Five years of contracting

April 1st saw me celebrate five years of working as an in independent contractor. This also means I’ve now spent two years in London and it’s been four years since I last worked in Northern Ireland. It’s scary how fast time flies.

Changes and not

My second contract here required the use of a limited company so it meant finally waving goodbye to the simplicities of being a sole trader. I’d originally set up NullTheory Ltd for my very first contract but was advised to go down the sole-trader route so it had been lying dormant for some time. Working through that and later needing professional indemnity and public liability insurance has meant things have seemed a bit more adult and at times daunting but ultimately this has just boiled down to just the logistics of carrying out my day-to-day work.

Most of the contracts themselves I’ve found to be quite similar but I guess that’s the downside to selling what amounts to a commodity skill. I think I’ve seen every possible way of combining Ruby and Rails by now.

In terms of client work the last few months have been particularly challenge free which has seen me refocus on bodybuilding, for better or worse.

The one consistent challenge there has been though is that of pushing up the daily rate…

My first contract in Belfast paid double my last permanent salary and working in Dublin was a nice bump up from there but London has been something else entirely. My current daily rate is more than double my first and it’s tragic how quickly each increase in income has went from making me feel rich to making me want more.

Financial independence

The dream of financial independence has been the thing that’s driven me since 2008 when I was working in the back office of a monstrous US investment bank as the Global Financial Crisis hit. This was definitely amongst the most stressful periods of my life and the only way out seemed to be to have enough money not to have to work ever again. So I started saving as hard as I could and learning what I needed as I went along.

What seemed a lifetime away is now within sight and it has only been possible through working for myself. Each year I’ve maxed out my Stocks & Shares ISA contributions, any profit liable to higher-rate income tax I’ve put into a Self-Invested Personal Pension and just before Christmas I diversified a bit and bought a house back in Belfast.

Money can still be one of those taboo subjects but I’d like to write about it more, I had started developing an information product in the form of a while back but didn’t get far. Perhaps when I finally withdraw myself from the workforce I’ll feel more motivated to write about how it was done.

The future

The dream so many contractors I’ve spoken with mention is to only work for a number of months of the year and to then take the rest of the time off. I still don’t know wether or not I have the nerve to step away from full-time work. Getting trapped in “just one more year” could happen too easily and after so many years of spending so much of my time working the question arises of what do I do with myself.

Since graduating without the Master’s degree I originally started studying for I’ve thought about returning to University to snag that and maybe even go further and work towards a PhD if I found the ability was there. Other bucket-list items I’ve tossed around in my head are learning a martial art and a new spoken language along with publishing a book.

Realistically though, until the new year I’ll be keeping my head down and managing my investments, after which a decent chunk of time away from the grind will be in order. From there, who knows.