Recharging the Battery

One of the ‘joys’ of having my own business is that I’m always on-call and there are times I’m answering emails on a Saturday night.  Most of the time, it’s no big deal but it can become exhausting without a break.  This is why I need to take time off and recharge my batteries.  So should you.

Carol and I did that last week with a vacation in the Caribbean.  We had a lot of fun and got a chance to recharge our batteries and get away from work (and US politics).  And even though we weren’t technically working (I consider coding to be the real work), we did talk about our business and those things we are grateful for.

One thing we are extremely grateful for is the fact that we can take off for a week without feeling guilty.  That got us thinking on why is it so hard for consultants to take time off.  It’s not too hard to figure out but here are a few items from our list (sadly the list got a Bahama Breeze spilled on it and thus couldn’t be saved for posterity, but here’s what we remember).

If you’re not working you’re not making money.  So true for consultants, but my advice is to try to develop multiple income streams so you can make money without doing consulting.  We have our developer products (ARGen and Shorts are our big ones) and without any work on my part we sold some last week.  We also have our Xojo Training videos that are income.

Having that one big all consuming project.  A lot of Xojo consultants I’ve known over the years have that one big client that consumes nearly 100% of their time.  We have multiple Xojo developers and while we can do big projects that involve all team members, it’s pretty rare.  This means that our income (and risk of losing it) are spread across multiple projects/clients.  For us, projects come and go, and that means there are times when one or two of us get to work on internal projects but our income levels stay consistent.

It’s all on you.  Solo consulting stinks because it’s all on you.  I can’t tell you how many solo Xojo consultants I’ve seen come and go in my fifteen years.  Doing it all by yourself is tough and sort of ties into the one, big, all consuming project from above.  You only have so many hours in the week to code and if you don’t have help you still have to take time out for marketing, sales, and developing multiple income streams.  It’s just not possible for solo developers to be spread that thin.

Do you have a job, or do you have a business?  Over the years I’ve had multiple solo consultants chastise me and tell me that I’m just ‘training my competitors’ with my multiple employees.  Sure, that’s always a possibility, but is it probable?  So far, they haven’t and my thinking is that if they really wanted to have their own business they’d probably already be doing it without my training anyway.  Having and running a business is not the same thing as having a job.  Plus, that type of thinking comes from fear and I’m confident enough in my own abilities and experience that it simply isn’t a concern.

Consulting rates are too low.  I’ve talked about this multiple times but too often someone new to consulting will take their last real-world salary and figure out their rate from that.  This is absolutely the worst thing to do because as a consultant you don’t have a job you have a business.  You need to have a rate high enough to pay for health insurance, retirement plans, and to pay yourself during your vacation escapes each year.  It is your responsibility, as a business owner, to calculate what rate that is for you.  If you want to know my rate send me an email and I’ll gladly tell you but I will also say that if I was still a solo developer it would be higher because I can only code so many hours in the week.

You must recharge your batteries every now and then.  Without that you become inefficient and run the risk of burning out and you’ll be sending an unhappy client to me to take care of their project.  Don’t laugh because some of my best long-term clients came from a solo Xojo developer that had to leave consulting for one reason or another.  Some left because they were charging too little to pay for health insurance, retirement, and to recharge their batteries on a consistent basis.

So what do you do to recharge your battery?  And why do you think many people fail as solo developers?

Vacation Ruminations

One of the things that’s tough as a small business owner is getting away from work.  Heck, even if you’re not ‘working’ you’re thinking about work and stressed about work or the lack thereof or any one of a million things.  So it’s important to get away every now and then.

I know that a lot of my peers aren’t this lucky, but I have an employee that can handle a lot of stuff while I’m gone.  We put that to the test this past week and a half as the family took an Alaskan cruise.  Traveling can be stressful in its own right but I’ve discovered a couple of things about cruises:  if you are hungry or bored you’re doing it intentionally.

Our cruise ports were Seattle, Ketchikan, fjording, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria and finally back to Seattle.  We had three cameras, one video recorder and two iPhones.  Without even looking at the video we have over 1500 pictures from 10 days.  This does not include any that my brother-in-law and his family took.  I think I might have to cull it down a bit to fit it on to the iMovie DVD tradition.  🙂

The weather was perfect the entire time.  No rain at all – which had some of the Alaskan’s concerned (because the new Walmart had run out of hoses).  I enjoyed Seattle far more than I expected.  The Science Fiction Hall of Fame was cool (the gift shop sucked).  The Glass Museum in Tacoma was pretty cool as well though the real highlight was taking the bridge across the highway with all the Don Chiluhy samples.

Without a doubt the wildlife and scenery were the highlights of the Alaskan trip.  I can honestly say, though, that I’m done with ‘pretty mountains with snow’ for a while.  We saw a couple of glaciers but didn’t see any calving.  Oh well, the bald Eagles, whales and the bear cub made up for it.

I’m writing this after a hectic day of catching up on emails that my employee couldn’t deal with and doing all the things to catch up on news in the tech world.  It was a busy week with all of the Apple announcements.  Being disconnected from the internet left me feeling ‘disconnected’ but that in itself is a very good thing because I needed it – it had been well over a year since I took any significant time off.

I feel refreshed (though tired) and ready to get back into multiple projects.  My employee handled the minor situations that came up with absolutely no issues and now he’s ready to go on his vacation.  It seems that there are a half-dozen projects that are very close to happening which means we’ll be crazy busy for a while.  But that’s okay.  Being disconnected for a while has restored my sense of balance.  You should try it sometime.