Closing a business isn’t failing, it’s a reason to celebrate

This year, both my wife and I have closed our businesses, and for very different reasons. My wife has closed her pet sitting business because COVID has negatively affected it. I closed mine because I don’t want to carry on as a contractor/freelancer. I’m going back to permanent work, and my wife was using hers as a side-hustle.

We both felt differently about closing up. I saw it as moving from one opportunity to another. Unfortunately, my wife saw hers as a failure. She felt as though she failed as a business, and she let all her clients down.

The thing is, neither of us have failed. Especially my wife. She kept a business going through thick and thin. She has dealt with a wide array of clients, and held it out all on her own. It was a success, and she did an amazing job at building relationships and gaining trust. If she restarted at any point, her client base would jump at the chance of having her back. To me, that’s a massive success that many people struggle with.

Running a business is always a huge learning experience. There’s many ups and downs, but the struggle is worth it. Even if you end up closing that business down, you would learn a lot from it. Learning from the business is what makes it a success. If you are closing down a business or have closed one in the past, please don’t see it as failure. See it as a success and just learn from what you did to get it to where it is or was.

(UK) How to become a contract web developer

So, you want to get into contract development, but you don’t know where to start? Let me explain how to get started, and what you need in order to begin contracting. Strap in, because this is going to be a long one.

Setting up your business

First off, you will need to either set up your own limited company or find a service which offers an umbrella company. There are multiple ways to set up a limited company. You can create the company yourself, or use a service to do it for you. I was personally recommended a company myself called “The Company Warehouse“. They also offer accountancy packages which may suit your needs.

You could also use companies such as Your Side Kick, JSA Group etc. These companies will set up your business and deal with taxes, PAYE etc. If you decide to go alone, then you will need to register on the website.

After you’ve set up your limited company, and if you didn’t use a service, then there are extras to consider. These are; PAYE, tax and VAT. All of this can be done on the website, but you need to take care to ensure you fill the details correctly.

Another thing to consider if you haven’t used any of the services above is an accountant, they can deal with your yearly taxes and any VAT submissions (should you require it). They can set you up with accountancy software such as Quick Books, Free Agent, Xero etc. Once they set you up, they will help to get you started and can let you go on your own once you’re confident enough to use the software.

Deciding who to bank with

There are so many banking companies out there, even more with the boom of Fintech banks. Personally, I chose Starling which is a fantastic fintech company. They offer 0 monthly fees, they charge £3 fee per money withdrawal at Post Offices. However, you can also choose from the following… Monzo, Tide, Coconut and many more. There are also traditional bank accounts such as HSBC, Barclays, Santander etc.

It is up to you to research each bank and find the one that best suits you. Once you have done this, you should hook it up with your accounts management software or notify you accountant.

Looking for contracting work

You have the business side of things taken care of, now it’s time to find work. How do you do this?

There are tons of options available for you, if you have connections elsewhere, then you can ask them. You can go to Slack or Reddit communities where other devs are already working for companies looking for contractors. I actually found my role through an agency called Nigel Frank on LinkedIn. They are a worldwide agency so there’s plenty of work to go round.

Speaking of LinkedIn, that’s a massive resource which I recommend. You can join communities and connect with like-minded people. People are always advertising for positions on LinkedIn too, so be sure to use the search to your full advantage. Twitter and Facebook may also help, but I haven’t had any luck on there just yet.

Another great step would be to set up your own website to advertise your work and the fact you’re looking. You can create a contact form, add your phone number and share to friends and family who may also share to others.

Hang out at conferences by using to your advantage while learning new skills. I recommend you go when there are interesting topics, otherwise, you might not have any luck. You may also want to create some business cards which you can hand out to people you meet.

Finding a suitable accountant

Finding a suitable accountant is something else you will need to consider, especially if you’re not sure how to handle the money side of things. I personally used a local accountant which was recommended to me by a friend and you may want to do the same. However, a company I keep seeing and has been recommended by a lot of people is Crunch. These guys seem great and I would definitely recommend you check them out.

They also made a great article on starting up your own LTD company which you should definitely read.

Optional: Work Equipment

This one depends on your circumstances. If you have got a working laptop and all the gear for working elsewhere, then you can skip this. Otherwise, you will need to find a laptop. You may also need some dongles, a mouse and keyboard, earphones or headphones, or monitor cables.

