My Financial Story – Chapter 6 – Dream Job Number 3: Freelance

This is the sixth chapter in my financial story series. In the previous chapter I tried to level my life up. Here I’ll show you what freedom looks like. In next chapter I’ll be back in the cage, but a golden one.

Note: I have stolen copied been inspired by “the job experience” post series by livingafi. I loved reading his series and I’m trying to do something similar here, where I analyse both my work and finance history/goals.

Previous chapter ended with me accepting an offer from BiggerGameCompany (BGC) and a plan to go to work in UK in early 2010 and almost 2 months of sabbatical coming. Seems like a good plan!

hagarAnyway, apart from being grateful to BGC, I didn’t actually like to go live there. The place was in the middle of nowhere, with shitty weather 365 days per year and a not a stellar salary. The only other guy I knew working in BGC was Hagar, former coworker in GameCompany, which on his linkedin profile claimed to have been part of GameCompany R&D but he hadn’t. He was a game engineer, a cheater! He had a passion for rendering but zero math background and skills. A practitioner, not even a good one. I knew I’ll not be happy there. The only positive aspect would be having this work experience in a better company and in a foreign country. I knew that I didn’t want to go there.

To make things more complicated, in January I started dating a girl I met in a theater acting course – forgot to say I played theater for ~7 years in Rome and Milan. There’s been a nice connection with this girl and obviously everything would have fallen apart in case I’d go to the crappy place where BGC headquarter is. In the meantime I found an apartment in UK and payed some fees to reserve it.

notukFirst 15 days of February were full of internal fights: pros and cons lists, listen to the heart vs listen to the head, enjoying the freedom vs go lock myself into another company (although a better one) that will drain my life for a misery.

I remember it could have been the last Thursday morning before the relocation, at home, on my couch, kinda relaxed and at peace. I looked around and I realized I won’t be in that flat next week, with my girlfriend. Even in case I won’t go, I’d have to leave the flat in 2 weeks. Whatever I’d pick, everything was going to drastically and suddenly change. I panicked and felt sad about it. No, that was the final signal I shouldn’t go in UK. I took my girlfriend and told my decision to her. We cried and hugged each other. I sent soon an email to BGC explaining my decision and they were (rightfully) pissed off. I was aware of the gigantic opportunity I was letting go and I was happy for that. We went the following Sunday, February 14th – both St. Valentine and Carnival Sunday – to Venice to celebrate my decision and had a spectacular weekend.

I was able to pick the option that I wanted thanks to my savings. Were I living paycheck to paycheck I wouldn’t have been able to choose. My bathtub was full enough that I could have survived 3-4 years without having to work. I was spending ~1200 per month, 700 of which due to rent. I could downsize and go renting a room in a shared apartment or a single room apartment. I could cut whatever necessary to make the money last longer. I was full of hope and so proud of the freedom I had gifted myself thanks to my savings!

Folks around me said I’m crazy though. Hagar blocked me on social networks and wrote a long post on his blog about how asshole I have been. People asked “ah, so you’re not going to BGC… and what will you do now? Ah, you don’t know yet…” followed by a worried gaze. Almost no one was interested in the motivations and the fact I had enough ‘stashed for few years doesn’t seem to be a fact. People need to simplify, what they elaborated was “RIP is crazy, he rejected an offer by BGC – I wish I could get one – because of his new girlfriend“. It can’t be less true.

My girlfriend too started soon to be not ok with that. She felt responsible for my enormous mistake and she actually started looking at me like a lazy guy who wants to live by his wits. Things started to fall apart, but we kept up for another year.

It’s Monday February 15th 2010, instead of sitting in my new office in UK I’m relaxed at home staring at the ceiling and thinking about the amazing week end I had when suddenly I felt the urge of time: in 2 weeks I need to leave the apartment, I need to move out and I have no idea where to go. I called the landlord asking for a contract extension and he agreed for a month by month extension, since he was trying to sell the apartment and had no buyers now. I was good at least for another month.


Second (kind-of) urgency: what to do now. For the first time in my life I had a clean future. A zeroed agenda. The sky was the limit. I already had 2 months of sabbatical, less than 4 months after previous 45 days of sabbatical. I didn’t need extra resting time.

Just before Christmas 2009 I’ve been contacted by Brofessor, the one who wanted to launch a Master course on Videogame Development: “Hey RIP, we’re launching the course and we need someone who can teach Network Programming. Are you with us? It’s 6 lessons of 4 hours for 2000 Euro total“. At that time I was sure I’d be going to BGC so I declined but suggested my former Networking boss for the job and he accepted it.

