I've been meaning to put together a proper post on my recovered self-employed existence, but haven't been able to find the time to put together a "proper" post. In lieu of that here's a listicle.

1. Every time I fill out some paperwork asking for my employer, I always replay in my head the Justin Guarini line that "Li'l Sweet is … self-employed".

Hence the random title above.

2. Finances have been good, and I mainly credit that to my Alec Baldwin-inspired time-tracking system, BLAKE. To recap, I've made my billable time tracking much more accessible and it's tracking the number of billable hours logged against an (arbitrary) 2,000 billable hour goal for 2016.

As it turns out, consistently logging 40 hours per week for 50 weeks in a year is pretty tricky in this business. The challenge isn't finding work to fill that bucket, it's managing time and mental energy while doing client work AND laying the foundation for the business's direction for the next few years.

Earlier this summer, I implemented a "ghost car" for tracking the current pace I should be keeping to hit that goal on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis. Since I haven't logged any billable hours for the new month of August, I'm 2.14 hours behind for the month. Our trip to New Mexico took away some working time, so I'm 38.27 hours behind for the quarter (starting July 1), and I'm 153.4 hours behind pace for the year. That includes the Q3 deficit of 38.27 hours thus far, as well as a 115.13 hour deficit for the first two quarters of 2016 (some billing issues in April and a May trip to teach New Mexico 8th graders how to build robots are the largest contributors to that deficit).

The start of a new week...
The start of a new week...

Mentally, I'm challenged by how much to weigh those numbers against my own internal mental state and overall feelings of accomplishment. The overall folklore advice I've seen for consulting is to plan for 1000 billable hours per year (with the other time spent on client development and business management) and I passed that benchmark last week. However, I still fight each week to try and first pass that 40-hour mark, and then to go beyond that to whittle away at the overall deficit.

In 2017, it's likely that I'll change the benchmarks to something below 2000 hours for the year, but I'm keeping the pace the same for 2016 so that I have an actual figure derived from real data that should be a good measure of my total available productive capacity for a year.

3. In the chase for 40 hours each week, I'm ending each day pretty much exhausted. Outside of travel and vacation days, I can think of one evening where I've had some excess energy to go out and do something extra. Of course, everyone was away and travelling that weekend…

That said, I'm still making time to head out to the movies and catch the latest summer releases. This overall pace isn't sustainable or healthy heading into next year, but as mentioned above, it will be nice to have the data that indicates if I go all-out how the financial picture looks and I can dial back from there "purchase" a better work-life balance.

4. Demand for client work has been sufficiently strong that I haven't actively had to go out and solicit business. My pipeline is healthy enough that I can easily fill the 2000 hour bucket, with plenty left over. A lot of this demand has been in the healthcare space, so the investment I've been making in becoming a fully-equipped software development Business Associate is paying off nicely. About three-quarters of my business falls under the health care umbrella. Given the regulatory headache it can be to get to this place, this will be a nice little moat around this enterprise that should generate a sustainable amount of good client work.

5. Client work has been so strong that I haven't been able to put as much time as I would like to internal projects. At the moment, there are two major active internal projects at Audacious Software: developing and releasing Passive Data Kit, and relaunching Fresh Comics into a directly monetizable property.

Passive Data Kit has gotten a lot of attention by virtue of being the foundation for most of my healthcare project work. It's implemented in several iOS and Android apps, and the backend is developing nicely through a non-healthcare research project. The main issue at the moment is that the framework is useful and valuable internally, but I haven't had the bandwidth to put in the work to get it documented with examples for third-party use as I was hoping to finish by this time. The good news is that it seems like it's far enough along that it's generating some client interest within my working network (without the public release). I have two conference calls this week about new projects that could use the framework.

On the Fresh Comics front, I successfully relaunched the iOS app back in June and the Android app is about 80% complete. I've switched the app over to a sponsorship/advertising model and the most of the technical infrastructure is in place for that. (It's already deployed in the public iOS app with some volunteer sponsors.) I need to get the Android app wrapped up and out on the app store and finish up the reports that will be part of the sponsorship package and relaunch the website. I'm hoping that I can make some solid progress on this front before Wizard World comes to Chicago later this month and I start hitting up potential sponsors.

An additional note on the Fresh Comics work: If I can relaunch and spark sponsor interest this fall, the proceeds from that effort can be used to "pay off" the 2016 hourly deficit, so while work on this project doesn't count towards billable hours now, I'm eager to wrap up the development work and go into more of a sales mode as a way of recouping my time spent thus far. I'm staying conservative in my outlook about its monetization potential (this is why Fresh Comics work doesn't count toward the 2016 goal by itself), but I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

6. Keeping baseball on while working has been a surprisingly good lifehack. It's not demanding enough to require constant attention, the announcers are good enough for me to follow audibly, and long games like last night's Cubs/Mariners matchup provide an extra incentive to keep working until the game finishes up. Now, if MLB will fix their blackout rules so I don't have to be sneaky and trick MLB.tv with a false location, I'd be set.


Given that my billable hours ghost car is racing ahead, that's about all that I have for now. Thanks for the support and I look forward to posting updates in a few more months (if my current pace is any indication).

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