I am BARRY HESS > Blog

One Year on the Lam From the Expected

Today is the one-year anniversary of me stepping out on my own. Frankly, it blows my mind that it has already been a year. What a leap I took! I’m nothing but happy with the decision, even if I’m not exactly where I hoped to be at the one-year mark.

I’m proud to say I’ve spent all of my time doing work from the two top items on the list of goals I published last February. Number two on my prioritized work list was “Work on an interesting product for another organization.” In September I was able to do a few weeks of work in helping launch TurfWar, a Minnesota-based fantasy football startup. Unfortunately TurfWar had to close up shop early this football season, but hopefully they’ll be back again in 2008.

A large majority of my work in 2007 was done for Iridesco, a great design studio in New York City. I believe I ran into the Iridesco job posting at rubynow.com. A month passed before I received a response from them. I was impressed with what I knew of their little app that could, Harvest. Iridesco wasn’t looking for someone to work on Harvest, but rather work with their shortlist of clients.

This was a fine way to start out, and I put in a half-time schedule with Iridesco from March to August. We did some Radiant work for Teachers & Writers Collaborative, an excellent literary arts education organization. I’m proud of the time I spent improving and enhaning the AFS Intercultural Programs web site. Iridesco built an expansive content management system for AFS, and we made a lot of great improvements for them in 2007.

In September, Iridesco and I stepped up our relationship with the release of The World Clock Project. I’ll admit, this web site is clearly a feat of design, and not necessarily programming. But I’m happy to have helped deliver the site in around a couple of weeks. Gotta love Ruby on Rails! In any case, if you have some interesting clock photos, please contribute!

I had been patiently waiting for seven months when I began working on Harvest in October. We have an amazing team of four working on Harvest now. It boggles my mind what can be accomplished with such a small group these days. I’ve been involved in some useful enhancements to Harvest, and even some big-time changes. The future is bright for Harvest and Iridesco - I’m thankful to be a part of it.

Above I linked to a long-ago published work-priority list. If you remember, number one on that list was “Work on my own projects.” I must admit that I’ve neglected this goal. Well, I’ve certainly covered one important project - family. In the time before my jump to the corporate world, I was pulling double-duty. While working the 40-hour gig, I was learning, learning, learning to jump. All the while I was neglecting the family a little more than I’d prefer.

The past year has found me reveling in the return of that block of after-hours time. I couldn’t help but feel 45-hours per week were enough. As a freelancer, the amount of time spent on job-like activities always outweighs billable hours by a decent margin. I’ve struggled with fitting personal projects into the schedule, and I’ll admit Scrawlers has suffered from the situation. Scrawlers now has a kick-ass blog to go with a flagging site. I’d like to improve that balance.

I hope to remedy this situation over the next few months, but I make no promises. I still somewhat believe that work spent now on such high-equity projects will eventually pay off in vast swaths of time reclaimed down the road. Yet in these formative kids-at-home-all-day years, it’s kind of hard to justify the lost time. I’ve waited this long and maybe it would be best to get the kids into school before I dip all of my appendages in the water?

So The Next Year of Freelance will see me trying to solve this time-allocation problem. Hopefully I can harness the past year of experience into shorter idea-to-implementation spans, and thus a more varied amount of work. But I’m not going to stress over the situation. It’s a great bind to be in, I think. Onward and upward!