Go forward. Move ahead.

Devo_Jocko_Homo_MongoloidThis week was my first week away from Event Espresso.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know I was leaving? Well, it wasn’t an easy decision.

Pros of working at Event Espresso

Some of the things I loved about working with Event Espresso was being part of a great team, being able to contribute to development, and being able to help shape the direction of the plugin and the business. These are all good things.

When I first started working with Event Espresso, it was that or going back to work at Whole Foods. Business was slow, Museum Themes hadn’t taken off, and things were getting rough. Event Espresso was one of the few opportunities that allowed me to work at home and get a regular paycheck, and for that it was great and I jumped at the opportunity. Over the course of 2 years, I learned the business as well as the plugin, and was able to help steer the direction (or at least offer my suggestions) for both.

Cons of working at Event Espresso

Here’s the dilemma: my freelance web development business was still slow and Museum Themes still hadn’t taken off. I’d been with Event Espresso for 2 years and I always said that I’d be able to work on that stuff on the side, but it never happened. I was always working at Event Espresso, working long hours, constantly in front of the computer, and I was watching my life pass me by. On the one hand, I was a valued member of the team, on the other I was cranky all the time from the stress of doing support and of having half a dozen different things that needed to get done RTFN on any given day and I was passing up potential clients because I just didn’t have enough time.

I tried a number of things. I tried having one day a week where I did client work or work on Museum Themes. That sort of worked — in that I could do one or the other — but if I had both, Museum Themes got pushed (once again) to the bottom of the pile. I started cutting my hours back so I was only working about 20 hours a week. That helped me get through my most recent course for Pluralsight, but, again, everything else got pushed to the bottom of the pile and I was still cranky and stressed.

Work smarter

In short, I’ve been working really freaking hard for the last couple years and I feel like I don’t have a lot to show for it. Certainly my sanity and my availability to my family has been worse for the wear. When Megan from Pluralsight approached me last fall at WordCamp SLC, I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure if this was a one-off deal or if it would be something I could do as a steady gig. And I knew nothing about the company, their background, where they came from, how legit they were. I didn’t know if doing Pluralsight courses would pay off, if it would be worth it, if I would just be working really hard and nothing would really come of it.

But when I finished that first course, we celebrated with a bottle of champagne. And when that first royalty check came I could see that, yeah, this is something that could be a real thing.

It’s not that doing a course isn’t hard work — it is. It’s really hard, actually. It involves creativity and creativity doesn’t grow on trees. But one of the differences is that I need to know the stuff I’m teaching and that means I need to be constantly learning and experimenting — things I want to be doing anyway but previously didn’t have enough time. Sure enough, as I was finishing off my last course, I started getting ideas of what my next course would be (my next two courses, actually). Doing a course for Pluralsight means I actually need to take time away to do other things, which helps me stay fresh and motivated and then inspires creativity when I start working on something that I can then turn into a course (or a part of a course).

Even if I run out of WordPress-related ideas (which I don’t see happening for a while), the WordPress development cycle is about one major release every six months, so at the very least, I could do a course every six months covering what’s new.

I’ll still be involved with Event Espresso for the foreseeable future. Right now I’m working on doing use case articles for them and I expect to still be a part of the Espresso Bar hangouts once a month. I’ve had a week away and I feel like it will be an adjustment, but I’ve gotten a lot of stuff done, lined up some possible client work, and I’ve started working on my next Pluralsight course. Best of all, though, I feel like I’ve been much less cranky. All in all, I think it’s been a good week.

New gig

As of today, I have a new gig.

The longer story is that things have been slow in the web design front.  My going theory is that the industry — especially given the economy; that great excuse we’ve been using for everything from health care to what store we shop at — is moving toward customizing existing solutions (say, modifying a premium theme for WordPress — a free software application) rather than completely custom websites.  To be fair, the industry has a point.  WordPress is getting increasingly more robust and easy to use, there’s less and less of a reason to have someone else set it up for you if you know you’re going to use it anyway, especially when your webhost has a little button that says “click here to install WordPress” (of course, this option throws all security out the window, but it’s easy to stick your fingers in your ears and say “la la la la la la la” on that point since it isn’t something that has an observable effect…until your WP database is hacked).

This past summer has been particularly hard and we’re still trying to recover.  Museum Themes is slowly picking up — our sales are increasing every day — but the best it’s able to do at this point is keep itself afloat.  It doesn’t, for example, pay me to build new themes for it, so Museum Themes development gets thrown along the wayside in favor of paid work (when we have it).  And we’ve been needing more of that.

I started looking for a job.  At first, I was mostly just looking to get a job in the Specialty department at Whole Foods again — especially with them opening a new store in a week.  This time, I’d work (or try to get) a full-time position, and focus on Museum Themes on my off-days, do client work as needed, but scale that back quite a bit and put the expected completion times out further.  But that didn’t happen.  (The new store only had 2 positions available in Specialty and I was sort of — naively, perhaps — adamant that that was where I wanted to be.  The Great Salt Lake Whole Foods Store Shuffle, which will undoubtedly occur once the new store opens and everyone starts vying to get into that store, hasn’t happened yet, and probably won’t for a couple months.  Meantime, we need something sooner.)  So, I went to my old standby jobs of helpdesk/tech support and web design.  I actually found a couple (not very promising) web design jobs, but mostly was finding tech support stuff.  Which, of course, I have years of experience doing above and beyond being the guy that rips apart computers and puts them back together again.  I actually had a pretty good week for interviews last week.  And yesterday morning, I absolutely nailed an interview to be a Counter Intelligence Agent at Best Buy’s Geek Squad.  (It’s just, you know, Best Buy.)

But sometime at the end of last week, Event Espresso — those guys I met at WordCamp last year that do an event registration plugin that’s astoundingly well-built and is doing really well, having been covered on WP Candy a couple of times and in conjunction with their campaign to give all WordCamps a free Event Espresso license to prevent them from having to spend ridiculous amounts of money using Eventbrite instead — created a job board, and posted a couple internal jobs which they then tweeted about; namely, Web Designer, WordPress programmer, and technical support.  All three of which I could conceivably be doing.  I applied immediately.

Yesterday, I met with Garth and Seth — the first time I’ve seen them in person since WCUT, though I watched Seth on his video interview with WPCandy — and we had a meeting at a Wendy’s.  (Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time I’ve had a business meeting at a Wendy’s.  Just a different Wendy’s.)  At the end of the hour, my user account on the Event Espresso support forums was upgraded and shortly thereafter I had an official Event Espresso email address and spot on their About page.

This is an excellent opportunity.  First of all, I get to continue to work at home and more or less do the same stuff I’ve been doing.  I’ll need to buckle down and I created a hard schedule for my weekdays so that I have enough time for everything and can — hopefully — manage my time and be more productive with it.  This means no Twitter during working hours, sorry @Twitter.  Secondly, I’m doing the same stuff I was already applying to anyway.  Third, this gives me an opportunity to really dig into Event Espresso and learn the code, which is something I’ve been wanting to do since agreeing at WordCamp to develop some Event Espresso themes.  Fourth, though the support job is part time, they get non-support related requests for customizations — stuff I’ve been doing a lot of already — and that’s stuff I could potentially pick up as well.  Lastly, these guys are local and they’re cool guys.  It’s good for everyone because we can actually meet in real life if we wanted/needed to and because we already knew each other.  It also makes things a lot easier with the aforementioned theme idea, since I’m now actually affiliated with them.

So, I’m pretty excited and I’m looking forward to it.