Time management tips, tales, truths.
“… Self-improvement needn’t be a sad homework assignment demanding prudence and sacrifice. Perhaps we’d be more inclined to follow through if we resolved to be kinder to ourselves, to make our lives easier, to lighten our load…
…Identify the areas/endeavors in life that mean the most, and work for the “A-plus” there. In the other areas, let a “B” or even “C” work for you. Sometimes “good enough” is indeed just that. Get back to basics and figure out what you love to do, and commit to bringing that passion forward in any way you can…”
“The money, per working hour, is generally much better being a freelancer — at least in my experience across the pond, your labor market may differ. Here is where money becomes a defining issue. If your are free lancing just to make more money for your time without a deeper understanding of why you are pursuing your own cause then I’d suggest you’re missing out on a chance to be even better at why you do. First you have to be sure you know why you are doing what you are doing; and it needs to be defined in terms beyond the material and financial rewards.”
The Featured Freelancer Series is a regular series of posts written by amazing freelancers from a variety of fields. Through each post, an experienced freelancer shares a valuable lesson or experience that helped them to become better at running their business.
I fell into being a freelancer. In fact, I can’t recall a conscious decision ever being made to become a freelancer. Well, not the first time around anyway. Truth is I’m not your average free lancer, I have software I sell, I do contracting work and I have clients that I do various network and software engineering work. My name is James Wilson, I write code for Mac, iOS and Web apps and I’m a CCIE certified network engineer. The absence of a conscious decision to become a freelancer may or may not be common, but I have a feeling this question is as common as it is important to the quality of our work: “Why do I do this kind of work?”
Understanding what it is you enjoy doing and why you enjoy it is fundamental to being a better freelancer. Without this crucial self-knowledge you’ll find yourself frustrated with producing hit and miss output and lacking the self-awareness needed to consistently turn out an awesome result by harnessing the reasoning behind what you love. Living to work is often chided as the dangerous polar extreme, but as a free lancer life and work are far more cohesive. That’s OK so long as you know why you do what you do and why you enjoy it. If your work brings you joy then its going to enrich all aspects of your life, to the point where it becomes a healthy part of your life to do your work. You live to work and you love it. That joy we get comes from producing something that we are proud of. The key to being able to consistently produce work we are proud of and derive self-sustaining joy from is to know why we love what we do.
My obsession and love for technology began at a very, very early age. My parents tell me stories of taking me to Jenolan Caves, a popular cave-exploration tourist attraction, and of me being more interested in the way the lighting system worked than the beautiful limestone formations around me. I had a huge Lego collection, but I would spent hours searching out the battery pack, flashing lights, leads and pneumatic bits and pieces before embarking on building anything. The earliest toy I can remember was a bunch of large wooden blocks with orange plastic tubes that interconnected with the wood. I called these my “computer parts”, and I’m very proud that thirty years on my two year old son Xavier has a few of the original remaining computer parts. How I would have loved an iPad back then.
Making computers do things and transporting data from one point to another are the two things that particular engaged me during high school. I taught myself to program in BASIC using a BBC Micro and then later an Amiga 500. Things really took off for me when my dad bought our first PC; a 486-SX running at 33Mhz with 4Mb of RAM. He bought it from a local computer shop that changed its trading name every 6 months or so. Dad loved a bargain. From here I learn to program in C on both Linux and Windows. My first Mac was still 10 years away. Around this time I became absolutely fascinated with how networks functioned. The hardware, software and protocols. Cisco press’ Internet Routing Architectures was my free-reading book of choice in high school.
This deep-seeded love for technology is core to who I am and no doubt many people can recall similar fascinations and obsessions in their up bringing. It goes to show that my love for this industry is long-term, and certainly confirms that I’m in the right line of work, but it doesnt explain why I love what I do and much less why I enjoy doing it as a free lancer. Not so long ago if you had asked me why I prefer to be a free lancer vs working for someone else I would have rattled off the standard lines about enjoying being my boss, having less politics to deal with, enjoying the usually-better hourly rates, etc. Recently though I came to realize that if those were the things that turned you off a full time job then you were simply in the wrong job or at the wrong company. Those obstacles of personality conflicts, power struggles, politics, and intellctual property assignment are really only a problem if you don’t fundamentally believe in the future of the company you are working for. If you are passionate enough, and believe strongly enough in your employer then those things are worth overcoming and contributing your ideas and innovations to the company becomes worthwhile.
The money, per working hour, is generally much better being a freelancer — at least in my experience across the pond, your labor market may differ. Here is where money becomes a defining issue. If your are free lancing just to make more money for your time without a deeper understanding of why you are pursuing your own cause then I’d suggest you’re missing out on a chance to be even better at why you do. First you have to be sure you know why you are doing what you are doing; and it needs to be defined in terms beyond the material and financial rewards. The paradox here is that the better you understand why you love doing what you do, the better your work output will be. More importantly, when the chips are down, the work scarce and the bank balance dire, you must have a well-understood answer when in desperation you ask yourself “why the hell am I doing this?”. Taking the time to look inside yourself and understand why you enjoy this work serves to improve the quality of your work and gives you a solid foundation to fall back on when times are tough.
My advice is to make sure you are, or want to be, a free lancer for the right reasons and to firmly establish and understanding of why you love the work you do. Just knowing that you enjoy programming, or enjoy design, or enjoy making money is not enough. Take time out to establish a true and honest answer to the question of “Why” you love these things. It’s an understanding that you probably won’t reach immediately or even quickly. It’s something that requires regular and conscious attention but it shouldnt be a chore either. Somethimes it feels like you take two step forwards and one step back in your understanding of yourself but the often subtle, sometimes profound impact that it will have on your work is worth the effort.