Luckily, as soon as he knew I wasn’t going to BGC he contacted me to check if I may need the job now that I was unemployed. It happened on February 21th, first lesson scheduled for February 25th. I’m still so grateful for his offer, a lot of things happened thanks to my come back to the Master. Thanks C.M!

In the following 20 days I focused in preparing lessons, answering students’ mails and feeling still employed, but without a boss. It was terrific! I had to start handling in my economy disconnections between actual work and payments. This job had a single payment in June, while the actual job (lessons + exams + mails) was spread across February-June. I “gave myself” 500 Euro per month in March, April, May and June booked as credits on my Net Worth document. When the payment was received, I canceled the credit and that resulted in a no-op.

Everything was fine, until in mid March my landlord called: “RIP, I sold the apartment. We cannot extend the agreement any further. I need the apartment free by Easter – Sunday April 4th. Consider the 4 days of April a gift“. This was really happening: nothing would have been the same.

I had several options available: finding another apartment quickly, move in with my girlfriend in her apartment (which was rented out at that time), move to the region where the University where I teach the the course is or move back to Rome for a while.

mainstreamAs I said, things were not going well with my girlfriend: she can’t accept a man who “doesn’t work like a normal man“. She didn’t want to move together in her apartment (her tenant was a friend of her, willing to leave the apartment whenever we’d needed) because “I had no real job and may be I would not be able to pay my share of bills“. Yes, I had 38k Euro in the bank, which could supply years of expenses. And I’m a software engineer, do you really think I’ll be waiting years before earning again? Plus: I have a job – that I like and that I’m proud of – and for the next 4 months it’s enough to pay my bills. I felt offended, seriously. We are fighting over few hundreds per month. But I don’t blame her, it’s common in mediocre people to think that if you lose your job then you’re broken. If you don’t have the creativity to think about other models, than that’s the only path you know: the mainstream one.

I explored other solutions, like renting a room in Milan or in the City where I was teaching, but I had similar problems: I had to face stupidity and limitations. If you don’t have a reliable salary, none will give you a rent. It doesn’t matter that you’re “rich” and can afford years of rent, for them a salary means you’re reliable. It doesn’t even matter that I used to quit jobs, so even if I bring my today’s salary I may not have one tomorrow just for my choice. Mainstream people don’t do that.

Being not mainstream is tough in Italy.

So I decided to come back to Rome for a while and commute 3 hours to the place where I teach (just 2 lessons left though) and commute 3 hours to Milan to see my girlfriend (yes, I didn’t break up with her yet). Then followed 100 days of craziness, April 4th to July 10th, during which I did few gigantic mistakes.

couchsurfingI recorded 15 different places where I slept in April. From a Motel room to a couch in my rented apartment, from a bench in the Airport to my girlfriend’s house, from a coworker’s flat to a hotel in Budapest, from my parents’ house in Rome to several couchsurfer houses in Milan and Verona. I was nomad and I didn’t lake that. I was tired.

One day I was sitting in a park in Rome with nothing to do, sunny weather and cicadas singing. “Wait, I don’t really have anything left in Milan, apart from my gf that doesn’t even appreciate my efforts. I don’t work there anymore and people don’t want me there. I’ve intentionally avoided to settle back in Rome, but why?“. It wasn’t an easy question to answer. I realized I like the relaxed lifestyle of my hometown, more than the stressful living in Milan. But something deep inside me was not ok with letting go. I had a job in Milan, I had a career opportunity in UK. I can’t think of myself back here, at age 33, unemployed, living with my parents. I had to go back to Milan, quickly.

I decided to buy a flat. In Milan. Probably the biggest mistake ever done. Let’s analyze it deeply.

