Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back to work in a big way

As a freelancer, there are busy times and slow times. I used to think I could predict the slow times. Summers were slow, so anything from late May to late August was slow. Christmas is a slow time, and anything after December 1 until January 5ish was slow.

There are exceptions. Some years I've had immensely busy summers. Well, one year. And a few times I had busy Christmas seasons, since I don't celebrate Christmas and agreed to work through the holiday time. But generally, these rules hold true.

When work is generally steady and busy, the slow times are a luxury. You can take it easy, enjoy the chance to shop, hang out, meet people for coffee, network, even spend time with the kids. And not worry about work, since things will pick up soon. Some lucky years I even had projects lined up to start in September or January, so I didn't have to worry about the slow times at all.

Of course, when things haven't gone terribly well in what ought to be the busy months, slow times are very tough. You can't enjoy the quiet because you're freaking out about when the next thing will come through.

Lucky enough (and surprisingly, given the general "freak out" about the bad economy), this is one of the enjoy-the-slow-season years. Summer was pretty calm, and I knew by late July that I'd have this part-time job coming in September, which guaranteed me a decent income and enough work to see me through. So I enjoyed the summer, took it easy, and spent time with my kids. Still, I was pretty grateful for school to start up again and them to head back out of my house and me to knuckle back down.

And now I have just finished a couple quiet weeks over Christmas, knowing that I still have the part time job for now, and that another contract was starting up this week. So I did take it easy over the break. It helped that I was snowed in a lot of the last two weeks and had little choice about going anywhere. But I actually enjoyed hanging out at home, seeing more of my kids (that's a first for me!), and taking it easy. I did have some work, and even came into the office for one day. But mostly it was quiet.

But all that changed this week. The new contract did come through and I have to kick it into high gear starting now. And the job is still here, and after a sit down with the President this morning, I've got a huge to-do list. Plus the project I did slowly over the holidays is back for revisions, which I must do this week.

Suddenly I'm in busy mode again. But for the first time, I'm finding it hard to get my ass in gear and put my nose to the grindstone (did I just mix metaphors?). I want to go back to the lazy mornings and easy days. I want to take it easy and not carry around the mental stress of all the work I have to do.

Alas, such is the life of a freelancer. Busy is good, because busy means income. So I'm supposed to be happy about this stage.

The only silver lining for me this week is that we're going on vacation next week. Six days till sun and sand. And all my clients know I'm going, and are working around me. Of course, such is also the lot of a freelancer. To take time off, I have to work extra hard before I go, keep on top of emails while I'm gone, then work extra hard when I return. But hopefully, I'll leave the mental stress behind and enjoy the beach.

Of course, we're taking the kids, so it's not like I can leave ALL the stress behind. ;-)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Recession will be tough for Gen Y

This isn't my first recession. I believe my career was defined in large part by the lack of work that came out of the last recession in the 90s, just when I finished school. So this doesn't scare me as much as it might some of the newer workers whose entire careers have been focused around their wants and needs. And part of me can't help but gloat a bit about that.

This Dilbert cartoon really sums it up: