I haven’t been a normal, full time employee since last April, but it’s only been recently that I’ve booked full time contract work. The experience has really changed how I think about my time.
As a contractor I am paid solely for the work I do. This means that if I take a break to read webcomics or check out the news or write on my blog, I lose money. And so I’ve started to think about everything I do during the day as “billable time” and “non-billable time”, and constantly asking myself, “Can I charge for what I’m doing right now?”
It’s kind of thrilling to be completely responsible for my time. If I slack off, the consequences are different. For example, if a job takes me 20 hours, but I spread those 20 hours out over a week, then I’m only getting half as much money as I could be getting. I have to fill my time with projects in order to make a profit.
There are so many organizational things, like creating rate sheets and designing pricing packages, that I can’t charge anyone for. And I don’t charge for consultations and rough drafts on principle. So the more time I spend on those things, the more money I lose. (I may have to set a time limit for free consultations and drafts.)
Ultimately, this is all very interesting. The control freak in me is enjoying herself heartily, while the slacker is wondering if this sort of thing is too stress-inducing. A regular job is safer, providing steady income no matter if I’m moving slowly or tearing through my work.
The control freak has a response to that concern, though: I can’t choose my projects in a regular job.