  1. Rents were generally not accessible to those who don’t have a job.
  2. Houses were roughly 20-30% cheaper compared to 2 years ago, 2008, when the subprime / mortgage bubble exploded. The flat I was renting was sold for 125.000 Euro. When I arrived in Milan, in July 2007, my landlord tried to sell me the apartment (instead of renting it out) for 160.000.
  3. Rents were expensive. I spent 8400 Eur per year renting an apartment who’s value was 125.000. I’d repay in less than 15 years! Yes, I know, very naive analysis.
  4. My father offered to help me and, similarly, my sister. He retired and got a severance package he decided to partially gift and partially loan his son and daughter. He offered me 100.000 Euro, 50.000 of which were a gift, 50.000 of which were a 0% loan to be refunded 500 Euro per month for 100 months.
  5. Given the house prices, if I’d choose a cheap flat I had skipped official mortgages and banks and the shit.

leslien.jpgI thought it was a good idea. To help me taking the final decision a job offer from Milan arrived. I’ve been contacted by the HR boss of GameCompany, who I’ll call Leslie Nielsen who asked me: “Hey RIP, I’m still sorry you left. We all know you’re very talented with C++. I know you’re teaching at the MasterGameDev and that there are good students there. What about you picking the best 6 for us so that we’ll hire them? I heard there’s no C++ specific courses in the Master curriculum, what about you give a 1 month full time Advanced C++ course here, in GameCompany premises, to the 6 you’ll select for us? How much do you want?“. I took my time.

That was amazing. I’m getting clients! That’s a business, and it’s working! It’s amazing! Now: how much should I ask? I had no idea, pricing was not I something I ever thought about. I was wondering if 2000 were ok. Maybe 2500. Well, these are gross. But taxes are small since I’m probably not going to earn a lot this year. I don’t remember why but I was contacted by a former colleague of GameCompany, one who left in 2008 to go to Hooli, which I’ll call Virgil here. “Hey Virgil, you know what? Leslie Nielsen contacted me to take a class for a month for new hires! How much should I ask? I have no idea… I was thinking maybe 2…“. Virgil: “Ask 5000. It seems reasonable. You have to pay taxes and they can deduct the costs. Do you think an employee costs less than that?

It seemed too much to me. Anyway, I’m going to try. If they say it’s too much I’m willing to negotiate. “Hey Leslie, I think it would be super fun to give the C++ course! I also have the top 6 students lined up. Everyone wants to come to GameCompany, it’s the best option in Italy! Ehm… about compensation… I was thinking that maybe 5000 would be a fair amount, but if…“. Leslie: “Deal. Done. Here’s the contract. See you on Monday July 12th. 4 weeks, till Friday August 6th.“. Was it really that easy? I’m not good at pricing, that’s a truth. What would have he thought if I had asked 2000? What a desperate homeless! Anyway, I had a job waiting for me in July 12th in Milan.

Another reason to go back there and buy a flat.

The research for the flat didn’t take much. I wanted to stay in the same town due to unmotivated (to me) cheap prices. I’had been living there for almost 3 years and I had no issues (well, they stole my car…). I went watching a dozen apartments, trying to avoid those handled by agencies due to ridiculous fees in the 3-4% range. I skipped those in neighborhoods with very poor reputation, even though I was flat priced below 100k! I wanted to avoid bank mortgages, so I allowed myself a 120k price limit, which translates to 140k total expenses when counting taxes, notary fees, basic furniture… 100k from dad and the rest from my savings. Yes, it meant zeroing my savings but for a good cause.

I ended up liking (I still don’t know why) a flat in a not-that-bad neighborhood – that turned out to be a very bad one – spacious 70 square meters (yes, in Italy 70sqm is not that small) sold directly by the owner, priced 109k that I negotiated to 105k. I thought I made a great bargain. From the previous owner I bought a lot of furniture for 1.5k. Taxes and notary fees summed up to 5k. First couple of months Ikea trips: another 1.5k. Total expenses: 113k. I chose to be frugal: buy a starter home, don’t exaggerate with furniture (I erred on the cheap side), avoid fancy house improvements since the house value won’t grow anyway.

burningmoneyI told myself that even if I’m going to live there for 5 years and then sell it, it would be a smart move! What a noob. Prices continued to drop, especially in that town. Few weeks ago (May 2016) I saw a flat in a building adjacent to mine, in better shape than mine, with a small balcony that mine doesn’t have and at second floor (mine in at ground floor, facing the street) on sale priced 60k. I guess mine is worth 50k today, the more I think about it the more I feel stupid. I still own that shitty apartment.

July 10th 2010, I took possess of my flat, sleeping for a week on a couch part of the furniture purchased by the previous owner. A kind of self-couchsurfing.

