April 16, 2004
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All work is cyclical. There are the slow times and the
fast times. Some weeks you can’t seem to catch up and on others,
work is so slow that you think the week may never end. This cycle of feast
and famine is especially true for freelance consultants like myself. The
busy weeks can overwhelm you and the slow weeks can leave you worried
about paying your bills. While work may come and go, dealing with your
slow time can have a dramatic effect on your high-tech career.
The first thing to remember when caught up in a slow period is that the
work will return. Unless all your clients have packed up and moved to
a different state, they will have future needs that you can serve and
future friends to whom they will recommend you and your services. Sometimes
in the heat of the moment we can too quickly wonder if we will every work
again. Don’t panic. I can assure you that the work will be there
in the future.
The best part of any slow time is the freedom you gain, if only for a
few hours or a few days. You can use this time to take care of personal
business that may have been shunted aside, or you can use the time to
explore new ideas and opportunities that have been ignored for more pressing
matters. The truth is, these new opportunities need your attention. If
you aren’t constantly seeking out new clients and new forms of work,
your career may go into a long, slow decline.
If you aren’t working billable hours today, you better be investigating
new clients, methods and ideas. Sometimes, when talking with my friends,
they seem to think that they can’t spend time on new projects. They
have a constant need to be making money. While I can understand the driving
needs behind these thoughts, you simply can’t be making money all
the time. Worse still, instead of looking at these new projects, they
spend the time fretting over the lack of paying work.
If you continue looking for new opportunities, the money will come. You
should never feel bad about checking out new software, new methods, new
businesses, especially when you aren’t “working.” When
you are having some down time, there is nothing wrong with doing something
else. For example, this week I scheduled training at my local library
where I give a regular class. The librarians needed an introduction in
using their new video projector. Sure, I would have liked to have had
a paying client for that hour and a half, but the barring that, I always
try to fill my days. The truth is, my connection to the library has garnered
me many clients over the years, so it is always worthwhile working for
the library. Better still, I didn’t spend my time worrying about
not working. It is always better to do something than waste time worrying
about what you are not doing.
A Bias Towards Action
If you want to recharge your work and your life, it is important that
you develop a bias towards action. This means watching for opportunities
and taking advantage of as many as you possibly can. New work, new play,
new people help to open your mind and move you along on your career path.
Recently, I had the opportunity to do some work at the Art Center College
of Design in Pasadena. While the work was minimally computer-related,
it was much more focused around art and exhibition installation and design.
My friend needed someone to fill in for her and I jumped at the idea.
While I won’t be making my usual rate, the added experience of working
in this environment and meeting a whole new network of potential clients
will more than make up for that. You should look for similar opportunities
and exploit them as much as possible. Opening your experience is sure
to open up your thinking about your career.
You need to move away from the thought that you are either making money,
or not. Everything you do, no matter how odd, has some relation to the
work you do. Never be afraid of trying new things, visiting new places,
looking at the world in a different way. It will all have an effect on
the work you do and the continued success of your high-tech career.
Join the career discussion in the Career-Op
forums at http://forums.friendsintech.com/