On being one's own boss

27 April 2007

I’ve been on a sabbatical for the last six months while I’ve been developing my own software business, Axe Software. It’s been an interesting experience, and I’ve learned the following things:

  • Working from home is excellent. I've loved not having to get the tube every morning. I've loved having the freedom to take advantage of a sunny day to go out on my bicycle - I've even managed to lose a bit of weight. I've also quite enjoyed being able to watch Working Lunch, which I only ever used to watch when I was sick.
  • Working for yourself is expensive. I've made Axe Software break even over the last few months, and it is now making more money than it did before. But it's nowhere near enough to keep me fed with a roof over my head.
  • Being your own boss is difficult. I've tried to keep myself disciplined, but in the War on Procrastination I did lose the occasional battle. It's easy to spend the whole morning getting absolutely nothing productive done, except perhaps tidying the kitchen, which isn't going to make you any money whatsoever. But then it's also easy to spend the whole evening mindlessly tapping at the computer when you're probably better off just giving it a rest for a while.
  • I really like computer programming. Nothing new there, but I've discovered that I like developing software so much more than trying to sell it. When you're developing software, you know immediately whether it works or not. But when you're marketing software, you can't measure whether you're doing it "correctly" anywhere near as easily. You have to wait for the sales to come in, or not. And there are no quick fixes to make something suddenly start selling well.
  • The lack of office banter hasn't really been a problem, but I did used to kind of enjoy it. And I'm starting to miss those regular trips down the pub after work (even if we did used to spend most of them just complaining about work).

So, the sabbatical has come to an end. I haven’t quite achieved the dream of being my own boss, but it’s been a worthwhile experience. I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who’s got a business idea - you’ll never know if it’s viable unless you take the plunge, and if you can get a sabbatical from your employer, that’s a nice and safe way to stick your toe in the water.

If nothing else, you might get a lot fitter, and your house will be tidier than ever before.