Lessons learned from being self-employed: 4 years in

2022 was my best year financially and probably my worst year personally. This was the year that we achieved financial independence. We had 6-12 months of expenses in the bank and the royalties were covering our living expenses. It was also the year that I found that a relaxing weekend off wasn’t enough any more, that bouncing back wasn’t working anymore.

Too much, all at once

2021 was very quiet year as far as my consulting was concerned, about 10% of my revenue was consulting and the other 90% was royalties and completion payments. In 2022 that changed, however.

There was about 3 months where I was billing 20-30 hours per week on top of signing up for a new course near the end of it. Because the royalties were covering my expenses, this all went right into savings and we ended up with 6-12 months of savings. This is a consultant’s dream.

Unfortunately, life was occurring at the same time.

My husband had an elective surgery that we were planning for months. It went great and he’s completely recovered. What this meant, though, is that I was tasked as nurse for 2 weeks and janitor for 3 months. I was suddenly doing all the chores that I had taken for granted, while also working 40-50 hours per week.

Near the end of this my mom started having issues as well. The isolation of Covid was finally taking it’s toll and she was having more issues. She was clearly lonely and bored and only really got out of her apartment every other week.

This also has been largely resolved, but for a while I was bribing myself with Magic the Gathering boosters to call her every day and check up on her. We’ve increased the services that she’s receiving, and she gets out twice a week now, but during the summer it was a really challenging time.

When your body stops working

I think many would describe what I went through as burnout. I’m not sure of the right term, but stuff just stopped working. More coffee didn’t help. I would schedule a weekend to catch up on a course and get nothing done. I would take a few extra days off, to no lasting effect.

Something broke.

Realizing I needed something more, I schedule 2 weeks off at the end of the year. As a consultant it’s difficult to take time off unless you plan it far in advance. It’s even more difficult if you feel like you are always behind on projects. I only made 2 courses this year and the second one was 3 months late, horrifically overdue.

I’m one week in and I think this was 100% the right choice, I needed a deeper rest to catch up from the last 3 years.

A gut punch from Pluralsight

A couple of years ago, Pluralsight was purchased by private equity. I was cautiously optimistic at the time that this might enable them to get away from the quarterly cycle of the stock market. The results were mixed, with them making a very large acquisition of A Cloud Guru, which is still resolving.

But in December this year, the company had 20% layoffs essentially firing 400 employees. There were also changes for authors, and while I can’t get into the details, I’m expecting my royalties to go down 25%. This will put me below sustainability, with royalties no longer covering 100% of my living expenses.

So now what

For now I’ve been focusing on enjoying my vacation, recovering from 2022, and not worrying about the short term. I’ve also been reaching out to colleagues and peers, asking for advice.

I no longer see PS as a sustainable career, which means looking into doing more consulting or selling my content elsewhere. I could also get a regular W-2 job, but I would lose much of the flexibility that helps me take care of my mom.

In the end, I think I’ll be fine. But I have no idea what I’ll be doing for a living by the end of 2023.

6 thoughts on “Lessons learned from being self-employed: 4 years in

  1. When they announced the ACloudGuru acquisition, I kept staring at the two billion dollar number, and I just didn’t understand it. The amount of money moving around here just seemed too comically big.

    Hopefully they turn things around. I don’t want you going back to a day job either! Here’s to maintaining the flexibility in 2023. I’m rooting for you.

    1. Rumor trough the grapevine was that it was a defensive acquisition, not a strategic one. And maybe that made sense when money was cheap but definitely not now.

      Thanks for the encouragement. I think I’ll make something work, the biggest decision point right now is do I want to do a new 2-3 year marathon to host and sell my own content.

  2. I appreciate you spelling this out. Pluralsight needs to feel the impact on this decision. This post is the first step.

    Also, I’ve learned a lot about content marketing and whatnot from my fiction side-hustle. Let me know if you wanna chat about strategy for moving out on your own.

  3. That really stinks about PS. I’ve always enjoyed my subscription but when companies start cutting corners with authors then content tends to go down as good people leave. Let us know if you decide to go elsewhere with new content.
    Also – super glad I finally got to meet you at PDCS last year! And glad you got a little rest after. Burnout is serious so take care.

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