One of my social-media friends, Chris Krycho, wrote a piece reviewing his 2015 and looking forward to his 2016 that was an interesting read and that inspired this post of mine. Any number of people will tell you that it is a good idea to set yourself some goals and review them from time to time, but I'm crediting Chris with tipping me over the edge. And because I want to get this out sooner rather than later1 and an arbitrary news peg is better than none, I'm pushing to post this before the end of the day, so it may be a little notesy.
For convenience, I'm splitting my life into three aspects, although of course each influences and is influenced by the other two.
Work for money
I quit my salaried job in March, and have not regretted doing so for a single minute. The primary reason was that being part of a small company added a considerable cost overhead that, I felt, was both pricing me out of the market and was not bringing me personally any benefits. Having support staff is great, but in most of my own work for the company, I didn't need to make use of them and for administrative tasks, like time billing and invoicing, it took more effort to follow the company's processes than if I were on my own.
Back, then, to freelancing, which I last left in 2001. The upside is that I am getting quite enough work, charging enough and with a lot less administrative overhead. There are two poles to this. I can work the same amount of time, and earn more than I was, or earn roughly the same and work fewer hours. I'm aiming to do the latter, to gain more time for work for fun, but the ups and downs mean that I'm not sure yet whether I am succeeding. It feels as if I am.
Much of my freelance work flows from people and organisations I knew before. That's good; they trust me to deliver. Some of it is entirely new, and I'd like to snag one or two additional new clients. On both counts, I need to do some window-dressing, which leads to my goals for 2016:
- Decide what it is that I do, as a single proposition. I'm nearly there but need to take it on a bit. And then,
- Create a website as a portfolio that somehow treads the fine line between showing people what I have done without blowing my trumpet too freely and without reason.
Work for fun
I've never felt comfortable with the idea of work being one thing and leisure another completely. That's why I have chosen to split things, perhaps a little archly, into work for money and work for fun, and why I am also very comfortable saying that if work isn't at least a little fun and satisfying in itself, no amount of money can make it worthwhile. The crux is the purpose, that word "for". If I did no work for money, I would not be able to pay the rent or eat, and if the work for fun brought in some money, that would be great. But I am also realistic enough to know that I need both kinds of work in my life.
The great thrill of the year was to be nominated for a James Beard Foundation award for Eat This Podcast. It was unexpected, at least to the extent that although I entered the podcast, I honestly had no expectation of being nominated. I did it mostly to try and put the podcast in front of more people. And it was tremendously exciting to go to New York for a couple of days to attend the awards dinner, even though it cost an arm and a leg and most of The Main Squeeze's accumulated air miles. I didn't actually win, which was a disappointment of course, but just to be there at all was more than I could take in.
There was an immediate effect on listener numbers, at least as far as one can trust the numbers, and although the numbers have fallen back down again, I think they are still higher than they were before the JBFA nomination. One regret is that I did not make enough use of the nomination in my efforts to market the show. It did prompt me to create a newsletter, which I now put out regularly in the week between show epsiodes, and that has been well received too. But any dreams I might have had, of a giant podcast network calling up to turn fun directly into money, remain just dreams.
Something else I did for fun was to spend part of almost every day in August researching and recording a short audio piece about chickens, as my contribution to the Dog Days of Podcasting challenge. That provoked quite a lot of interest from friends on social media and other dog days podcasters, and leads to my work-for-fun goals for 2016:
- Make an effort to write something substantial about chickens.
- Make four episodes of Eat This Podcast that take a more complex approach to a topic.
- Get to grips with marketing, without a doubt my main weakness.
Other things during the year were great fun, and produced some work. Visits to Amsterdam, Puerto Rico and Ireland (twice) let me record interesting things, and the final visit to Ireland pushed me over the edge to making Pick of the Podcasts a reality that will launch very early in 2016.
And then there's not work, which is what's left of life, which is everything, because without it none of the rest would be worthwhile. Once again, I am so thankful for The Main Squeeze. She supports me in everything and is my best friend and constant companion. I could not ask for more.
Other friends too have been supportive, not least on ADN, the social network for the rest of us. People of all stripes have been telling us how dead it is, or marvelling that it is still limping along, but for those of us there, this always comes as news. And I suspect we'll use it until we cannot use it any longer. I'm actually starting to get a little anxious about that, but try not to think about it too much. I believe various people have various things planned, and I just have to hope that when the rupture comes, I'm among the chosen. Goals for not work remain much as they ever were -- to just do it well. But, to get a little bit more specific:
- I really need to up my Italian a notch. I just don't know how.
- I'd like to start, and maybe even finish, a really long walk. Current front runner is La Via di Francesco, from Verna up in Tuscany to St Peter's in Rome, which my guidebook reckons takes 22 days.
Without a doubt the biggest single mistake I made in 2015, the product of hubris and haste, was to do a clean install of El Capitan, the latest version of OSX, on my iMac. I'd become increasingly fed up with bits and pieces that just didn't work and with all the cruft that accumulates over more than a decade without cleaning up properly, so I jumped in, and immediately landed myself in all sorts of trouble. I'm not out of the woods yet, but I can see an end to the pain. Next time I'll know: it needs a lot more preparation,. But then, maybe next time the software will know how to clean up after itself.
The upside is that I also discovered and started working with a new platform for this website. Lots of antique posts remain to be transferred, but I have really enjoyed getting to grips with a new system, learning and refreshing my knowledge and getting things done.
In the end, that's the thing I enjoy most about work for money, work for fun and life: learning stuff and making things work. In 2016, I plan to continue doing just that, but with a few clear goals against which to assess myself.
One of the things I really need to overcome is my tendency to leave things to the last minute. I am determined to do that. Starting tomorrow. ↩
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