After The Dream

It’s the modern-day dream. Being able to work for yourself without being tied down to an office, a boss, or a company. No dream comes free though, and all freelancers have to take the good with the bad. But who are you to complain. You’re living the dream, right?


That’s what I always thought until I spoke to Hollis Bartlett, a freelance web developer and designer I met a few days ago. He’s been building websites since 1996 and loves what he does. He’s built a very successful business for himself, and even hired an assistant developer to help him with the workload.

Unfortunately, the nature of the business just became too much for him, and he decided to hang up his mouse and keyboard and (partially) retire. Here’s an excerpt of his email to me:

I’ve grown to dislike the business. It’s a shame, because I still love creating designs in Photoshop, and oddly enough I love love love creating web design using css & html. I love putting together CMS templates with all of these components, and my favourite part is still helping people get their business online properly. The business part afterwards, however, sucks the big one. Waiting for invoices to get paid (usually late). People not paying attention to what you tell them, and constantly bugging you for shit you already told them 10 times. People don’t read emails. They assume they can call you at any time of the day, on any day of the week including Sundays.  I had one show up at my house unannounced on a Sunday afternoon.

You can read the rest of it here.

The reason I find this so poignant is that many people (myself included) dream of being able to support ourselves and our families by doing the thing we love. We work hard and put ourselves through hell to make it happen and, through luck and blood and sweat, some of us do. Hollis did.

What Hollis’ experience taught me is that there’s always an after. Always. Life doesn’t stop once you reach that dream. You don’t watch the sunset through your home office window and cue the credits to roll. Things still happen. Projects fail. Clients complain. Bills come in. Your motivation dies. The dream fades to gray.

By that same token, you don’t have to stay there. Things can turn sour, but there’s always a way to make it better. Hollis took the leap by retiring and moving to a new city. I’m sure other freelancers who got sick of the job adapted in their own way as well, whether by retiring or evolving into different services.

Will I ever be able to support my family with my freelancing? Am I ever going to be a published author? It might happen. Once I do, will I eventually get sick of it? It’s possible. What am I going to do when it actually happens? I have no idea.

Do you?


7 comments on “After The Dream

  1. claud says:

    Tip: go to the countryside where it’s cheaper. I’d love to do it someday, after earning tons of money. Ha-ha.

  2. Ben says:

    I have often thought about this same thing. I’ve liked every job I’ve had, some better than others, but even my most enjoyable job had its negative sides. When I started working from home (telecommuting for a company), it seemed like I’d reached a pinnacle that could only have been eclipsed by becoming a full time author working from home for myself. But I quickly discovered that working from home has its own downsides. I’m sure that everything does. Some you can predict, others you can’t. You just have to try it out and try to work through the problems.

  3. […] Patrick commented here and I followed his link to his blog, Spoiler. There is a post there called After The Dream which tells the story of a web designer who after considerable success quit, largely due to […]

  4. Writing as a full time career is quite doable, and moreso now with health insurance reforms. I used to think that, due to health insurance, there was no way I could swing this career without my husband’s career as a support beam. But that was never about money- I make plenty to pay for a modest lifestyle without his salary- it was always about health insurance for myself and my two kidlets. There’s nothing wrong with retiring! I plan on retiring to Mexico some day!

    • Patrick says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Allena! It’s the same story with me. I took on a full-time job because I needed the benefits for my wife and child. I’m not sure if Canada has any of the health insurance reforms you mentioned (if any Canadian freelancers out there know, please send me a PM), and until they do I’m going to have to rely on a company to provide that for me.

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