Well that didn’t take long. I’m barely into my 3rd week and already starting to feel the squeeze of competing responsibilities. I had a great post lined up for today talking about some of the pros and cons of different business structures but I think it would be more truthful to just pause for a week and be honest about how tough this is.
Preface: I absolutely hate admitting weakness, so this is not the easiest thing for me to do. I want to appear bulletproof and heroic, taking on any challenge. But if this trail of posts is supposed to help anyone who follows the same path, I need to share honestly rather than just the image my ego wants to present.
I wrote recently about how several contracts lined up and allowed me to leave McKinney. So far those jobs are amazing but include a surprisingly different emotional burden than I anticipated. It’s one thing to be part of a company and work with production. You are in all the meetings, know all the history, and have a rapport with the team in a way that allows you to be more comfortable making suggestions and trying to change processes. Coming in as an outsider/consultant/contractor, there is a huge amount of information to digest in an incredibly short amount of time. I went straight from McKinney to contracting with a local company in their offices to help provide some extra production/organization support. The first week was like drinking from a firehose – trying to absorb every project, every deliverable, and every stakeholder. It’s not like I get to come in at the beginning of these projects and slowly integrate with the team, I have to find a way to be useful and jump onto the moving train as quickly as possible.
On top of that, there’s a different internal pressure I set up for myself where I want to be 100% perfect for the people I’m working with. Of course everyone wants to do well at their job but when you’re fully employed, there’s a different mental safety net knowing that you’ve been selected as a long term asset to the company. As a contractor, there’s always a creeping sense that a single slip up will end the job. Thankfully all the teams I’m working with are absolutely amazing and I’m sure wouldn’t be that trigger happy, but I still can’t shake the feeling in the back of my head that I’m one screw up away from losing work.
Leading up to the transition, a good friend and local business owner warned me that my biggest challenge would be figuring out where to draw the line on taking on extra work. I heard him and theoretically understood him but I’m starting to see first hand just how tough that is. I want to be superman for everyone who comes and asks for help. Just the idea that someone wants your input is an amazing feeling and it’s incredibly hard to say no. Currently that has equated to my taking on about 60 hrs/wk of pure contract work (and no time for my game yet). I’m keeping up but just barely and have already had to write an incredibly tough email to one client letting them know I couldn’t take on extra work (which I hated doing with every fiber of my being).
Most importantly, I’m trying to figure out how to balance family time with work time. I have an amazing wife and she is incredibly supportive in this venture. Despite her amazing effort to give me time, I can’t help but feel like I’m taking advantage of a situation and leaving her with the short end of the stick. I don’t want to be an absent husband or father and I need to find a healthy balance of stretching ourselves out of a comfort zone vs neglecting the most important people in my life. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I have the best contract work if I’m not able to spend time with my family.
So yea, I knew things would be hard but the challenges have taken different forms than I anticipated. I’m not giving up or complaining (I still have to pinch myself every morning when I realize what I get to do for a living), but I do need to make sure I carefully consider each step going forward. I see just how quickly things can get away from you and I don’t want to grind myself or my family into the ground during this time.
Anyone else out there have similar stories or suggestions on how to balance contract work with family time? I’d love to hear more from other folks on how they’ve worked through this.