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On consulting and focus

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Consulting is an interesting lifestyle. In a “normal” job, you get a paycheck each week. You show up for your job pretty much the same amount of time each week, month after month, year after year. Without putting in a whole lot of thought or effort, you can figure out approximately how much money you’ll bring in next November. You can do that because odds are it will be the same as you brought home in August.

The life of an independent consultant is different. You’ll go through weeks without work, calling contacts, digging through mailing lists, hunting down leads. Those weeks-long dry spells are offset by absolutely crazy, put your entire life on hold, work yourself to the bone periods where you have more work than you can handle. You can go from no current projects to five in the course of a week. You’ll bid on jobs without success seemingly for months and then suddenly every proposal you send out comes back signed.

Other independent consultants I’ve spoken to have agreed that the more work you have, the more you’ll get. Just as it seems that the moment you put on a wedding ring, every woman you meet wants to flirt, the same goes for consulting. As soon as you’re booked, everyone you’ve ever met has an urgent project.

All of this makes it hard to focus on things. I have a number of ongoing, non-client projects, most of which I care passionately about and most of which I have no time to work on. I have a number of Movable Type plugins that are in need of attention. I announced over a year ago my intent to improve MTAmazon but I haven’t writen more than a few lines of code to that end. Zempt is in a limbo state brought on by the fact that Bill Zeller’s student life is consuming his time. My ongoing series of usability articles to date has a single article.

So I’m paring back. I don’t intend to convert any of my MT plugins to PHP to support dynamic rendering. Anyone that wants to do so is welcome to as each plugin is released under the open source MIT license. I’m not going to get to the MTAmazon improvements anytime soon, so anyone that wants to take that over (or any of my other plugins) can let me know. Zempt will have to sit on hold just a bit longer. Bill’s not going to be able to work on it any longer so I’ll have to find a new developer to work with on it. I don’t have the time right now to get someone up to speed on it, so that will have to wait. This is all a case of loving something enough to set it free. Since all of these projects will languish under my care, I’m opening them up to others.

Toby Simmons
September 30, 2004 12:50 PM

Funny thing. I just read your article and was on the verge of asking what I needed to do to get permission to release a new version of Zempt. I have been working with the CVS code for a while now and have fixed (I think) most of the problems that I found with it as well as the problems that were posted at the forum site. There are a few things that I haven't had time to fix yet. You care to see what I've done? Thanks & Cheers, Toby

This discussion has been closed.

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