July 12th, beginning of Advanced C++ course in GameCompany. 4 amazing weeks during which I taught C++, introduced GameCompany tools to the new hires, introducing key people to them and – best of all – developing with them a textual videogame as a playground for our C++ course! A videogame that we put on sourceforge and I still very occasionally work on it! It has been a great month and a great 5k Euro earnings. As for the Master I considered the 5k earning split in 3 months: June, July and August. In June I thus overlapped both MasterGameDev and GameCompany jobs, totaling more than 2k. Wow! Not bad for a fresh unemployed!

Italian law allowed for “occasional work” up to 5k total per year. These were taxed 20% at source. If you wanted to earn more, you had to register yourself and get a VAT Number so you’ll start paying real taxes and mandatory retirement contribution and other stuff. Given that I maxed out the 5k with the job at GameCompany (the MasterGameDev didn’t count as occasional work, it’s a state contract of continuous collaboration and it’s taxed separately) I had to get my VAT Number.

Luckily, the government to help “young” entrepreneur introduced a simplified and very cheap fiscality for newly formed accounts if you’re under 35, which I happened to be :). Just 5% Taxes, no VAT and – sadly – 27% mandatory retirement contribution.

I’ll talk on a separate post about Italian retirement and pension system, for now assume you take a lot of money and burn them with wildfire. I heard today the mandatory contribution is 33% and you can get a small part of these money back when you’ll be 72 or 76. The rest is to finance existing retired people who retired between 38 (And not a là Jacob (ERE) or MrMoneyMustache… but by law, payed forever with a state pension!!!) and 55 when the government used to give people pensions as if the money weren’t an issue. There’s never been a direct relationship between how much you put into the pension account and your actual pension. Whoever reached pension age before year 2010 won the lottery and is getting and will get way more than their contribution. The others will pay the debts left by the luckiest forever.

Back on my VAT Account: the fantastic fiscal regime allowed earning only up to 30k. An overflow up to 15k would mean “ok for this year, you can still get 5% taxes plus a lot of simplifications, but from next year you switch to an ordinary VAT account, with all the consequences”. An overflow bigger than 15k means “you’re on the ordinary regime this year too. You pay full taxes and you have to get a bookkeeper, you’ll be audited, you need to record and pay the actual VAT, you need to have a certified email, …”. Being an ordinary VAT means that 60% of your earnings go on taxes. It means if I earn 30k with the convenient regime I’ll bring home the same as if I’d earn 60-70k with the ordinary regime.

piratesAnyway, while in Sardinia for summer vacation I received a call from Brofessor: “Hey RIP, 2 good news: first, we’re planning next edition of the Master and since you’ve been one of the most liked professors we would like to offer 3 courses to you. Network Programming (as last year), Physics Programming and Advanced C++, as you suggested we should have a C++ course. 3 courses spread across the whole year September-June, but the C++ will start soon. Mid September. Second: a company, NavalCompany, asked us if we’re willing to offer a version of the Master for them. It means every professor will go in Versilia, Tuscany, for a Friday-Saturday 2 days, 16 hours immersive version of our courses. Are you ok to go here on September? I negotiated same compensation we’re getting for the master, 2k per course“.

I: “wow, cool! Of course… yeah, great! Yes I can! Thanks!”

Wait… too much things here to process. Money first. 3 courses = 6k. The extra course with NavalCompany, another 2k. I’m getting 8k. Woah… That’s a year of living for me and I hadn’t to send a single email or ask anyone. Marketing? Who needs it! But let’s go deep: first, I’ll be back end of August in Milan and in September I’ll start teaching Advanced C++ at the Master. Easy I have tons of unorganized material from the new hires course I just finished for GameCompany! Second: In September I’ll go to NavalCompany to teach them Network Programming… well, this scares me, they are professionists, no students. They’ll ask, they know things. They get bored and if I appear unsure they’ll eat me. Ok, be tranquil, I’ll manage it. Third: physics programming? What the faak? Ok, this will start in December, I’ll figure it out. Amazing, I’m full of energy! I love to prepare lessons, correct tests, interact with students. I love to work on my own, set my own pace and feel like I don’t have a true boss! Life was amazing at that point, everything was perfect.

jerrySeptember 2010, one of the guys I trained in GameCompany asked me if one of the two rooms of my apartment were for rent. During that month I organised few boardgame nights at my new apartment and I joked about having too much space just for me, since my gf didn’t want to move in with me (because the apartment is ugly). This guy, let’s name him Jerry, moved in in September and I earned extra 300 per month in rent. Plus, we spent amazing evening playing Dominion and other boardgames together. Totally worth it! I’m still a close friend of Jerry and he came visiting me in Switzerland last summer!