I personally went with the HP Envy 13″ with a USB-C dongle. The dongle has 2 USB-A, one USB-C, ethernet, one VGA and one HDMI ports. My mouse is a Razer (can’t remember the model) and I use the keyboard that’s on my laptop. My workplace offered me a monitor with HDMI cable, but you may want to take your own display cables just in case. I can also connect to their network via ethernet.

It came with Windows 10 pre-installed, but I chose to install the latest Ubuntu software. In hindsight, I should have chosen the LTS version due to software support. I will stick to the next LTS version to avoid this situation in the future.

Final Thoughts

As far as starting out with contracting, that’s pretty much it. You may also need to learn to invoice your clients although my agency does that for me. However, I still have to fill in timesheets every week in order for them to keep track and I create invoices that never go to them.

Read my story on how I got start with contracting…

Some background to mine and my wife’s life

You might want to grab yourself a coffee…

Around 8-9 years ago, my wife (then girlfriend) and I moved out of my mum’s 2-bedroom council house into our very own 1-bedroom council flat. Like everyone else, we had to go on the waiting list and bid for flats/houses. We were expecting to find a place in between 1-2 years, but my mum thought it would take a lot longer.

We were very fortunate because we found a one-bedroom flat just 6 months after being on the list. It was a block of flats converted from an old people’s home. Half of these flats were offered to locals of Looe, while the other half were offered to people outside of Looe. We were fortunate to be offered a flat, and we were ecstatic. Without a moments notice, we accepted and then began proceedings to move in.

Once moved in, we were overjoyed, we had our very own place together. Then the bills started rolling in and at the time, it was just my wife who was working. I was still going to college to finish my higher national diploma. She would read these letters and start booing her eyes out. My mum would come over and explain how we manage bills. Due to me not working at the time, and looking for a job, we had to go on benefits.

A council house and on benefits? Typical…

I hear you tutting at those words, but we were in need and it’s also the worst feeling. EVER. I went on job seekers until I could find a job and we had to photocopy every wage slip my wife had and all future slips. Thankfully after a few long hard months (at least), I managed to get a job in Spar with my wife.

This was amazing, but we still needed to be on benefits because of the lack of work and wages. This would carry on for a few years and we tried to handle the situation as best we could. There were times where we managed to pick up enough hours to not be on benefits, and there were other times when we needed it. After so much struggling, we thought that benefits were just such a pain, we would try to survive without it.

Stopping benefits and struggling on

We then stopped our benefits and carried on. Again, some weeks went extremely well, and other weeks were bad. I ended up getting a 0% interest credit card from Barclays with £500 limit to build my credit rating up. It was meant to be only for emergencies and only for small purchases. However, this didn’t last long at all. We started using it in emergencies, but we couldn’t pay it off in one go after the next month rolled over. I thought we were safe because it was 0%, but that doesn’t last forever.

In the meantime, I was trying to find freelance clients to build websites for, but everyone wanted something for nothing. I offered sites for £300 which is nothing compared to most freelancers/agencies who charge anything from £1,000. People thought I was too expensive and would never get back to me.

I had one client who wanted a site where you could rent out wedding equipment which could be used over again. It was going well with a hiccup or two until he decided to no longer get in contact with me. I’m not sure what happened, but hey ho. Then I had a client who had a struggling business. She wanted me to make a website for her for nothing until she made money and I agreed. I thought that once she started making money, she could pay me back. This didn’t go well as she couldn’t keep her business going and had to close. I then got nothing for all the work I did. A shame, but it was a lesson learned.

Applying for web dev jobs

Then it was time for me to apply for web dev jobs. I applied for everything, left right and centre. Until I managed to pick up my first ever job in web dev. It was in Bodmin, and I was super happy with getting this job. It was a junior salary which is perfectly fine for me being a junior. However, 2 weeks down the line, I was struggling, and I received very little help. It turns out they wanted a mid to senior-level developer at a junior salary. In my third week, they took me to one side and had to let me go.

This was a huge blow to my confidence, but I wouldn’t let it get to me. I stayed strong and kept pushing. Thankfully my old employer let me have my job back and I carried on going until I could find something else. I applied for every single job I could find right up to Plymouth. I kept getting turned down due to those with more experience, a slight hit, but not the end of the world.

Where can I go from here?

