We’re all doomed.
No, I’ve not gone and joined a group of end of the world adventists, but I definitely had a Private Frazer moment recently. For a couple of days I simply couldn’t shrug off a certain despair.
There I was in early January, looking over the vast tundra of emptiness that was my diary for the month, suffused with a sensation of doom, wondering if I was ever going to find work again. Wishing, hoping and praying that a cracking new client (or two, or three) would come skipping over the horizon with bulging pockets and a brilliant brief. (Actually that never happens, not the part about the bulging pockets, anyway.)
When the diary is deserted it doesn’t matter one wee jot if you know there is work waiting in the wings, or a decent commercial contract is coming your way in a couple of weeks. It makes no difference that every man, woman, child and dog has chanted the mantra that you’ll make no money and have only a handful of clients in the first year.
It becomes a bit of a broken record to hear, repeatedly, that January is always a bad month for business, especially when rapidly followed up by assertions that the whole summer is a write off, and the Easter holidays, and all of December.
It doesn’t even help much that your trusty band of supporters are doing more than their fair share to wheedle you out of wallowing, or that you’ve got time to plough through a massive backlog of admin and do your tax return.
All you want is work.
And lots of it.
But, as I’ve discovered to my cost, in the sometimes solitary world of sole trading, you’ve got to be careful what you wish for. Because clients are like buses. Nada for ages then one or two, even three, four or five all come hurtling along together. And because you’re overwhelmed with gratitude you say yes. To all of them.
That’s when the fun really begins. Almost overnight you go from pootling about in the slow lane, to roaring around the track at Knockhill. Life flashes past in a blur of frenzied deadlines, with numerous near collisions and a feeling that everything could spin out of control at any time. Eat your heart out Jeremy Clarkson.
It’s exhausting, exhilarating and not exactly the best way to do business. Time management gets tossed, plate spinning goes into hyperdrive, and work/life balance goes for a burton. But it’s work, and work is what I want. What’s more, my work is good, and maybe even benefits from a period of prolonged pressure. But the same cannot be said for family life.
No doubt I’ll become better at getting the business balance right – I’d better had, I won’t be able to keep this pace up ’til retirement age. But right now, saying no feels like a faraway fantasy.
Let’s face it, business is probably always going to be like buses. And until I am in the luxurious position of being able to let the odd one pass by, I’ll be ready and waiting.