Self-Employment Work So Far (Late 2018-Early 2020)
I started my self-employment in late September 2018. I had been recovering from a serious mental illness, brought on partly due to having too much stressful work. One of the upsides of recovering from the mental illness is that it made me come up with some interesting ideas, such as a robot, a game, an Internet radio alarm clock and more. And of course, the initiative to work for myself. So it wasn't all bad.
My motivation for working for myself has partly been covered in a previous blog post, about why I don't want to work full-time. But there are other reasons. I have a broad range of skills and interests that just aren't possible to mostly utilise in any kind of full-time job. My last employer did use a fair amount of my skills, but still not all. And I don't want to work for them any more (especially not full-time). So working for myself gives me the possibility of using these skills for others, or at least having the time to keep practicing them meaningfully.
My goal is to have sufficient stable/regular work such that I can pay the bills consistently, not reliant on Newstart or NEIS payments. As of March 2020, I can't do this yet. I need more work.
Feel free to skip the individual projects and go to each year's summary.
I did a few odd jobs for others in late 2018. Basic computer support. But no major projects. At the end of 2018, my friend from Hackerspace mentioned a project for the West Coast Wilderness Railway, which I accepted.
- A few odd jobs - tech support
- Accepted West Coast Wilderness Railway Camera system job - did not start
CSIRO - AVR development
In January 2019, my friend from CSIRO (Pascal Craw) and Hackerspace gave me some work working on a part of an electronics project. It involved developing code for an FRAM module (Ferroelectric RAM). These memory modules are good for storing a bit of memory, for example logs. And are easier to work with than flash memory. It took me about 8 or so hours to complete it.
West Coast Rail Start of Work
As I had accepted the West Coast Railway job, I slowly began working on it. Knowing that the deadline was July 2019, I felt I had plenty of time to work on it. I did some work on it in Feb-April, but nothing significant.
Science Lab - iugotec
In April 2019, my CSIRO friend found me a job to work on for a small science lab in North Hobart (iugotec). It's surprising that there existed such a thing! They wanted help developing, or finishing off a handheld sampling device prototype made with an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi. It was very relevant to my skills. They had a problem, where the heater would case the Raspberry Pi to reset. In the end, we solved it by using a very gradual PWM increase to stop the bulb from drawing too much current at once. There was also some programming and assembly work to do. It was a bit of a rush to the finish, but we just finished it on time for presenting to the client. However there were issues with it on the demo (not experienced in the lab) which was unfortunate. As they were on the mainland and I was in Hobart, I couldn't help fix it that well. Regardless, the demo was a sufficient demonstration.
Continuing work for WCWR
I had just finished working for iugotec in late May. As the WCWR job was due in July, there wasn't much time! I had to work very hard on it. I took most of the equipment home and put together a basic system that worked. There were a few issues along the way, but overall it came together nicely. By the demo time, it was almost ready. We went to Queenstown to demonstrate it, and successfully showed it playing back camera feeds on the monitors in the trains. However, the WCWR team couldn't organise an electrician to install it. After the install, I realised that there was actually more work to be done - making it switch cameras based off of train configuration, playing back static video, and a passenger web app that lets the passengers view the feed and listen to the PA system. From July - mid December I worked on and off to complete it. And by mid December I completed it, boxed up all the components with software on it, and it was shipped up to Queenstown.
Other work throughout 2019
I did have a few odd jobs in 2019. For example I installed a solid state drive in a friend of my Mum's computer. As it was running very slow. She was very happy with it. I charged about $100 for the service, but she also gave me roast dinner, which was very nice! Certainly a better experience than working for my previous employer who just pointed me at work. Unfortunately, I did not do a lot of odd jobs for people in 2019 - certainly no where near enough to pay the bills. This is an area I'd muchly like to improve on!
Overall, I earned a fair bit of income in 2019. But for the last financial year, I still didn't earn enough to pay tax. Fortunately I was living with my parents so I didn't have to pay rent. With the income from my work, I bought a new laptop, phone and graphics card.
- Small job for CSIRO - AVR programming
- West Coast Wilderness Railway camera system - worked on it for about 5 months total.
- iugotec Arduino project - worked for about 2 months total
- A few odd jobs, not many
2020 has been off to a very quiet start (paid-work-wise). I moved out of my parents place (after recovering from my mental illness) and I've had to get back on Centrelink Newstart in order to pay for rent and essentials. Despite working for myself for over a year, and others being aware of it, I haven't been able to build up enough public awareness to provide me with odd jobs that can pay the bills. However I have been wildly coming up with ways to earn income.
Rebooting the Game Time NDIS LAN parties
I used to get paid work helping out at a LAN party for people with disabilities. This was a great initiative that let people with disabilities socialise whilst enjoying games. Disappointingly, the NDIS provider that paid for the activity cancelled the event (a bit after letting me go). I have taken it upon myself to look for ways to restart the LANs. My first thought was to become my own NDIS provider. This was a lot of work and really hinted at bigger goals than just one event. So I have started contacting a few NDIS service providers. Sadly, it has been a very one way conversation. But I will keep at it until I at least get to chat with someone. I have a few friends that have given me some ideas how to approach it as well.