If I’m not experienced enough, then maybe I needed to try something else. How about an apprenticeship? I could get business experience while studying something I already knew a lot about. This could be the way to go, so I applied for a company near Exmouth in Devon. After a few weeks, they got back to me and I went for my interview. They were happy to employ me and said I could start before my apprenticeship started. Not wanting to waste any time, I accepted and started 6 months before my official start.

Here’s the kicker though the wages were at apprenticeship wages (under minimum wage) and it was under a freelance contract which is how they could get away with the low wages. Also, I needed to move away from my wife into my friend’s Houseshare and find ways to pay for myself and my flat expenses. It was hard, stressful and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, at all.

My wife would wonder why I’m going out when I feel like I’ve earnt it. She would be at home, alone and struggling to keep herself going. It was the worst 5 months of our lives, but somehow, we came out of the other side and we moved to Newton Abbot. Newton Abbot was half an hour from my workplace which made things a lot easier, and we were back together. A month later, a few days before my official start, I lost my job.

Back to square one… Again…

How did this happen? You may ask. Well, due to the stresses of earning very little and needing to find the money. I would try to make my own business while at work. A terrible idea, I know. Never do this and I wish I hadn’t done this. My wife was furious. How could I move so far away from our friends and family just to have me lose my job?

Back to the drawing board

We went back on benefits and back to job seekers to keep money flowing. Around a month later, my wife went back to working in Spar while I kept searching. Another month later and a job opened up in the Spar she was working in. Because we both worked together in the previous Spar, we were allowed to work together here.

Then, we came off benefits again and obviously job seekers stopped due to finding ourselves work. Six months down the line, I found yet another web development position, they were happy to take me on because of my honesty with my first job. I wasn’t honest about my second position, I said it was on a freelance basis and they ran out of work for me.

Finding happiness

Thankfully this new place went really well for over a year. I was really happy with the team, and my work until they started struggling with money. They had to let people go. Unfortunately, I was one of them. Another blow to my confidence and I didn’t know what to do. Should I go to uni and get more education within the field? Can I even find another position in this field?

Finding another happy place

The company below us needed a developer and asked if I wanted to join them. Knowing who they were and feeling confident I could help them, I agreed. Three months later and I decided to leave. This was due me suffering from terrible anxiety, to a point where I was throwing up every time there was a bank holiday or I took days off.

I would walk in every day and have a feeling I would be fired. It was terrifying and I felt the only thing I could do was find a new job and leave. After handing in my 1-month notice, I used my time to look for a new position elsewhere. I found somewhere which wasn’t highly recommended, but I wanted to get a feel of it myself. It was bad, just as my colleagues had said, and while I was talking to someone regarding my anxiety, the team weren’t very empathetic.

My mum was also going through cancer for the second time which meant I needed to book time off work. I found out my colleagues were talking behind my back regarding my mum and thought she should be able to look after herself. Not being happy with this, I decided it was time to leave.

Searching far and wide for a new place to work, I found somewhere that was just as good as the first company I was happy in. It went great, the people were great and the work was challenging yet rewarding. Getting to the one year mark, I struggled with anxiety again. Would I lose my job soon? It happened before, it could happen again.

Unfortunately, it did. However, it did happen after my anxieties left, and it was due to money problems again.

Where am I now?

That was 6-7 years of my life I’ve just written about. A lot has been left out because this was focused more on my web development journey. I could have added a lot more. Where am I now? I’m now happily working with a company called Lightfoot who I’ve been working for, for over 2 years now. My journey has been a struggle, but it’s been worth it.

My wife and I are still struggling with money because we got in huge debt with credit card companies. We’re now in a situation where we’re paying it off, but it’s hard. We need to have the discipline to not spend and that is a huge struggle. We’ve both gone through anxieties and depression and still do now. This is a big reason for me trying to raise money for mental health charities.

My mum is no longer suffering from cancer, but she has been a huge inspiration to my life. She fights on and she’s loving her life up in Oldham with her family. That’s the reason I raise money for cancer charities because no one should suffer from cancer.

Please help me raise money

This year I’m trying to raise money for good causes. The first cause that I would like to raise money for is Macmillan cancer by doing a 26-mile hike. The second cause if for Mind, a mental health charity. I will be doing many Crossfit workouts and messy4mind.

Please click here if you would like to donate to my cancer fundraiser. You can click here if you would like to donate to my Mind fundraiser. If you’re feeling generous, you could become a patron and support me and what I’m doing by clicking here. You don’t have to do any of that, and I still appreciate you just for reading. If you made it this far, thank you.