Looking back on the actuality of my last few weeks against the 'plan' highlights the reality of freelance life - and shows why you need to be the consummate juggler to succeed in this game.
Looking at my white board, I - theoretically - had three key projects on the go in June. One was a sensitive piece of change comms; one a piece of work around an intranet launch and the third was a series of magazine articles. Each had been costed, planned and scheduled - there would be crossovers, but no significant clashes.
The reality of June was: the 'sensitive' piece happened pretty much to plan. It attracted no external coverage and landed as well as it could internally. I was then involved in a second change announcement for a different client. This time my unexpected involvement was sideways-on. I was called in late in the day and the brief was 'organic'. At first, I was about as helpful as a chocolate teapot. My second input was more useful and by the end of last week I felt I was providing something of value to the client. As ever, it would have been great to be in earlier - but that's not the way it works for freelancers.
The intranet piece is suffering from classic delays. I've crafted my small cog in the wheel, but some of the bigger cogs have jammed. It's a great client who has allowed me to bill all my planned time up front, despite the larger project potentially having ground to a halt 'til the other side of the summer holidays. After a sustained few days of effort, I've been thumb twiddling on this one for a week or so. Not my fault; not my client's fault - but technical troubles further into the guts of the project means there's no point in us progressing further quite yet. In my early days as a freelancer I'd have got quite worked up about this. Now I try not to worry about things outside my control - and just work on the stuff in front of me.
The magazine 'stuff' has worked as so many magazines do - interviews have been rescheduled; contacts have changed (or disappeared) and I've had to find new angles and new contributing voices. But that's the beauty of a magazine: it evolves and reshapes as it moves from an editorial plan to the finished product. So far, the client seems happy though we're still lacking a couple of pieces and the deadline is approaching at high speed.
So what has actually happened over the past few weeks is some periods of intense focus - head down on one project and motoring full speed at it at the expense of everything (and everyone) around. Other times have been a juggle between clients and competing pieces of work - and other stretches - a day, two and even three days - have been barren with little opportunity to progress. Everything on my white board will be completed - plus a couple of other small but important tasks....and a client pitch; two proposals; invoicing and other admin - oh, and my annual review on my PhD.
I'm not an elegant juggler - but the balls are still in the air. But, if you like regularity in your job, and struggle when deadlines compete and work lurches off piste, then freelancing - at least in my line of work - may not be for you.