The Advanced C++ course at MasterGameDev2 was fun and helped me a lot. I learnt the most important rule of learning: Teaching is the most powerful learning tool. Students were interacting with me and between them. They implemented good quality libraries and tools I’m still proud of. Having this course at the beginning of their Master was the right choice and it boosted their experiences. All of them are employed today, some of them in highly ranked companies!

The 2 days with NavalCompany was easier than expected and people were sincerely interested in details, implementations and they seem to understand so I went deep with coding examples. We implemented a TCP/UDP library from scratch in 4 hours. They were fascinated by the topics and at the end of the second days we still had a lot of topics left to discuss. One of their managers, which we’ll call The Mint, approached me “Hey RIP, thank you very much. I saw everyone looked interested on your stuff. I don’t actually care about the topic, but I saw you’re very very good with C++ and we need more of this. Are you up for… I don’t know… some C++ lessons for our new hires? Actually I need it for our current employees too. I can offer 100 Euro per hour. Not now, we’re still spending every other weekend with other professors from the Master. What about starting in December/January? Speaking between us… other professors look too much like professors. They never worked on actual code. You… well, it’s clear you know the stuff and you’ve been coding for real! We like you!

Ho-ly-sheet, more work! And ridiculously paid! 100 per hour?? it’s 800 per day! I can work 2 days per month and I’ll be ok for the whole month (and save a lot!). What is this, a dream? And I had to do nothing! Jobs are coming in abundance without me going to beg for them. It couldn’t be real! I started dreaming about never coming back to a cubicle, to a normal job, under a boss. The freedom freelancing offered was priceless.

I enjoyed a relatively lightweight couple of months, mid October to mid December, finalizing the C++ material for NavalCompany and studying Game Physics. I offered a 64 hours – 4 sessions of 16 hours in 2 consecutive days – C++ course for 6400 Euro to NavalCompany, starting in January 2011. 4 weekends of physical work, for what would have been 4 months of salary in GameCompany. Amazing. I’ve already trained myself both in GameCompany new hires training and MasterGameDev Advanced C++ course.

gamephysicsIn the meantime, the other challenge was to teach Game Physics, a topic I was surely passionate about but I had no experience neither in developing nor in teaching. I purchased the very good Ian Millington‘s book Game Physics Engine Development and enjoyed studying and implementing whatever the author suggested. I ended up writing a C++ 2D game physics engine that I’m still proud of, having the students following me while coding some bits during the lessons. It was fun, I learnt a lot, I got paid for it.

In early spring 2011, while teaching Network Programming at MasterGameDev and celebrating a full year of freelancing and freedom, The Mint called: “Hey RIP, everyone was amazed by your C++ course, I had to ask you for more help. We have several interesting projects you’d be the perfect project lead. I offer you a full time contract with us.I: “Thanks Mint, I have a lot of work right now and I really enjoy my freedom. I’m not willing to go back to a 9to5 job. If you’re interested, I can work remotely on my own schedule on individual projects“. The Mint: “I understand. Anyway yes, we would love to have you onboard in whichever role you prefer. I can offer 50 Euro per hour for freelancing. Are you ok?

That was great! I started working remotely few hours (5-10) per week and got paid a lot. I was on charge of accounting hours I worked, I was on my own schedule. I worked on 2 amazing projects till November 2011: low level caching system and pathfinding for boats. On both projects I had to start from scratch, total design and implementation freedom. Virtually interacting with few talented “colleagues” and once per month physically, on site. I was making a fortune, I didn’t expect that!

As any normal freelance life, I have my sad story to tell. Time has passed, so I can make fun of it now.

