My story is a bit weird:
2004: joined the workforce as a Japanese salaryman (full-time employee, and more wage slavish than any wage slave you’ve ever met).
2006: started Bingo Card Creator (downloadable software sold on the shareware model) on the side
2007: switched jobs in Japan from cushy translating gig to being a salaryman engineer. HoursPerWeek *= 3.
2008-2009: I didn’t die. Bingo Card Creator grew substantially (particularly after switching to web application in, hmm, '08?), to the point where it was routinely outpacing salary, and I made the decision to quit.
2010: I quit day job with intention to go full time on products, but also started consulting. Also, launched second software product, Appointment Reminder (sold on SaaS model).
2011-2012: Appointment Reminder grows fairly slowly. Consulting business explodes. Launch productized consulting offering (my most common consulting engagement, with my personal time refactored out of it, available as a downloadable video course) in October.
2013: Quit consulting, full-time on products again for first time since April 2010.
I eventually quit consulting because Appointment Reminder, the SaaS business which I sort of wish was my business center of gravity, was feeling neglected but giving off strong signals that it would work much better if I actually put more effort into it. (For example, by growing substantially even though neglected.)
Quitting consulting was not an easy decision, largely because I was pretty successful doing it. By the end of my consulting career I was putting $30k~$50k a week on proposals and still winning them, and creating incredible value for clients at the same time. Unfortunately, continued growth required changes to the business that I was loathe to make – either going full-time on consulting, making lifestyle compromises in terms of time spent away from Ruriko (we got married in 2012), or taking on clients closer to the Fortune 500 than to the small savvy software firms which had been my bread and butter.
What I miss most about consulting:
- Consulting has a magic cash flow wand, particularly at the type of rates I was getting. Work two weeks, bill $60k. This makes it very easy to afford things like e.g. wedding or sustained foreign travel. These are less easy to sustain on product income.
- Consulting gave me the opportunity to work directly with other smart people. I miss that alot when I’m banging out things in the PatCave.
How I got/get around these:
- Growth in recurring SaaS revenue will, eventually, make almost any money problem less pressing than it previously seemed to be.
- Failing that, productized consulting tends to be frontloaded both in terms of effort and in terms of payment, much like consulting is, rather than frontloaded with a substantial tail in terms of effort and heavily backloaded i nterms of payment, like SaaS is. The course I released last October did something like $50k in sales within a ~2 week launch period and has non-trivial residual sales ($1k to $2k per month), in return for about 3 to 4 weeks of frontloaded work. Even if that doesn’t match my peak consulting rates, it does give me an option to get out of almost any cash crunch (business or personal): spend another month doing a new course, launch it, pay off the credit cards, repeat as required.
- I joined a BaseCamp room frequented by a bunch of other software people who I know from the Internets/conferences/etc and whose company I enjoy. This helps replace the feeling of camraderie, and opportunity to speak to smart people about mutually interesting things, which I msis from having coworkers.