I have been doing a little unpaid work for WCWR, when I have time. I need to make a code deployment system that automatically deploys code to the devices when they come online, rather than manual deployments. They also wanted me to set up a website that provided the web page that would be running on the passenger app, so that the app developers could test with it. This has only been about 8 or so hours of work, for all of 2+ months in 2020.
Arduino project - LED strober
I was fortunate to be called upon by someone looking for an Arduino project. He wanted a device that would make white LEDs flash on and off at a certain frequency, with Bluetooth control. This was a pretty simple project for me, and I put it together in about 4 hours! He's an optometrist, and I saw him at my optometrist appointment. He said he was happy with it! I had to report my income for this for Newstart and it reduced my Newstart payment. Which is rather discouraging. Fortunately, NEIS doesn't do that (more on NEIS below).
New initiative - Workshops
As an extra source of employment, I thought of the idea of delivering a variety of technical workshops to the public. Starting with a robotics workshop. I put the word out there on social media, and made a sign up form on my website. I have about 7 people registered for interest. Which is just enough to justify doing the workshop! I'm hoping this is the beginning of many workshops.
Inspired by some of my favourite YouTubers, I set up my own Patreon page. It is where I post about my cool projects. I now have two patrons, and I have been posting a fair bit, my work on my projects. Having a Patreon (and patrons!) has encouraged me to work on my projects a lot more. For a while I was stalling with my projects, in later 2019. But now I've been working on them at least once a week. It would be nice if I could get more patrons, and thus more income. It would boost my hobby projects up to a greater level, and I could start getting known as someone who makes really cool projects.
Due to all my self-employment stuff, I figured that it was a (very) good idea to switch from Newstart onto NEIS (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme). This involves me putting together a business plan, and working on starting my own business! As I will be providing services like workshops and tech support, I am more than just an independent contractor. All going well, this should give me a boost in my self-employment activities, and thus a boost in income :D. The person whom I saw at Konekt (Now APM) said that she though that basic computer skills workshops could be in high demand by seniors. This could be a regular source of income, paying the bills! But I'm far from knowing that yet.
I have had a look into UpWork and AirTasker. I have been very overwhelmed by them. It seems like a lot of effort to sift through the jobs, to find one that you may have an edge over others in doing. Especially for new people. It's an option, but I don't really like it. I submitted a proposal for a job on UpWork and didn't hear back. Being desperate for work, I'll give it a bit more of a go, but I'm pessimistic.
Mini Drone Course in Pubs
In late February I was contacted by someone who wanted to put together a mini drone racing course, to be run in a pub (private room - not around guests!). He wanted someone to help him make LED lighting that could be interactive. I met with him and he described his requirements. I said that I should be able to do it, and he gave me the job. Communication has been a little quiet with him since then. I'm hoping he's just away.
2020 (so far) Summary
Sadly, 2020 has had a very poor amount of income. Especially compared to the average month in 2019. I'm desperately looking for new work and work opportunities. But I've started a few initiatives that should help, maybe.
- Rebooting Game Time NDIS LAN - not a lot of response
- Voluntary and small jobs for WCWR - not enough to live on
- Arduino project (LED strober) - sadly this reduced my Newstart payment >:(
- Starting workshops - small interest to begin with, hoping to scale up
- NEIS training - Making it official that I am a self-employed business owner!
- Patreon! I have two supporters at $14 per month. Please support me!
- Overwhelmed by AirTasker and UpWork - a desperate option
I've been very encouraged by my work in 2019 to keep working for myself. However I have had to get on Newstart to pay the bills. As I haven't had much work in 2020 so far unfortunately. I have a few things that may go somewhere. Workshops could provide some income, and possibly pay the bills (hard to say at this stage). This drone course could help me get by for a few weeks/months. The West Coast project will likely spin up fairly soon, as I've go to do a demo run of it on site. But so far, I don't know of any work that can pay the bills.
How can you help?
There are some very easy ways that you can help me! It doesn't involve knowing of a big project that I can work on (like the next one after WCWR).
- Spread the word of my tech support services - for people with IT issues - get them to follow my Facebook Page (or even just follow it yourself :)) If you're on Facebook, you can invite others to the page.
- Support me on Patreon! It only costs $2 per month! You're not going to go broke (unlike me).
- Help me find people for my workshops, and firstly point them to My first workshop where they can register interest. You can also point them to Hobart Makers Facebook Page where they can join and keep an eye out for my future workshops that will be posted there.
- Help me to get connected with businesses that may want my services. For example, I have been working with Anderson Morgan for the WCWR project. Perhaps there are other businesses that may want my skills (on a casual basis)?
- Know someone with a disability and likes games? Point them to Game Time LAN and get them to register for interest.
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