View All Posts

Going Full Time On My LLC Lost Creek Designs

Published on Feb 2, 2024 by Ben Tyler

Getting Laid Off

About half of our startup (including myself) were unexpectedly laid off this past summer. Aside from the obvious financial downside, the biggest gut punches were that:

  1. I would no longer get to work everyday with a team I had grown incredibly close to
  2. I would no longer be able to work on a product I deeply believed in
  3. The “free MBA” program you get from working at a small startup and doing everything from sales to marketing to design to product was coming to an end.

Despite the gut punches, the next step felt obvious - skip the speed dating with other companies and go full time with my LLC Lost Creek Designs.

Starting Lost Creek Designs

I started Lost Creek Designs in 2015 when I was lucky enough to stumble into a paid freelance opportunity in the mapping and data visualization space. Since then, I have continued to freelance as projects came in on a referral basis. It has been a mix building marketing sites, applications for old employers, and even site to track who can run and fish a trail the fastest.

The scope of projects has slowly grown each year which has naturally led me to start asking, “Could I go full time with this?” This past year, that question came up a lot more frequently and stronger. Getting laid-off ended up being the kick I needed to start answering it.

Taking Lost Creek Full Time

July 2023 is the month Lost Creek went from a side hustle to main focus. Granted I am only seven months in, I would say the experience has been a net positive.

My principle objectives for the last half of 2023 were to

  1. Determine if liked doing my own thing full time with Lost Creek
  2. Reach the level of stability I had being a W2 employee

So far, I have determined I love it and that (at least for now) can achieve the same level of stability I had with W2 work.

The Current Day to Day

In this first phase of getting Lost Creek off the ground, I have been focused on building up some runway so I can take some larger calculated risks in the coming months. This has resulted in me spending all my time doing traditional consulting vs building out my own products.

While consulting can be a bit of a grind at times, it has allowed me the chance to work on some amazing projects including:

  • A SaaS platform in the Electric Vehicle and Carbon Credit Generation space
  • A SaaS platform in the Avalanche and Backcountry Skiing/Snowboarding space
  • Numerous applications in the Water Resources Management space

The work has been a mix of being a fractional CTO, fractional Product Manager, and individual contributor. The best part has been that all of these projects are in spaces I deeply care about.

Key Learnings

The most significant takeway has been that maximizing optionality is both the biggest upside and my north star. The ability to choose what I work I on and when I work on it has had large impacts on the three buckets that are my top priorities: family, fitness, and finances.

Having control of my workload has meant I have been able to spend more time with family. I knew this would have an impact on our son, but the seemingly exponential returns caught me by surprise.

When I worked a day job and freelanced on the side, fitness was the first to fall by the way side. While I have not had time to train as much as I would like, I have similarly seen a large positive impact from being able to sneak out for one or two longer workouts during the week.

Lastly, I have been able to plug the financial hole that getting laid-off left while working fewer hours. It is a great feeling.

Next Steps

The key learnings make things sound like a gravy train. It largely is and I would be a fool to complain about anything with how good we have it. That said, there are a few areas I would like to push on.

For much of the past seven months, I have been doing work for three clients at a time. I found that this is too much and will be capping work to two clients at a time going forward.

Additionally, I have found myself doing more of the technical implementation work than planned. I would like to strike a balance where 50% of my time is focused on executing and 50% of my time is focused on advising.

I got a glimpse of what doing more advising heavy work could look like on one smaller client project this summer and loved it. It is very satisfying to see someone implement your advice and see it work.

Lastly, I am going to fight my tendency to overplan and instead focus on following my energy. This means only taking on client work that I am stoked on as well as reinvesting the time I would spend on a third client into side projects. I have a few irons in the fire such as my weekly playlist newsletter, Sonic Postcards, that will get a lot more love this year.

Thanks for reading!

About Me

Howdy, I am Ben Tyler. I specialize in building map-based web applications in the natural resource management and outdoor recreation space.

I love collaborating on projects, so if you need a hand, please get in touch!

Get in touch!