May 31, 2012

Work Balance / Life Balance

I've had a bit of a work balance issue for a while now. As an independent consultant, I've set a personal goal of not having any one client exceed 25% of my monthly billables. My engineering rate is set so that if I bill 20 hours a week, I'm on the low end of comfortable, which gives me a target of 80 billable hours a month. So keeping any one client to about 20 hours per month means I'm not in as much risk of them rolling over (cancelling the project, going elsewhere) and squashing me. All good, so far.

One client, however, who has sent me steady work in an ongoing / sustaining project (since 2003) has slowly increased the work. I've been billing 30-40 hours per month, pretty steadily, for the past year or so. Which means this one client is around 50% of my target engineering billables. In reality, it's a bit higher than this, since my 40 hours of available time each week are also doled out to web wenching, yoga teaching. etc. I do not really want to discourage the work; it's a bit repetitive, but it can be done at my convenience, they pay 30 days on the nose, and not a lot of hand-holding or maintenance. So I've simply lived with the tension of having a lot of eggs in one basket, and when other work comes in, putting in more hours and cranking to stay on top of things.

But, running with steady income like this can cause some other issues. My website is woefully outdated and in need of a complete overhaul. Another client has a website redesign pending that I need to put some time into. And I'm not doing much, if anything, towards marketing, networking, or building the business out into new areas.

The past few weeks, however, the big client has been offline (vacation) and since he keeps a bit of a tight rein on my work, there's nothing coming in. So, May will be a very light billing month (about 50% of usual) and I suspect I will get dumped on with a big backlog come the first week in June.

In the meantime, however, I have been enjoying a bit of a work holiday. I'm still teaching yoga, of course, and other projects are coming through and getting handled. But I've had the chance to really catch up in my personal life. I've cleaned the heck out of my living space - with three room totally cleaned, the others pending, and a bunch of small and large projects (seasonal stuff, as well as things I've had on my "I'll get to that someday" list) knocked off. I've been blogging more (notice?). And I've started sitting back and thinking about my engineering consulting practice, moving forward. I suspect I'll get that website redesign moving in the next week or so, and want to refocus my work to better sync up with the other things going on in my life - more local business, more niche business, less "jump in an airplane and resolve problems" type of work.

It feels like I've been just swamped and not really taking care of stuff (for years, really) - and  these two weeks have allowed me to catch my breath, finish things up, make some long term plans, and look to the future. I've got some new energy - thinking of a long overdue "how to" book project that would work great on Kindle self publish, signed up for a SquareUp credit card account. Just seems like there is a lot more room in my work life for new growth....

The end of June might be a bit tight, but there are some largish invoices outstanding that I expect to see any day that will soften that. And many of the projects I've been able to catch up on will translate into invoices in the next few weeks.

No comments: