Oops…I missed my own birthday. Back in June Oikos was one year old. I’d been doing website development and I set up the business to do my first paid job. I then left the security of full-time employment in February to see if I could put my skills to use under my own steam.

So I’ve been working full-time as a freelance web developer and technology consultant for just 5 full months. Perhaps a birthday is time to take stock and see how things are going?

Consider this, then, my “annual report”:

More development than expected

One of the reasons I went freelance was because I wanted to make use of both my technical and my business skills, doing both coding/development and providing consultancy, advice and training too. Most “jobs” are either one or the other: managerial or strategy roles without direct technical input; or developer jobs with not-so-much strategy. Freelancing seems to be one of the few ways I can do both.

However, the majority of my paid work has been technical development! Mostly WordPress theme coding and PHP development work, but occasionally other things too. One project was doing some advanced work in Microsoft Excel for a research project that needed some data summarising.

The focus on technical work has been surprising – initially I thought coding would be a commodity service that most people would ship out to cheaper resources. But I think people appreciate having a technical person that wants to understand their business or organisation’s needs, and who can give constructive input at a higher level, and who’s willing to go the extra mile to get their client good value.

Yes, my clients get a coder, but they do also get some advice and help about how technology can help them too.

One example of this is a recent meeting with a prospective client. I not only put together some proposals for coding up a website, but through understanding their business I was able to put forward some ideas for how that business could better communicate to their prospective clients through their website using video – something they’d not thought of but that seemed like a great idea.

I am offering people advice and support, but it’s less of a focus for the business than I expected it to be. I still want to develop the consultancy and training aspects of Oikos, but that’s taking time. Technical work is earning the money and I need to build that area of the work before branching out.

More charity sector work than expected

My website talks about how I can help communities, business and charities. But, I confess, my desire is to use my skills for social good, and so charities and communities are what I’d really like to focus my effort on. The problem with this has always been the lack of money in the sector…how can I make a living working from charities.

But through the power of Twitter and social networking, and through the help of some amazing and generous people I’ve built fantastic partnerships with, I’ve managed to make my mark in the charity sector and am spending a large amount of my time doing exactly what I want to be doing: getting great value from technology for organisations doing good works in the world.

More networking than expected

Social networking really has changed my life.

It was being on Twitter with lots of other early adopters that got me interested in web technologies in the first place. It was links that they shared that taught me the specific languages, tools and techniques. It was meeting up for coffee with other local freelancers that helped give me confidence to leave my day job. And it’s links into web developers, marketing and communications strategists, local business, and charity circles that are winning me work.

People are the key to this business, and I’ve been blessed to have a growing network of people who are kind, clever, inspiring and welcoming.

I’ve not attended a Tweetup (more by chance than by design), but I have been really enjoying meeting one-to-one for coffee with a whole variety of people, and I have new friends and clients as a result. As I work from home on my own, it’s almost like my followees are my colleagues sometimes too! They are the people I chat with in my coffee breaks, who share their news with me, and who I share my successes and my grumbles, with.

I look forward to developing friendships and networks in this way. Swindon geek nights and co-working spaces have been discussed, and I hope we can develop those ideas.

More cash than expected

My aim is not to make huge sums of money. My primary motivations are that I want to use my skills to help others, and I want to learn new skills and develop myself as a person.

However, there is the small issue of my family: I have a wife and, all being well, will have a child in December too. And I need to earn a living.

Many have said that it can take a year or two to get going as a freelancer. So I consider myself hugely fortunate to be making, well, almost enough money, after just 5 months. I’m not sure how long that level of income will sustain for and I still have some savings to keep me going. But, while money isn’t a primary concern, it’s hugely encouraging that I’m earning well this soon.

More possibilities than expected

So what does the future hold? Well, I’m REALLY excited. A lot of my work is coming from one place, but I have smaller projects on the go too and will continue that way.

Feedback on my work has been amazingly positive, and the best sort of feedback is recommendations for other work, and there’s been no shortage of work!

The charity sector is doing some great stuff in the digital media space. The small business world is too. People are embracing social networking and mobile devices more and more. I want to help people join those dots: use technology to connect people and organisations.

I’m hoping that with the new skills and experience that I have, the contacts and networks that I have, and the passion and excitement that I have, Oikos will be around for a good long while yet.

Thanks

I could thank a great many people who’ve helped me in the last year, but this isn’t an Oscar speech. They know who they are and regularly appear in my tweets and blogs. Thank you.