Fun Story: April 2011, Brofessor called: “Hey RIP, there’s this small company in south of Italy. They are developing a game and are looking for someone who can help them finishing the stuff. Can I put you in contact with them?I: “$ure you can, thank$! $__$“. I talked with this woman I’ll call Nicotine: “professor? we are in trouble and we desperately need your help. When can you come?I: “well, can you tell me something more? what do you need? how can I help?“. Nicotine: “we’re developing this Nintendo Wii game and we want to publish it quickly but we need your help here onsite. You can stay in our house I: “well, not much information… but ok, I have 2 weeks between May 15-30. My rate is 50 per hour, i.e 2k per week, i.e. 4k for the two weeks.Nicotine: “we are a small studio, we can’t afford it. Please… let’s make a deal at 2k for the two weeks. Please, we need you!I: “…ok, let’s do that“. It’s 2000 Euro not planned, just before a hike trip in Basilicata, and I was helping a small company in launching their first game. It’s marketing they say. Let’s get new clients they say. Well, it turns out I had the worst work experience of my life. They had a single developer with no skills and 3 guys working on marketing. There were no repository: the code was saved everyday with a different filename: game_2011_05_13, game_2011_05_14,… The whole code was in a single file of thousands of lines of code. There were functions of 5 thousands lines of code with variable names a, b, c or Italian dialectal names. The game was really shitty. They were loading all the graphics at startup, even though you can play a scenario at a time. They were running out of memory even with thumbnails! They had no idea what a Nintendo submission process looked like, so no TCR was met at the time I joined! [Funnier Story: “Hey Unskilled, I’m trying to look at how the game tries to match Wiimote movements. Why do you take the magnitude of the accelerometer instead of its vectorial value? And why do you subtract 1.0?” Unskilled: “well, I don’t know much about vectators… and I had to minus one because when you don’t do anything it returns one. It must be an error…I: “It’s not an error, it’s the gravity of the earth… this shit measures the x,y and z components of the acceleration in g and at rest you get 1… and btw are we really just matching the magnitude and subtracting one??” – End of Funnier Story]. In my 2 weeks there I worked 12 hours per day, weekend included, on very basic things like setting up a repository, teaching things to Unskilled, implementing dynamic loading and unloading of assets, reimplementing Wiimote matching algorithms and passing thru Nintendo TCRs and doing my best. At the end of my 2 weeks I handed a detailed report to them explaining what was done and what was missing. My conclusion was that in the best scenario the game would be ready for the sub by end of October, given that they hired another couple of programmer. Nicotine: “so the game is not finished, but in the contract you agreed to ‘finish the game’. So you must stay till it’s finished.I: “… listen, in 2 weeks you don’t finish a game that is in such a shitty state. Period. In the contract it’s stated I’m here for 2 weeks and I did my best to improve the game. No it’s not finished and it couldn’t have been in 2 weeks.Nicotine: “You’re saying we are shit? or Unskilled is shit? We’ll sue you, you signed the contract and you’ve to finish the game!“… I walked away with 1000 (half of what agreed) Euro and a lot of anger. Lesson learned: never ever work with small companies unless you really trust the CEO. shitgameThe company launched the game one year later and reviews were bad enough they stopped developing games. Finally.

In June I finally broke up with my girlfriend and decided to spend the summer in Rome, with friends, mostly not working. It has been an amazing summer of sport, friendship and relax. I allowed myself to earn less and relax more. That’s freedom and I’ll never go back to work as employee anymore! I’d only do that for something big, really big. For a dream. For the Silicon Valley! I actually started drawing a California Dreaming plan! I want to go there and get a 6 digits salary! I want the Moore law of my salary to keep going.

luvSummer was over quickly, I went back to Milan by the end of September 2011 with a clear plan: sell that shitty house and send CVs to Silicon Valley tech companies! In the meantime, let’s keep up with NavalCompany and MasterGameDev. For the third edition of the MasterGameDev I was offered 2 courses: Advanced C++ and Networking. they found a better physics engineer than me (not hard to find), and my courses would have been on in Dec-Feb and the second one in Mar-Jun. Everything was fine, except that I met Miss RIP in Milan. No more selling the house, no more California dreaming!

Mid November, during one of the physical visits at NavalCompany, The Mint asked “Hey RIP, what about we offer you a 4000 Euro per month (+ expenses) for a reliable 20 hours per week, mostly onsite? It’s 2 days and half per week. You come here every Wednesday and leave the office in Friday at noon. We have this big project of connecting onboar devices with iPhones and syncinc GPS tracks, waypoints and routes“. That was tempting… not actually an employee, but a 50% part-time for 4k per month. Guaranteed. Working on cool cloud stuff. I accepted. I never earned 4k per month! Working part time!!

So life was amazing back then. Sports, New girlfriend in Milan, 3 days per week in Tuscany, few weekends in Veneto, some trips to Rome, a lot of money. Too much money actually. The 30k limit was crossed in May! I was doomed for the future, I would had to switch to a regular VAT Number and learn a lot of things about bookkeeping, audits, complex bureaucracy,… But then Hooli came, and you can’t say no to Hooli! But this is a story for the next chapter.


