Freelancing: My first year in review

Freelancing: My first year in review

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I've been a freelancer for exactly one year now! A lot of things have happened over the course of this year and I feel like the first birthday of my company, Cats & Code, is a good time to stop and look back at how it happened and what this changed in my life.

Cats & Code's birthday cake

Where it all began

I met Hiway at a conference, the Symfony Live, and was in the mood for a bit of a change in my career, having spent 3 years at software agencies including SensioLabs, the company that created the Symfony framework.

They identified themselves as freelance coaches and we had a pretty cool talk about the benefits and possible changes it would bring me. I did not realize what it truly meant at the time but decided to try it, just to see something new.

The main selling point for me was the freedom to work for whichever client I want, to try different activities such as training people or creating software of my own. I've been passionate about programming since I'm 10 and my mind is always full of ideas for automation but working a full-time job meant I could not legally sell my own software.

Managing a company is actually pretty fun in itself, I love graphs and math. Being able to do so while having talented people check that I'm not doing terrible mistakes makes it mostly stress-free.

Finding a client for the first time

Most of my freelancing opportunities come through recruiters on LinkedIn. From the day I announced my company's creation and my new career path, things took quite a slow start because they needed the time to build a network that was quite different from what I had previously.

The freelance market is a different one from the full-time one. Now that I have a lot of freelance-specific recruiters in my relations, things feel much more reactive when I'm looking for new missions.

Now, the first thing that came to mind was that I probably needed a small CRM to track all of the opportunities, and this helped immensely. I've chosen HubSpot because it's free and pretty good for my needs. I soon found myself needing to track 10 recruiters, each having between 1 and 3 offers for me with different technologies and different price ranges.

I can't recommend having a CRM enough.

It can sometimes be a pain to track every important call you have with clients but your future self will thank you so many times. I ended up finding a mission one month later, while doing in the meantime the administrative stuff related to founding a company helped by Hiway.

Automate everything

I've always enjoyed creating small softwares that automate my everyday life. Running a company is the best playground for this. For instance, every month, in France, we generate activity reports. From the time you print one, fill it manually while checking the calendar on your phone to make sure the 1st of the month was actually a Wednesday so you don't shift everything, put it on your client's desk and wait for him to sign it and return it to you, you spend around 5 minutes.

What's the value of automating it then? While 5 minutes feel like not so much time, it would avoid context switch and... Okay I don't need to find any justification, I just love my job and automating things is part of it. If you're the kind of person that wants to know if it's really useful, check out the following chart from the excellent comic XKCD.

XKCD's take on the automation dilemma

And that's pretty much how I created Lycra, which is a pretty bad word play on CRA, which stands in french for "Compte-rendu d'activité" (activity report). I showed it excitedly to Hiway, because I just found it pretty cool. I really was not expecting their reaction though.

They thought this was helpful for all of their freelancers, but we could add some features to it to make it really practical to use. And, it's now in use by the whole community!

Sanitary crisis

I had my last mission done by the start of the current worldwide sanitary crisis, which was kind of bad luck. Offers were a bit hard to come by for a month and most of them were at quite low prices. I finally found a new mission that I enjoy, which is a pretty good sign for me that even during tough times, my job remains sustainable.

While waiting for those rare opportunities was a bit stressful at first, I figured I might as well just work on my own products and I did.

I managed to sell Lycra to a customer and it felt so good. For the first time, I actually went from start to finish. From an idea emerging in my head to selling a finished product. And I'm pretty sure I won't stop there!

Creating a logo

After 1 year, I decided to try to create a logo for my company. I first tried a pretty simple text-only design, that looks like this:

First try, not the most exciting

After a couple of sketches with a graphical tablet, I came up with a pretty cool design, featuring, of course, a cat... and a mouse it plays with.

Rough sketch of a possible logo

I loved it so I decided to vectorize it and here it is!

Vectorized logo

I quite like it and I think the simple shape makes it modern yet detailed enough to be recognizable. What do you think?

I can't wait to print it on business cards.


This first year was amazing, and I feel like self-employment has really played a part on my overall happiness. Life as a freelancer can be stressful at times but being able to create your own projects makes it well worth the trouble!

I would like to try new activities next year like training people, which I have loved to do at my previous experiences. I'm also starting this blog to share my thoughts and tech tips that I discover.

Happy birthday Cats & Code!

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