So we're now into the second month of 2010. We're officially out of recession and my CiB colleagues (or the Xchange team anyway), say that the only way the organisational communications market can move is up. I hope that's the case, though I've yet to see the fragile optimism translate into money in the bank.
But looking back on January - with the perspective of a whole day - I can already see that the month was quite a different proposition from its partner in 2009. I have been a lot busier than at this time last year, and while this isn't reflected in a poor billing month, there's definitely more reason to feel positive.
If I look at my January calendar I can see that barring a couple of snowed-out days, I was engaged in the dark arts of communication on every work day. I'd love to say it was all day every day: it wasn't. I'd love to say it was all fee-earning stuff: it wasn't.
In January 2009, I waited for the anticipated surge that has happened every year since I started Leapfrog in 2000. It never came. This year I didn't expect it. I had a few small pieces of work carrying over from December, and have completed or brought these close to completion over the last few weeks. Bits of billing have gone in, some more will happen over the next week, and more small tactical pieces of work have come my way. Not the much-needed 'big project', but all good stuff, and all a real step forward from this time last year.
What's been different from 2009 is the number of conversations I've had about upcoming work of all varieties, and the number of pieces of work - of all hues - that I've been asked to quote for. Not everything has been rosy, but the overall feel is that the market's finally beginning to move.
On the downside for me, I had some facilitation work that I hoped would lead to a larger piece of change comms work. My piece of the jigsaw went well - but the team made a crucial decision that day to run the project from Switzerland rather than the UK. It's the right decision and means they can resource the comms internally. It was tough to miss out on the work, but I hope the client saw enough in me to consider using me in the future. Certainly they were very positive about the planning/facilitation I did for them.
The upside is a number of conversations about work opportunities - some for ad-hoc support, others for the more encompassing 'big project'. These conversations just weren't happening 12 months ago. I've spent a significant amount of time putting pitch material together and the vibe feels a lot better than last year. While much of the quality work remains in-house, there's a bit more budget around, and certainly more appetite for communication as a means to prepare organisations for the upswing.
I now feel I'm on the runway, wheels rolling. It's a much better feeling than last year when I, and too many of my peers, were stuck in a snowdrift.