Dan Hough

A Year of Independence

Published 30 October 2014 in London, UK

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my going into self-employment, and the final day of full-time employment, ending 2 and a half brilliant years at Huddle.

This is the single line I wrote in my journal the next morning:

I am so unemployed!!! Wooooooo!

This is going to be a fairly candid report of what I’ve been up to in the past year. It’s going to be a little bit self-indulgent and gushy, so if you’re not interested in that sort of post please move on. However, if you can stand it, and hope to maybe be a little inspired, continue reading.

Clients & Colleagues

I’m proud to report that the past year I’ve had two major contract jobs in this time: first with Gojimo and then with upmysport. This has allowed me to work in some of the funnest startup offices in London alongside Songkick and Geckoboard, and took me to Chamonix in France for a season of intense and frequent snow sports. I met a lot of great people there, including a client (or two!) and took part in a lot of new activites including paragiding, crag climbing and off-piste snowboarding.

I’ve also recently started working with General Assembly to teach Front End Web Development, and am planning my first workshops on that and other, related topics. This is something I’ve found I enjoy a lot more than I expected I would: it’s really good fun and very rewarding. I am currently teaching a class of 20 really fantastic and enthusiastic students and their skills are coming along nicely.


I have been extremely fortunate in the last year to be given opportunities to live a very alternative lifestyle from before. Generally, I’m a huge fan and I prefer it to the 9-5 office routine I had before.

Going into jobs knowing that they won’t last forever is a huge bonus for me too. I haven’t once gotten bored of a project, but I know that I suit a way of working that doesn’t mean constantly slogging away at the same thing for long periods of time. I suit shorter-term projects quite well, and I enjoy meeting lots of different people and seeing different places, in the process.

This affords me more leisure time than before, too. Some days, I work quite a lot more than I would’ve done in full-time employment, but other days I can relax and read a book, write some blog posts or catch a movie during the day (try it, it’s sooo much better).

Nevertheless, working alone can get lonely at times. I really enjoy working from home where it’s quiet and undistracting, but there are days I wish I had a collaborator or two, or an office water cooler to chat around.


By and large, business has been really good. I’ve turned down quite a lot of work, but I think that this can be said for most developers. As a result I’ve been fortunate enough to work with clients that I actively want to work with, which is a really nice way to work.

I haven’t actually earned quite as much as I would’ve done had I stayed with my previous job in the last year, but I haven’t worked anywhere near as much. So in terms of daily rate, I’m earning at least twice what I was before.

The goal for this venture wasn’t money, though. As I said in my original post, it was about independence and doing more of the things I love. Well, I wrote 5 months ago about my progress in that regard and it wasn’t all positive. I’m happy to report though that in that time things have turned around a little, mostly because the client work I’m doing is much more of the freelance style of work.

Another thing to be said on the business side of things is how surprisingly interesting it is to actually run a business. I’m now the Managing Director of Happily Ltd, and thanks to some excellent accounting software (this is a referral link ;) it’s easy to see how well the business is going and it’s easy to deal with the admin.

Open Source & Side Projects

As a result of my new lifestyle I’ve become far more active in contributing and maintaining open source software. My side projects have been far more successful, and I’ve made many more additions to them than I would’ve done otherwise.

Interfake continues to be maintained, and Forkability (more on this later) is taking shape nicely. My Pub Crawl App was released and has now made $10.21 from IAP. It sounds small, but I’ve never made money from selling software before so I’m pretty chuffed!

What I’d like more of

A couple of days ago I read Harry of CSS Wizardry Ltd’s postmortem, which actually reminded me that I needed to write this post, and inspired some of the structure. He talks a lot about doing short-term consultancy for a day or two, which is something I’d really like to get into.

So with that in mind, I’d like to start doing more workshops and teaching sessions, speaking engagements and general consultancy work. It’s not that I want to give up development projects; far from it! I’d just like to be able to do more work that exercises my public speaking and teaching skills.

I’d also like to turn Happily Ltd into more than just a freelance agency. I’d like to be able to say that Happily offers consultancy services as well as bespoke software, and maybe sell one or two little products. I’d like to maybe even get somebody else on board with me to do that.

What next?

I have a few possible clients in the pipeline for the coming months, and I have plans for my various side projects, and I most certainly will be blogging about it all here. Until then, thanks for reading and for all the support I’ve had from everybody including friends, family, clients and total strangers over the last year. It’s been brilliant.

Heckle me on Twitter @basicallydan.