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The blog for ambitious founders.

My blog covers the MANY highs and lows of starting, scaling and selling my business for 7-figures, in just 4 years. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur then add your email below to get a new episode delivered every Wednesday.

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Going from employee, to freelancer, to founder, to employee, to founder.

Surely that blog title is going to win me some decent SEO results.


But it's not just about the organic traffic potential.


That title sums up the last 8 years of my career, starting as an employee in 2017, becoming a freelancer and transitioning to an agency owner. Then, selling my business in 2021 and effectively becoming an employee again within the company that I had run for 4 years. And finally, back to the world of self-employment again with FounderON.


I would like to think that at least one of those transitions resonates with some people, so I thought I'd share how the changes felt, and the pro's and con's of each.


Back to being an employee again after 4 years of running my business and selling it.


2017

Employee to freelancer


What it was:

After 13 years as an employee, I finally quit my nice safe and secure job and took the leap into the world of self-employment. I'd spent at least half of those 13 years trying to dream up a weird and wonderful idea for a business. But eventually my wife suggested that I just do what I'm doing as a job, for myself. All of my career had been selling consumer electronics products into retailers. So Molzi (my agency) actually started as me doing freelance retail sales for a handful of electronics brands.


How it felt:

When I first decided to do it, it felt like a massive risk. 13 years of not having to really think too much outside of the scope of my job. A decent salary paid every month, whether or not the clients had paid their invoices or not. But the nearer I got to my first day as a freelancer, the more confident I got. I had clients lined up from day 1 and I was roughly 97% naive about the challenge I was about to take on. The dream.


Pro's:

The most amazing feeling. Suddenly everything I did was for my own benefit. Winning a small contract that wouldn't have moved the needle in any of my previous jobs, actually had an impact on how much money I made personally. It made me think about pay rises that I'd had and celebrated previously. Sometimes waiting 2 years for a £10k pay rise that seemed huge, but really made little difference after tax each month. Now I could influence exactly how much I earned, and how quickly I did it.


Con's:

Absolutely zero con's around moving from employment to freelance. But it quickly dawned on me that there was a limit to how far I could scale as a one man band. Plus, being really honest, the bits I enjoyed were the new business and the marketing. Less so than the actual client work. And as a freelancer I had to be all things to all people.


2018

Freelancer to founder


What it was:

6 months after setting up as a freelancer, I took on employee number 1, quickly followed by number 2, and 3. By the end of my first year in self-employment I had gone from an employee, to a freelancer, to an agency owner. A small agency owner, but now I had something that could scale beyond my time and ability.


How it felt:

I absolutely loved being an agency owner. All the way up until I didn't. But the first few years of running an agency was the happiest time of my life. It felt like us against the world. I loved being part of a team, and being able to hire people that were better at the bits I was terrible at or didn't enjoy. Only once we got to 60 or 70 people did it start to feel a bit like I had a proper job again. It became impossible to switch off from all of the bits I struggled with.


Pro's:

Our growth potential wasn't limited by my own capacity. The ability to scale and hire amazing people that could help us scale even more.


Con's:

It felt like it really suddenly got too big for me. I went from signing clients and high-fives to HR issues and cash flow forecasts overnight. But this wasn't until right at the end of the journey.


2021

Founder to employee


What it was:

I was lucky enough to find many people that wanted to buy my agency, and in 2021 I sold it. An amazing day and a lifelong dream come true. Financial freedom awaited and the ability to do anything I wanted for the rest of my life. Oh, apart from 18 months where I just needed to stay on at my agency and help it integrate with the acquiring company. Easy, yeah?


How it felt:

So odd. Everyone at the new company was great. They were ambitious, and the Molzi team seemed mostly happy with their new home. Outside of work I was getting my head around my new life, but in work it felt like I'd become an employee again. What made it more odd was that I was an employee, within the company that I used to run. The office was the same, the team were the same, but suddenly I had to get approval for really basic things. I wasn't even sure if I was allowed to hire someone, or approve a pay rise. I really, really struggled with the lack of control. Not from an ego perspective (well, probably a bit). But more with the fact I no longer understood the top-level strategy, why we were doing things and what the numbers were. I felt not only like an employee, but a bad one.


Pro's:

I got given a lot of money...


Con's:

I really struggled to perform without access to numbers and wider strategy. I had become used to being part of setting the vision, and I was no longer good at following someone else's.


2023

Employee to founder


What it was:

In May 2023 I left the business that I'd grown and sold and started up my next venture. You might have heard of it. It's this blog called FounderON that no one, including me can believe I stuck at for more than a year now! I am the only employee, but you'll notice that I refer to myself as a founder and not a freelancer. That's because I'm focussed on building a business that can run with no, or very few employees, but still be scalable. I do 1:1 consulting, but will soon be offering digital courses, and some other options over the next 6 or 12 months. My aim with FounderON is to create a business that gives me the income and the flexibility that I need.


How it felt:

Far more terrifying than when I went from employee to freelancer. But back then I really needed the income. Now I don't. So where does the fear come from? It's from expectations. Mainly from myself, but probably also from others. Having had a successful exit, the first thing anyone would ask me was "what's next?". Starting FounderON I really felt pressure to do something good. As much as anything, I needed to prove to myself that it wasn't all luck (although a lot of it was!).


Pro's:

The ability to influence my schedule and income again. No employees to have to consider. In full control of the vision. The belief that anything is possible again. I love it!


Con's:

None. I'm broken as an employee.




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