When I opened my digital agency it was me and my wife as developers, I had no savings and I needed to get long contracts ASAP which luckily I did straight away.

Lovely client, had worked for them before as a consultant so i thought it would be a breeze. Let's just say the project should've been named "Naivete, Scope Creep and Anger: The revenge".

What happened is that when this project was poised to end I naively thought I would be able to close the job, so I started looking for a new full time consultancy gig and found one where I could work from home, and agreed a starting date.

Well, the previous job didn't end because of flaws in my contract the client exploited, leaving me locked in and working full time, for free, for basically as long as he wanted (I learned a lot the hard way at that time) and I had already started the new agreed job. This meant I was now working 2 full time shifts, 16 hours per day.

Then, two support contracts of 2 hours per day were activated, bringing my work load to 20 hours/day.

I did this for 4 months.

The first job was supposed to last one month, and I was locked into it, all others had no end in sight which is a good thing as a freelancer, but not when you are locked into a full time one already. I could've easily done one 8 hours shift and two 2 hours jobs per day, but adding another 8 hours on top of it was insanity.

So I was working 10 hours, and sleeping 2. I had no weekends, didn't know if it was day or night anymore, I was locked in my room, coding like a mad man, making the best out of a terrible situation, but I was mentally destroyed.

I was waking up at 10am, working until 8pm, sleeping 2 hours until 10pm, working until 8am, sleeping 2 hours until 10am, and so on. Kudos to my wife for dealing with account and project management and administration responsibilities while also helping me with small pieces of code along the way, couldn't have survived without the massive amount of understanding she offered.

In the end:

- I forcefully closed the messed up contract job and sent all the work done to another digital agency I met along the way, very competent people, as I still cared about the project.

- I missed a deadline on my other full time contract by 2 days, meaning they missed a presentation for Adobe, of all people, and I lost the job

- The other two support contracts were finished successfully, but as my replies were taking too long they decided not to work with us anymore.

So I lost 4 important clients in the span of 4 months. After that I took a break of one month, slept my troubles away, and looked for a single consultancy full time contract, finding it soon after, and decided I wouldn't have my own clients for a good while.

3 years since then, I still don't have the willpower or the resources to deal with clients of my own and I'm happily trudging along as a consultant, while still having middle of the night nightmare flashbacks to that time.

  • 5
    Totally get you on this, I myself have done similar things and hit burnout 2 years ago, so I feel your pain.

    The stress nearly killed me and nobody cared, not one fucking client that I thought we had good relations with gave a shit whether I lived or died. I learned an important lesson then, that they are willing to get someone else and only wanted me because I was overworking and getting unpaid.

    I was good and cheap and therefore attractive. Now I'm good and expensive and the phone doesn't ring as often as it used to, but when it does it's worthwhile.

    I love my low-stress freelance life, but it was painful getting it.
  • 1
    Sometimes you have to force your way out of a bad contract, even if it means penalties.

    Having leant against contract terms before I'm glad we were taught about contracts and SLAs during my training.

    I write rediculously superfluous stuff when I feel pressured or risked.
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