A year ago, I announced that I was moving on to something new. I left Centarro for my own venture Bluehorn Digital. It has been a very challenging and rewarding year. I did not just want to freelance as Matt Glaman but create a company with Bluehorn Digital that would allow me to do more.
A year of something new
In many ways, my goals with Bluehorn Digital have succeeded in just one year.
- With Bluehorn, I was able to bring on a few friends as subcontractors. One of them now works for an agency. He now gets to work from home and eliminated a 3 hour round trip commute.
- Bluehorn contributed $224 a month in sponsorships to 12 open source projects and maintainers. $100 of which is to Kristen Pol in support of her Bug Smash and other Drupal core efforts. See the complete list here: https://github.com/orgs/bluehorndigital/sponsoring.
- Ktown Connects, a podcast that celebrates Kenosha, WI, launched right when I started Bluehorn Digital. I instantly sponsored the podcast and have renewed my sponsorship. That initial sponsorship allowed them to keep on going, and they've covered some incredible stories.
- Bluehorn has been a helpful resource for some local businesses trying to navigate the wild world of e-commerce as a small business.
However, it can be hard to switch from an "individual" to a "company" when it comes to selling your time. This was especially hard when you already have your time heavily allocated. Six months into the adventure, I told myself that I needed to decide at the one-year mark: punch it full throttle and grow Bluehorn Digital or evaluate if this is still what I wanted to do.
What did I learn over the past year?
- I did not charge enough for my hours. I was afraid of charging my desired rate. I knew a higher price point would lower the pool of potential work, and I was nervous about work scarcity.
- You only get about 4-5 hours of genuinely productive billable work in a day. If you work an eight-hour workday, you have about an hour of breaks and then you have unbillable interruptions throughout the day.
- I'm not too fond of professional services. At Centarro, we did professional services work, but it was very product-centric. And a good chunk of my time was product-based with building Commerce Core. My job before that was at a product company. Only my first year and a half as a developer was purely delivering professional service work.
- I felt more stressed. I increased my salary, but my liability also increased. I needed to perform more context switching to fulfill hours in a day since I could quickly become blocked in a few projects during a single day. These projects cut across different clients, with different stacks and tooling.
- Being self-employed and taking a vacation is hard – especially if you're freelancing. So kudos to those who do this. Maybe our dollar doesn't go as far because we have three kids, but I couldn't see it happening.
Now for something different
I decided that I do not want to push the pedal to the metal with Bluehorn Digital. It was a hard decision, but the one I came to. I tried to find a software engineering role in a product-based environment. The comforts of employer benefits around insurance and retirement were enticing bonuses. I have only had employer benefits for maybe a total of 3 years over my adult (15 years) working life. So these things sound amazing and a source of stress relief.
Starting November 29th, I will be joining Acquia as a Principal Software Engineer. I am beyond excited to be joining their team and working alongside some very brilliant folks. And the fact is that I will be in a product-based role that is still very-very-very close to Drupal. It is getting the best of both worlds. I was afraid I would only find a job outside of the Drupal community.
But, what about...
I don't know for sure, but I am assuming some folks may wonder what this means for phpstan-drupal and drupal-check.
Those are my projects, and life continues as usual. I already had to maintain them during my free time gaps in the day or early mornings between client work. If my full-time employment changes your decision to sponsor my work, I have no hard feelings and will not be offended. My future team is also supportive of my open source contributions and duties.
I want to continue doing my live development streams on my Twitch channel; I enjoy doing them! I will need to see how they fit into my new schedule. As I said, my new team is very supportive, so I know something will get worked out.
The weird part is, I feel like I will once again have free time, so working on these projects feels less stressful. Relying on time and materials for my income and not salary made me very cautious about setting time aside for these things. I have been more excited than ever about phpstan-drupal now that folks are trying to have PHPStan scan Drupal core as part of the DrupalCI checks.
I am excited for the opportunities ahead while working with my new team. And, maybe, once conferences get back in person you will be able to swing by the Acquia booth and say "hi 👋"