No More Corporate Teat – #4 – Feast or Famine

It has been exactly one week since I stepped outside corporate America to have a go on my own as an independent developer. Those 16 years spend toiling under the thumb of increasingly Office Space and Dilbert-esque corporate environments cannot be completely discounted as a waste of my time though. Obviously I built up a varied skill set and many contacts during that time. Some of which came in handy this first week.

The reason I left my corporate job (initially) was to take a very good, well paying, home-based job working as a developer for a small, but soon to be hugely successful game company. I actually gave my notice 5 minutes after I accepted a 3 month contract position with this company. I did so with the knowledge that as I spent my time learning this new system I would more than likely become a valuable resource and very likely a full-time employee. This was exactly the security that my wife and I needed to make the decision to jump off the corporate teat to a much smaller, but hopefully more fulfilling teat (I will stop the metaphor now in this entry as it is starting to get gross, plus I just made some chocolate milk to drink). As the two weeks passed until my final corporate work day, I took on the task of starting to learn the ins and outs of the new code-base and application I would be working on. This was fine until I realized that I was just trading one full-time job for another. As my first non-corporate work day approached I asked the new game development studio if they would accept me part-time for a couple months as I just was not ready to go back full time into a single project. Unfortunately, we parted ways as they needed someone full-time right away.

Luckily, right as I was reading their “Dear John” email I received a call from buddy of mine who I have known for years. I met him a the corporate job when his company developed some early Shockwave games for one of our brands (before 2000). He happened to be engaged (at the time) to a girl Steve and I have gone to grade school (he married her in 2004). Anyway, he offered me a chance to work on a couple iPhone titles starting in August. Armed with that information I was able to tell my wife that the full time gig had turned sour, but that there was a new gig on the horizon right away. She was actually relieved that I had not taken the game development position right away as she started to get used to the idea of me being home and available to “flex-schedule” rather than “feed the beast” at a full time job right away.

When Monday rolled around I started to investigate the iPhone (once again), but since the gig didn’t start until August, I started to panic. I had contacted quite a few people (all of which I met from the Flash world) to inquire about their need for upcoming development. They all said that they could use help right away, then starting last Monday, they only returned silence…

So, here I am, I just quit my job and then turned down a well paying, work at home job, to do what? Spend more money on iPhone books and pay an ungodly sum to keep my health insurance with no actual money coming in? I started to feel like I made a mistake. Plus, we had planned a pretty expensive 2-day trip to Legoland California for Thursday and Friday of this week for my son’s 2nd  birthday. So now not only did I not have a job and was paying a huge sum to keep my current benefits, I was also laying out a huge chunk of change to celebrate a birthday that I am sure the boy will never remember.

I felt like crap until Tuesday morning when one of my contacts send me over the description of a two-week job. I gave him a bid I felt comfortable with, and he was able to get me 75% of my bid price. Since I was not working on anything else I accepted right away and started to create a proof of concept. Then on Wednesday, right before I was about to leave for the land of colored bricks, another friend called with the offer of work right away, and then a HUGE project to follow.

So, at the beginning of the week I felt like I made a mistake with nothing concrete to work on, and now iIhave too much work to do. It seems that to be successful at this you need to ride the feast waves and try to buffer the famine ripples as much as possible.

One other semi-interesting note. We switched to WordPress about 2 weeks ago. Until then I never had to deal with “track-back” spam. Most of these “track-back for approval messages” that fill up our inbox are utter crap. Some links go to nothing, others to Asian porn. Most are just random based on some words that might match in the blog entry. There was one that caught my eye though. It must have been random, but it was so right-on that I almost approved it, but had second thoughts. For our game, Tunnel Panic, where the player must repeatedly press the space bar only to stay alive, we got a track back to a Carpal Tunnel Syndrome site. Now, I know it was because of the “Tunnel” in the title, but what does this say about repetitive motion injuries and keyboard controlled games? They might have accidentally send us a track-back to an article useful for our readers. I was this close to approving it when I thought…f-you. F-you. I am working from home, scrambling to get good work and provide a valuable service, and some loser is at home firing spam track-backs to our site based on a single common word. No f-ing way.

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