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The Unheard Word

One woman's slightly skewed views

Creating Challenges

For me, one of the great beauties of working for myself is that, to a large degree, I can create my own challenges. Work doesn’t have to get stale, which has the added benefit of positively impacting my whole life. (Hmmm hang on. My work is my whole life. Hmmm.)

How exactly does being my own boss mean I can create more challenges and have a more satisfying work life? Well, I don’t mean that I make things harder than they need to be.

What I mean is that I get to make judgement calls without the constraints of office politics and time-keeping. How many of us have felt under-appreciated at work, or frustrated because we know we can do better but our boss told us, “Just get it done quickly” or — when we know technology or techniques to be used are outdated or just plain wrong for the job, we are told “There’s no time, there’s no money. Just do it”.

But I am free to seek my own solutions in my own time if that’s what I want to do. I don’t feel obliged to do a task in an old way simply because it’s familiar, and that’s the way it’s always been done and it works, so why waste time (which is money), etc. etc.?

From a business viewpoint, that don’t-waste-time mindset certainly has merit, depending on the circumstances, but often only in the short-term. (And sure, sometimes we have to make those hard business decisions ourselves when there literally is no time or money to pursue something better.) But I believe my business will ultimately benefit (indeed, it has benefited a great deal) from my desire to learn, to improve upon old ways, to find better and more efficient solutions. Yes, I’ve worked for many non-billable hours along the way, but it’s never wasted. In any case, any web developer worth his or her salt, whether self-employed or an employee, must continue to develop professionally in such a fast-changing industry.

The thing is, that when you’re answerable directly to the client and to no one else, there is more freedom to focus that professional development on providing exactly what is needed at a given moment: the best solution, not just the fastest to implement that will do the job. And of course that knowledge is reused again and again in future projects, so — once attained — it actually saves a great deal of time rather than wasting it.

It’s an investment that pays big dividends. The end result is that the client is happy (though usually none the wiser about the extra effort I’ve put in to give them a superior product) and I have immense satisfaction in a job well done. In addition, I’ve gained knowledge and skills, and the big bonus is increased income.

Heady stuff. 🙂

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8 Responses to “Creating Challenges”

  1. gavin jacobi Says:

    Hi Vicki,
    Thoughtful post. Those unbillable hours are always a point of contention with my wife. It is hard to justify them to someone who isn’t getting the benefit of the knowledge gained. There may not be an immediate return but they nearly always pay off in the long run.

    Just to put a face to the words: we met at WE05 (and ’04 come to think of it). You might remember us escorting Molly back to her hotel.

  2. Vicki Says:

    Hi there Gavin, great to hear from you. Of course I remember you, and I hope your wife has recovered from the back injury she sustained in Melbourne at the time of WE05.

    I can understand your wife’s concern, but still you just can’t stagnate in our field, and unless an employer is really supportive and invests a lot of time (and money) into training its staff, said staff would soon fall behind.

    Besides, generally speaking, we’re in this line of work because we enjoy it. And speaking for myself, I just love learning.


  3. Terry Says:

    Hello Vicky,
    I enjoyed your blog as you talk about most things that are dear to my heart. I admire those who take the plunge and manage their own web business well. I have done it twice (both times after my babies were born). I did feel burned out though after a short while trying to handle it all. I think it was more like a love/hate thing. I loved the work and the freedom to choose which projects to bid and loved the client interaction. I hated the bookeeping part of it though.

  4. Vicki Says:

    Terry… ah, yes. Bookkeeping. 😐

    That’s what accountants are for. I have the loveliest, most patient accountant. 🙂

    (But she would prefer I wasn’t a software junkie…)

    It can be hard for some people to make the transition from worker to business owner. It’s not the same job at all.

    E-Myth by Michael Gerber talks about the “technician” and how many “technicians” love their job so go out on their own and get a rude shock because they’re so busy being a technician that the business side of things suffers and they end up burning themselves out… it’s a good book, “interesting” style of writing but I’m glad I read it when I was just starting out. (And I’m sorry I didn’t read it before… because I was a typical technician who did everything wrong and for the wrong reasons!)

    It must be really difficult to try to earn a living working from home with babies in the house! No wonder you felt burned out… time management is hard for me at any time but with babies…! Hopefully it’s all settled down now.

  5. gavin jacobi Says:

    Hi again.
    Thanks for remembering my wife’s back! She has recovered but gets the occasional twinge of pain.

    Her concern with unbillable hours (I think) is really less to do with money and more to do with selling myself short in professional pride.

  6. juanita audit-teacake Says:

    ahh..and to think I said you were crazy to leave a permanent position in the public sector to start your own business…you may say “I told you so.”

  7. Vicki Says:

    Gavin: glad your wife is doing better and I don’t think you’re selling yourself short, because it will all come out in the wash…

    Petey: thank you for the permission but actually you didn’t tell me I was crazy, though you clearly thought it! Anyway, though it hasn’t been all sunshine and light, it’s generally been great and ultimately all for the best. 🙂

  8. juanita audit-teacake Says:

    I didn’t mention that I thought you were crazy ??.. it must have slipped my mind 😉