Overall, finances were better than expected at the beginning of my freelance/unemployed period.

Here’s the 2010-2012 section, with spikes and drops.

December 2009 to October 2012. This period is characterized by peaks, plateaus and drops. Freelancing looks like this: unpredictable income fluctuations!


  • Big drops in Jan-Feb 2010, due to pure unsubsidized unemployment
  • Mostly Flat Mar-Jun 2010, thanks to MasterGameDev 1st edition
  • Spike in June-Aug 2010, thanks to NavalCompany
  • Amazing growth in Nov10-Jun11, thanks to the overlapping of MasterGameDev and NavalCompany
  • Drop and then flat during Jul-Nov 2011, due to “I don’t want to work that much!”
  • Skyrocketing grow during Jan-Jun 2012, thanks to NavalCompany 4k per month agreement.
  • The drop after July 2012 will be explained in next chapter 😉

In all this, I forgot to mention how I accounted for my house in my Net Worth document. If you remember, I got a 50k gift from my father and it doesn’t reflect on my NW. Why? Well, It would have messed it up a lot, so I decided to not consider it a gift but a debt. So the day I received the 100k check, I put a both a 100k asset and a 100k liability on my NW tool. A no-op. Once I paid for the house, I put an estimated value of 113k (the amount I spent on it), with 100% equity owned by me, and the 100k liability with my father. So the whole home buying process was cost neutral. I told myself “yes, the house I just paid 105k is not worth 113k after a month, but sooner or later it will be so to avoid impacts on my NW let’s consider that day today.“. Every repayment of my debts, 1000 Euro every 2 months, were neutral too: -1k in cash and +1k due to decreased liabilities.

At one point I realized my house was worth no more 113k. At that point I decided to gradually depreciate it by 1k per month, but at the same time reducing my debts with my father by 1k per month (consuming part of the gift).

Recently, in 2015, I decided to depreciate my flat to 70k and at the same time reducing the liability to the actual value, digesting the whole gift. I had a single episode of +7k Net Worth increase, due to the fact that overall I’ve lost 43k on my house value and my gift was 50k. Today, I may need to depreciate again to something between 50k and 60k. That neighborhood is getting worse every day. I’ll talk separately on selling vs renting out.

Luckily, I’ve always been renting the flat. A single room when I was living there, the whole flat when I moved to Switzerland. I rented it to friends/students, cheap rents, but at least costs (taxes, condo fees, bills) are getting covered.

Overall, 1991-2012 looks like this:

1991-2012, the vertical blue line indicates the beginning of the period relative to this chapter.

You can see a kind of semi-exponential growth here. Good!

See you on next chapter!


  1. Hi,
    thanks a lot for sharing your story here. I started from chapter one and I’m curious to read the next chapters. I think it’s an excellent “excersise” to write such a series. I’m sure it brings back a lot of good and bad memories, learnings, an overview and much more.

    Why I started to write this comment was because I think I have missed out something – or you. You wrote “Previous chapter ended with me accepting an offer from BiggerGameCompany (BGC) and a plan to go to work in UK…” – well I went back to the previous chapter and did not find mention of this.
    Maybe you cut this section off to not make the chapter too long?
    Anyway, I’ll go back reading about your experiences in the UK.

    Thanks again for sharing, with all those nice little details like photos of your splurge shoes 😉

    1. Hi Julia, happy to hear you like the series 🙂
      I totally agree it’s a great exercise to write your own story! I was fascinated by the story of MrDoom, owner of livingafi blog . If you’ve not read it yet, I suggest you go there soon!
      Actually, while planning my last chapters I thought I was going to write a lot less. Then, while writing, more memories came up that I wanted to share… and couldn’t help myself but go ahead!
      Btw, I mentioned the offer from BiggerGameCompany in chapter 5. It’s in page 5. Did you notice I split the post in several pages? If you didn’t, well, you’ve a lot to read than!

      1. Hello RIP,
        thanks for your answer. Before reading it I had noticed the small numbers on bottom of some of your articles and figured out myself that these were the pages within a chapter/blog article.

        Yes, I believe that it’s a great excercise to write your own story. Be it your financial and/or career story like yours or I think also love/relationships would be interesting to write.
        I’ll check out livingafi blog that inspired you to write your story.

        Thanks again for sharing your story and keep writing 🙂

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