Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where I am

Oh, so long since I wrote anything. In fact, I’m only finding the time now because I’m on a train to Maidenhead and I didn’t download work documents from the cloud to my computer.  Connectivity on this particular train line is rubbish for Orange. Of course, I could be reading a book about Mars in preparation for Satellite 3 or thinking up jokes for the show at Eastercon. Or knitting. Or just sleeping.
Things are a bit anxiety inducing at the moment. For a few months in the lead up to Christmas we knew, in my lovely team at work, that work was too scarce to support three people. The directors wanted to make one of us redundant. We weren’t keen. As you may imagine. We had a number of out of hours meetings and thrashed our options out. Our strategy was to continue to work hard to find more work, for us each to apply for jobs so that one of us could move to a secure company and, in the meantime, for us all to go down to a three and a half day week. As I was only working four days anyway it wasn’t a huge hit for me but Catherine and Alison would take a fairly hefty pay cut. 
I applied for a job. So did my colleagues. After my interview the very nice man noted that I didn’t seem to have had much recent experience with interviews. Nope, not for five years. I consoled myself with the thought that no-one gets a job from their first interview. Then both Catherine and Alison did. Excellent! From the end of January we went down from three people doing work sufficient for two people to one person doing work sufficient for two people. Actually maybe a little less than two as there always tends to be a tailing off of work as the end of the financial year approaches. Still, quite a lot of work. I’m around 155% utilised and only the fact that it takes a while for the security check to be done for one of our contracts saves it from being higher. 
One of the suggestions I had made when we were looking at our options was to go independent. As a three person consultancy our overhead costs would be very much lower, it would be easier to find work at a lower day rate and we would be able to work on our own terms. Lovely idea, my colleagues thought, if Alison’s husband’s business had been launched already and was bringing in lots of money and Catherine wasn’t still paying off a student loan and planning a (v. expensive) holiday of a lifetime in Japan. Once they’d both captured lucrative jobs and heartlessly abandoned me I thought about it for a bit and decided that the possibility of independence as a sole trader might still be worth thinking about.
I didn’t want to cut all ties (and my throat) with my current company. I’d have to build a client base from nothing, contractually I’m not allowed to poach my clients, and it would leave them with no-one to fulfill the contracts on the books. I spoke to the MD and we agreed that we would recruit a senior consultant and I would work, with a one year contract, as a sub-contractor for the company. A number of people within the company have wondered why, given that most of my work will continue to be with the company, branded as theirs, why I want to make this move. Mostly it’s to find a bit of freedom. The idea is that, on the days when I have no scheduled work, I can spend the day on the allotment or wander into town or whatever I fancy. If I end up doing the amount of work that I’m doing at the moment I will earn lots more money, if I don’t bring in enough work I live on potatoes and kale and turn the heating off. The risks are higher but so are the payoffs. And some days I can just goof off without guilt. I can work when I’m at my best, afternoon and early evening, and I can spend the time I think is necessary to prepare for a course without being told to 'leave it now, it's good enough'.
Of course, whilst all this is going on I have become treasurer of the Sheffield Allotment Federation, I’ve agreed to work with Dave Hicks on programme for Novacon, I’m supposed to be reading about Mars for a programme item at Satellite and I really need to maintain some relationships outside of work. Occasionally I need to sleep and at least once a week I need to cook. Oh yes, and if I don’t have at least 75% of my allotment under cultivation they will take it off me.
Hence the lack of blog postings. I haven’t even written up the three books I’ve read over the last four months. I’ll have to turn in my Bookworm Badge. And yet, through the exhaustion, I feel the tingling of a mild excitement at the freedom. And the insecurity.

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