Three weeks into my reduced hour work week (3 days) and all I can exclaim is, “What just happened?!”
I now work in the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays on my current contract until it ends in June. Meanwhile Wednesdays and Thursdays are at home reserved for my consulting work with Activate Learning Solutions.
I had visions of writing workshop material in my quiet study at home while occasionally glancing out the window for a bit of inspiration. I mistakenly thought that the life of a consultant was similar to the life of a writer – alone with your thoughts and ideas, tapping away on the keyboard, time is your own and an on-call husband who brings cups of tea….
Oh, how wrong I was.
The phones ring.
Skype notifications flash on the bottom of my screen.
The house is a mess.
My neigbour is mowing his lawn.
There is a dog barking.
…Where is my cup of tea?
The two days at home to work has been busy to say the least.
I’ve never had so much coffee and met so many people – in person and online, here and overseas. My first appointment was to my accountant to anoint me into the world of freelancing, bless the books and shine the light ahead for my journey. The second to my slick bank manager who showed me into his office, cracked his knuckles over the keyboard and opened up a new business account for me. He deflated when I said to him – “a no fee, low cost account please”.
I forgot that reducing my office work hours meant that I’d scramble to fit all client meetings and work in three days. I’ve had to manage the expectations of my clients without me having panic attacks for not meeting their deadlines.
Three days means three days. Not five days of work squeezed into three days on reduced pay.
So what have I done to change how I work at the office?
I’ve blocked out the mornings from 7:30am -9:30 am for two hours of quiet time to catch up on emails and plan a ‘to do’ list for the day. Previously, one hour of this time was reserved for my professional development reading blogs, tweets and articles. Now this is reserved for bed time reading. The rest of the day is then spent in different client and subject matter expert meetings. I decline other meetings and administrative tasks or volunteer requests not directly related to the client projects. Overall, people are flexible to the arrangements when you explain that you’re part-time so I’ve not had any issues at all.
On Fridays, I block out the entire day. I sit in a quiet meeting room on another floor in the building, turn off my phone and churn out the design and development work. By 4:30pm, my work is done and I’m ready to depart.
I have noticed that I’ve become far more productive (and slightly robotic) in the office for those three days than I was with five days previously but I’ve lost the social aspect to the job where I have time to sit back, talk with colleagues and chew the fat. This is because there’s less time to deliver against deadlines so all the social time is the first to go. There’s no time to chit chat. This is a big negative.
However, during my two days at home – now that’s a different story!
I have had engaging conversations with people through face-to-face meetings or through Skype and Google Hangouts. Despite only having two days at home, I feel more alive, more connected and in control of my time and my tasks. With my notice board, I list my To Do items and my upcoming conversations and events with my wider personal network and it excites me! I’m energetic, enthused and inspired on a variety of collaborative projects that I’m working on with people all around the world. I don’t know where these will take me but I’m sure it will be revealed in time.
I also discovered that it’s not a 9 to 5 job when I was logging on at 6am and still at it at 10pm. I had forgotten to include that international time zones throw your schedule into array when you’re meeting people overseas.
But I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love it.
I love this freedom to do what I want, when I want and how I want. It recharges me.
Already I’ve had some great opportunities working with people across my wider network around delivering a webinar on Building and Creating a Network Using Twitter, presenting Twitter 101 to the International Association of Facilitators, crowdfunding a speaker to come to Melbourne (stand by for this exciting project – more details will come out soon) and an opportunity to write case studies for a book on new disruptive learning practices within the medical industry.
So with all this good stuff, do I have any niggling thoughts? Of course! The two main questions floating around in my head are:
- How do I keep my Yammer access?
- How do I deflect the question on my daily and hourly charge out rates?
Yammer is an interesting one. As Yammer is tied up to an organisational email address, once I leave the organisation, my Yammer account becomes redundant. It’s a ghost town. I cease to exist. I lose all my connections and networks I have with the organisation and that saddens me as I had invested my time to build a network here. I believe the way to overcome this is to continue to connect with my networks through external social media because they should remain strong regardless of the platform you use.
Secondly , I am now finding out the hard way that people consider you on the services and not the value you provide. Your daily fee is used as a gauge of whether they will use you or not.
One of the first questions I get asked is: “what’s your daily fee?” before any discussion of potential work and this doesn’t sit well with me. I still haven’t answered this question to anyone who has asked. I can’t help but feel that the basis of selecting me for the work is dependent on how low my fee is and putting me in the same bucket as trainers/facilitators without differentiating what value I could provide them first around how to make their workforce more productive through the use of networked learning.
The move from ‘contractor’ to ‘consultant’ is not going to be easy but I made the personal choice that I have to change my modus operandi – from ‘doer’ to ‘coach & guide’. So not only is there an education for potential new clients, it’s also an education for me. There’s no need for me to jump in and do the work myself anymore. Instead, I can help others to help themselves.
Besides, if I think back in my learning career, the most enjoyable moments for me when I was guiding, coaching and sharing what I knew with others – and it was never part of my job description. I did it as part of my own way of working and learning with others. The only difference now is that I’m doing it as a solo free agent.
Let the journey begin!