Posted on 5 Comments

Independent Consulting On Your Time

Ah! The grass is always greener on the other side. If you are in the corporate world, you dream of working for yourself either as a consultant or having your own business. As a consultant or business owner, you long for the simplicity of an 8-5 job with its predictable income, insurance, and assumed stability. The dream of escaping corporate drudgery to freelance is often envisioned with copious free time, barrels of money, setting your own schedule, recovering vacations lost to corporate deadlines, quality time spent with the children, and cutting the yard while advising your client via cellphone for an outrageous hourly fee. The truth of the matter is that a consultant/freeagent has to plan for 20% more time than a regular employee. Yes, that means working for yourself you should plan for a 6 day work week OR 5 ten and half hour work days.

Attitudes change also. The corporate world might have some flexibility in hours. Some people may work 7-4 while others work 10-6 but the world generally expects the business to be open 8-5. When you work for yourself, the world generally expects you to be open 24/7. The world is also shrinking. Right now I am working on a project for a client who is 6 hours ahead of me. That means their day is over one hour from now and if I want that critical progress payment I have one hour to show them the milestone has been met. A couple of weeks ago, I was working with a client 11 hours ahead of me. I also had a client whose corporate offices were 8 hours behind me while their US offices where 3 hours behind me but I received the work through another office which was 1 hour behind me. If you do not set your business hours then it is easy to be sucked into world time and you can easily find yourself trying to be that 24/7 person (ie. exhausted). As a 24/7 person, if you work from your house, you could find clients coming to your door to interrupt dinner, find you in your pajamas, or sunbathing naked in the backyard. Set hours! Most importantly, respect the hours and keep them. If you declare an 8-5 day, you had better be working 8-5. Setting communication hours for IM, email, and phone will also help your productivity (I don’t follow any of these suggestions).

Now, time to defy the laws of physics and make an impossible amount of progress in the next hour. Thank goodness for the television babysitter!

5 thoughts on “Independent Consulting On Your Time

  1. I have one hour to show them the milestone has been met

    Then why the hell are you wasting time blogging and twittering and whatever else you’re doing??? 🙂

    Thank goodness for the television babysitter!

    I’m calling the parent police on you.

    If you are in the corporate world, you dream of working for yourself either as a consultant or having your own business.

    You know what, I don’t. I’m in the corporate (be it non-profit) world, I work 8:30-5 every day in an office amidst a bunch of other offices and I don’t dream of working alone at all. Not that the thought hadn’t crossed my mind a couple of times, but I genuinely like working around other people. I do wish I was in a more collectively creative environment, with a lot of people working toward the same basic goal but I take what I can get. Everyone’s not always dreaming of the other side of the fence – some of us like it here. We just have to work on making our side of the fence the best side of the fence the world has ever seen!!!!

    My advice: take your own advice. Quit the 24/7, set your work hours, tone down the stress and anxiety and play with your kids without worrying about what you should be doing for work. Don’t put it off, just do it.

  2. You linked to my article, Doug, but it’s not the same example.

    As an Independent Consultant, but a Business Owner, setting hours is impossible. It requires more placation and hand-holding than I’m capable of. Things get further complicated with employee issues, hiring-firing, company theft, credit card processing issues, demanding customers and the single most important bit —

    Customer fraud.

    It’s rather hard to keep going when customer fraud is so rampant that it’s nearly impossible to pay the “independent consultants” who’ve worked on a given project because the money that was supposed to be delivered, once a very strict standard of Sign-Off was completed by a customer, simply doesn’t come. And there’s no excuse for it.

    I don’t enjoy the stress of beginning at 5AM and working until 7PM nearly every day, and until 10:30PM other days. Being forced to handle menial garbage at 2:30AM on Saturday night because someone has critically destroyed a mission-critical system.

    I’ve worked in and out of the corporate world for years, albeit usually as an Independent Consultant. I go to work. I come home. And I do enjoy it.

    Add to it the fact that I’ve been doing this for 22 years. It’s not a case of “the grass is greener.” It’s a case of I haven’t had a life for 22 years and it’s time to get one.

    Besides — I hate computers. 😉

    Burnout … plain and simple.

    But I identified what may be a large source of several problems at 5AM this morning … we’ll see how I feel in a week … heh

  3. heh
    my experience is different again
    I quit the corporate 12 years ago to consult, and though we have been close to the edge numerous times, i wouldnt go back. i see how the cubicle slaves (no offense barry) operate and i like my life.
    yes it is 24/7. i have clients who regulalry expect me to send emails at 2 am – and i do. i work with developers in 3 differnet timezones – doug is one of them – thanks doug.
    dealing with customers is difficult, but without them theres no money – dont bite the hand that feeds.
    the most difficult thing i would have to say is balance.
    being sucked into answerine very email, instant messagena d blog comment when it happens, or leaving them to the night set aside for them.
    wednesday night i work. thursday night i dont. – its family nioght. friday night is a community service night followed by relaxing. sunday nights are for family / friends/ home church. monday is the gym and work/wife time, tuesday night is usually football and work/wife time.
    i do work12+ hours a day – but if i have a day off – i still find work to do – thats my nature.
    now i need to get back to work!

  4. Yes, consulting can certainly be 24-7, but I enjoy my work so much that it truly doesn’t bother me. I left the corporate world because I felt as though my creativity was stifled, and while I have only been consulting full time for a short time, I would never dream of returning to the 8-5 life I once had. I enjoy the flexibility to be able to work from home and work on my projects whenever my creativity level is at its best. I’ve also found that working through a portable employer of record alleviates some of the constant pull, because they handle invoicing and collections on my behalf. One less nagging task I need to worry about, so I focus my energies on getting clients and working on projects.

  5. I wonder if the boom of coworking won’t incorporate the likes of invoicing and collections. I assume coworking provides services like that or will provide them. That would certainly add value to a coworking environment and possibly a little profit for the coworking organization itself.

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