The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 - a tricky balancing act

It's nearly the end of the year, so time for a bit of a look back over the past 12 months. Back in January, my only resolution was to smooth out my workflow and to end the cycle of patches of overwork that made my RSI flare up, followed by enforced time off to recover. In some ways, I've been successful, but I certainly haven't cracked it completely.

I've made a conscious decision this year to only take on one project at a time, to avoid things piling up and getting too much. I've turned down anything that might overlap and lead to my schedule getting clogged up. And to the extent that it's been an almost pain-free year, it's worked - hooray!! I've always known that my RSI was very directly linked to the amount of time I spent at my desk, but this year's really proved that less work quite simply equals less pain. In some ways, it's a lovely simple solution to the problem, but ...

Like most freelancers, I've always kept a constant flow of work by taking on several projects and juggling my time. So switching to one thing at a time was a bit of a risk. It leaves you particularly vulnerable to the delays which seem to be inevitable in any publishing project. Whereas you'd usually fill in by doing something else while you're waiting, I've found myself with lots of gaps during which I'm twiddling my thumbs, getting bored and restless. Whilst I've had work "on the go" through most of the year, there's been a huge amount of down time while I've been waiting for stuff to come through that's always later than promised. I've become particularly sensitive to delays to start dates, waiting for feedback or the next part of something to be sent through, and in one especially disastrous case, a whole project being put on hold altogether halfway through!

Ignoring weekends and planned holidays, I've had a total of 40 work-free days in 2011 - that's 8 working weeks!! And it's no fun - I spent those days bored and restless, constantly checking my email and worrying that the next payment was going to get pushed on another month, leaving me with nothing in the bank to pay the rent. Totting it up, I've actually only earned about a thousand pounds less in 2011 than I did in 2010, but taking into account that working limited hours, I don't earn much in the best of years, that's still a drop I could do without.

I'm hoping that for 2012 I can try and nudge things back a bit the other way, taking on a bit more and allowing a bit of overlap, but without overdoing it. That is, of course, easier said than done when what comes along and when is out of your hands!

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