This year Independence Day had a special meaning for me. For the first time in over three years, I was without a single, long-term client. I was truly independent.
As my fellow self-employed consultant friends know, having a long-term contract in place can be golden. The security of having a predictable stream of income in an otherwise fluctuating work environment helps you manage the peaks and valleys (particularly the valleys) of cash flow and workflow.
But there's that problematic word: predictable.
If predictable's less problematic cousin, dependable, is the upside then routine is, at least for me, its evil twin. While some people thri
ve in routine, I tend to get complacent. And lazy. It's much too easy to get caught up in doing the same things each month, around the same time, just to check them off the list and start over again the next month. Time passes. Quickly. And all those things you told yourself you'd do fall by the wayside. They'll get done...eventually.
Now sometimes there are other constraints in place that aid in that complacency. In my case, that long-term client I had also had a very strong conflict of interest clause in place that prevented me from taking on any other clients in the same space. So I didn't. I didn't even try, because, let's face it, it was easier not to take action. And truth be told I had a pretty good gig going and loved the folks I was working with, it just wasn't challenging me.
But then a funny thing happened. About six months out, I realized that my contract was quickly coming to a close. I asked myself what I really wanted: the security and routine of having a fixed contract or the thrill of venturing back into the unknown, of landing a new client (or clients), and the payoff, financially and psychologically, of utilizing my full skill set and experience, and perhaps even adding to it?
I think you can guess where I landed on that one.
But of course being independent isn't all bad. In fact, what I love most about being a consultant is the freedom and autonomy I enjoy. Especially during last week's holiday, when I was able to be with my immediate and extended family every day, despite having some work creep through. It's really about taking back your power and time, and having a say in how (and with whom) you choose to spend it.
Though it can be scary at times, my independence — in every sense of the word — is something for which I'm truly grateful.