"Where are you going after Mozilla?" – This is something I've been asked countless times since I announced my departure from the company behind Firefox. The funny thing is, it's usually asked in a way that that expects a glamorous and impressive response. "So you're going to Google or something then?" – nope. "Facebook?" – wrong again. "Microsoft?" – Yes! Hah, just kidding.
No, instead I'll be doing something much better, something much less claustrophobic. I'm going to spend the next 6 months looking after me – working on things that make me happy, doing things that I want to do, and generally taking things easy and as they come. Does that mean that I'll be any less successful, or that what I'm doing is any less important or worthwhile? Hell no!
I'm going to take some time to explain my decision, but you can skip to the end and hire me if you know what's good for you.
Going big doesn't mean better
So many people look at the big Internet companies with starry eyes, desperate to work there but with absolutely no idea why. "Because it's Google!" – sure, the reputation of a company is a great reason to put them above others. The funny thing is that the employees at these larger companies are usually the ones who are both hugely motivated and mega stressed at the same time. Without that motivation the pressure of the job would be unhealthily-crushing.
It's surprising how many people assume that working at the largest companies around equals a happier, more successful life. It's completely wrong – you should never base your employment decisions based on the name and grandeur of a company. Instead, you should base your decisions on whether the role and expected experience will give you what you require to be happy and that the time you invest will be worthwhile.
The other thing about large companies is that you are likely to get lost amongst the crowd, unless you're a 'ninja rock star' or whatever the current terminology is. Truth is, if you want to get well known then joining a huge company probably isn't the best use of your time.
Perhaps doing something smaller is a better use of your time. Perhaps something a little smaller is healthier for you. This is the conclusion that I came to – going back to my roots, as they say.
Relaxation and personal focus
As I mentioned at the beginning, I'm spending the 6 months to look after me and work on things that make me happy. Basically, I'm going to have 6 months of little, ideally no stress. 6 months to work on whatever I want, when I want. 6 months without having to worry about income and other boring real-life things – I'll be living off my savings.
When I explain this decision to people they mostly say something along the lines of, "That sounds, nice…", while wondering internally whether I've gone mental. For some reason there is a mass belief that we all have to do 'real work' and that our dreams of doing things we truly love are well, just dreams. "I'd love to do that too but I have adult things to worry about like a mortgage" – patronising, but ok. Seriously though, if you feel like your life is preventing you from doing what makes you happy then you really need to re-think your life.
I believe that if you put your mind to something then you'll often achieve what you set out to do. Perhaps I'm just too optimistic about things, but I very rarely fail at things that I focus my efforts on. Sure, the result might not be as I expected but I almost certainly learn something useful and valuable along the way.
Take a risk sometimes, it's fun! In this case, I'm terrified of what the future holds but I'm jumping out into the abyss in the hope that I land on something solid. Where you land isn't as important to me as the journey I take there – you already know your expected destination, the journey is the fun bit.
Funding future projects
Living off your savings is great and all but it's hardly a sustainable way of living. I'm aware of that though I'm not letting it cloud my decisions, at least for the first 6 months. So what about the future? I need to find a way to earn enough to continue having the flexibility to do what I love.
I've been thinking about this for a long time and there are so many possible ways to make money, none of which will earn me enough on their own unless they become my primary focus (going against the whole point of doing this).
What sort of things?
- Getting sponsored by a company, like Robert Scoble and Rackspace
- Fund projects with the community, perhaps on Kickstarter
- Sell my projects, either as a service or as a one-off package
- Contract my skills
- Provide workshops
- Sell my body
All of these options have pros and cons, and neither are quite perfect. It's likely that a combination of approaches will yield the best results. The fun part is that I can use the next 6 months to experiment and see what works without the pressure of paying for rent and other annoyances.
The first approach I'm taking is to do limited contracting of my skills; partly in an effort to save for the future, and partly to keep my options open and to explore new things.
That's right! As of January 25th I have limited availability for hire. I'm not going to work all month every month, so it's likely that my time will get booked up pretty quickly – don't hang about!
What am I looking for?
My skill-set is varied and I have experience in many areas. I'm hugely driven and keen to explore the following…
- Experimental projects – I'm a sucker for new and exciting technologies
- Creative programming – games, data visualisation, all sorts!
- Consultancy – I'd love to share my knowledge and experience
- Speaking opportunities – I'm always talking about what I do
- Writing – Likewise, I'm always writing about things
Basically, I'm keen to explore anything interesting. If you think it's exciting and worth my time, it's likely that I will too – passionate people are the best people to work with.
What am I not looking for?
I should point out that there are a few things that I'm not interested in, for example…
- General Web design – this doesn't excite me any longer
- Every-day development projects – neither does this
It's only fair to point this out now and save both of us time in the long run.