that the lead-to-client conversion process takes longer than that, for me at least. It took me several months to sign contracts that I expected to turn in a week or two. The clients don’t want to jump into bed with you right away. And they don’t care about your mortgage payment.

The time is what it is. Maybe you’ll close deals faster than I can, but if you understand the time required, it won’t be a surprise when the time comes. You’ll be better prepared and better able to handle things in the downtime before work really picks up—a lesson I wish I had learned before going through it. Hindsight is 20/20 after all, isn’t it?

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