Reporting in: Self-employment, day four
~ 07 October 2009 ~
So, it’s been four days since rejoining the ranks of the self-employed. The transition from full-time employment to self-employment has been nearly seamless. This is probably because I’ve been through this all before, but also because the timing was right. I was ready to leap and therefore hit the ground running.
I have no shortage of work right now. In fact, I’ve probably not been this busy for quite some time. And it feels fantastic. I’ve long believed that people are happiest when their productivity is high, and repeatedly that belief is affirmed.
With four children and a stay-at-home wife/supermom to support, paying the bills is of primary concern. But before making the leap and amidst the chaos of a very busy schedule, I’ve tried giving adequate attention to documenting what I hope to accomplish over the long-haul. To that end, I’ve spent some time establishing a few objectives for myself and my business. I have a pretty good idea of where I want to be a year or two from now, and I hope these objectives will help me get there.
Here are some of my objectives.
1. Reduce multi-tasking and distractions, increase focus. Motivation to get things done is of no concern for me — I have no shortage of things I’d like to do nor passion to make them happen. But staying focused is of great concern.
I’ve said repeatedly in private that I firmly believe the biggest challenge facing my sons’ generation will be to remain focused in an ever-increasing world of constant, endless distraction. The ubiquity of mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter, media, and websites and mediums we’ve yet to invent will seduce those easily swayed by the virtual and material noise that surrounds them, redirecting attention to frivolous activities that should be given to work, study, and family. I struggle with staying focused now as a grown adult. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like for them 10 or 20 years from now.
I’m also growing convinced through personal experience and from the increased press I’ve read on the topic that multi-tasking is of little use for increasing one’s productivity, or job satisfaction for that matter. I intend to do less throughout the day, and by doing less, maintain a healthier work ethic.
2. Increase residual income. After leaving self-employment three years ago, I promised myself I’d never return to freelancing without having residual income in place to supplement or even supplant client work. It’s virtually impossible to time client compensation in such a way that it evens out the ebb and flow of revenue. Further, you’re constantly on the clock for someone else if your income is solely dependent on client work, leaving little time — certainly not a full year off — for you to explore your own projects and expand your knowledge. Residual income can smooth your revenue stream and provide flexibility in your schedule.
I’ve got a good jump on this, with residual income coming in from Authentic Jobs, my letterpress posters, and book royalties (speaking of which, you knew you could pre-order CSS Mastery Second Edition, right?). I plan to continue these efforts in earnest.
3. Maintain physical contact. One of the things I really enjoyed about working on a team of 40 designers — and that I’ll miss now being a one-man shop — is rubbing shoulders with other people, learning from their knowledge, processes, and successes and mistakes. Not just inside the walls of work, but at lunches and after hours, too.
There’s undeniable merit to be found in human-to-human contact, and too often we technologists underestimate this fact. Email, Twitter, even video-conferencing can go only so far. Physical contact is not only healthy for personal reasons, it’s good for business, too. Check out this observation from Shimon Rura:
In an office you get feedback constantly. At the coffee pot in the morning, eye contact shows interest in your latest tasks, or nods express sympathy about difficult colleagues and bosses. When you have a question about something, your coworker’s eyes and facial expressions will tell you, consciously or subconsciously, if you’re sounding smart or stupid. Chances are, you depend on this feedback more than you realize. You need it both for work-specific communication, which is easy to see, and for maintaining your self-image, esteem, and motivation–which is harder to see because the mechanisms are subconscious.
Aside from attending and speaking at conferences, I’ve not yet figured out how I’ll tackle this objective. But I’ve got a few ideas I’m planning to try (and share, if they work) in the next few months.
4. Reduce expenditures. I reviewed numbers from the last time I was self-employed, and it became apparent that business expenditures nearly drove me into the ground financially. Prior to this review I wasn’t aware just how much I was spending on stuff I thought I needed to run my business, and just how little profit I was making because of that. I’m committed to spending less this time around, and in just four days I’ve already confronted this by foregoing a Herman Miller Aeron, which I was strongly considering, settling instead on a decent knock-off at one-third the price for a much needed chair upgrade.
All things considered, I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m off to what appears to be a good start.
Stock photography, type, and killer tees. Genuinely recommended by Authentic Boredom.
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A selection of fine reading, available for a limited time only:
- My video setup: Canon HG10 with 35mm adapter
- Michael Bierut on clients
- Colosseo: Available March 2010
- The Authentic Jobs Twenty Ten promotion
- Do what works best for you, not them
CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standard Solutions A solid round-up of indispensable CSS design techniques by Andy Budd, Simon Collison, and Cameron Moll.
Mobile Web Design A guide to publishing web content beyond the desktop. Tips, methodology, and resources. Now available.
Letterpress Posters The unassuming beauty of a freshly letterpressed print.
That Wicked Worn Look. Techniques for that worn, aged, distressed look.
Mister Retro Machine Wash Filters Turn the dial to “Instaworn” with these filters.
Blinksale Dive in and enjoy shamelessly easy invoicing from Firewheel Design.
Basecamp My preferred web app for internal and client project collaboration.
HOW Conference Austin, June 24–27. Pentagram, Adobe, P&G, et al.
Web Design World Seattle, July 20–22. Practical sessions on web design.
Stimulate Salt Lake City, September 2009. Entrepreneurship and design conference.