Sunday, July 16, 2017

Three weeks in review, three weeks in view

It has been a busy but pretty good three weeks here since I last took stock on 25 June. This period has straddled both the winter school holidays and my 10 day leave period from work, so activities have been somewhat atypical, but in a pretty positive way.

The next three weeks encompasses the two-week stay of our Japanese exchange student, which should be fun but probably also quite tiring. Indeed, after she returns home, we are then immediately into Stargate convention, a heavy work period, and less than a month away from our Sydney trip. Life has wings!

IN REVIEW  (26 June - 16 July)
- School holidays for kids and 10 days leave for me
- OzComicCon (1-2 July)
- Grandparent holidays for all three kids
- 4 days away on Mornington Peninsula with family friends
- Gymnastics day program for 8 year old
- Bounce! trip with friends for 12 and 8 year olds
- First ever sleepover birthday at a friend's house for 8 year old
- Ice skating for 12 year old and friend
- Catch up with our Mothers Group friends
- 6.5 x paid work days for me (2.5 in week of 26 June, 4 in week of 10 July)
- Commenced big new project (work)
- Sold a poem for journal publication!! (This was the most exciting thing I think)
- Online Book Club (26 June) which discussed the wonderful Their Brilliant Careers
- Got my hair coloured (this is an annual event only, thus worth noting :-)

IN VIEW  (17 July - 6 August)
- Exchange student coming to stay: 23 July - 5 August. While she is here we will be taking her to Werribee Zoo, the Dandenongs, the beach, and (at her request) ice skating!
- Eldest's 14th birthday dinner  (4 August)
- The usual extracurriculars each week: gymnastics, jujitsu, chess, skating
- Next interschool debate for eldest
- Cardiologist appt for me regarding my increasingly troublesome heart arythmmia
- 2 x lunches with friends (at this stage! This number may grow :-)
- Approximately 11-12 days of paid work across three projects  (could be as low as 10 or as high as 14 depending)
- Submit 2 more poems for publication and / or competitions
- Next Online Book Club  (19 July) discussing Roxane Gay's Hunger
- REALLY get passport applications done!!!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Cape Schanck

Yesterday we took our three kids and a friend's two to Cape Schanck to see the Lighthouse, Museum and do the walk down to Pebble Beach.

We haven't been to Cape Schanck since our elder two daughters were 3.5 and 2 (they are now about to turn 14 and just turned 12!), but it was oddly reassuring to see how little it has changed in the elapsed decade, and how accurate my visual memories are of our previous visit.

I sometimes worry that my memory is going a bit funky, but at least the long term portion seems reasonably intact.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

McClelland Sculpture Park

It is winter school holidays here, and today we went to the McClelland Sculpture Park in Langwarrin. We had never been before, but it was very interesting indeed. Here are some of the better shots.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Heart (Poem)

this is how it is:
sometimes my heart beats a sideways tattoo
and death feels closer than the window
the moon shining through, penny-bright

like this:
the pressure and the tingling
breathing swallowed and shallowed

the headcanon of my life rewriting itself
she died relatively young, but then
she was never the most robust

we might all be made of stars, but if that's so
it is a difficult and distant aging dwarf swimming in my blood
a stranger to earth and strong lovely things

this is how it is.
no long years at my feet, or so it feels
the journey into the west before me,
the path lost in the night.

I have a heart and my heart is broken
and that is the only true thing
it is broken and it may never be healed
no one lives on beyond their heart's strength

and all my words
all my pale, idiotic grasping
all my loving and all the love I am given
cannot fix what is broken
cannot repair that rift or reset that clock

and I close my eyes and dream of impossible things
and ask the angel to open my eyes again
for another day.

- Kathy, 3/07/17

Monday, June 26, 2017

Year Two in Business

Yesterday was the second anniversary of leaving my salaried job and striking out on my own in business as a freelancer. That must mean it's time for a look at how things went this year!

Let's start with some stats.  This year, I have:

- Worked for 4 big clients - 3 universities and 1 state government agency. The balance of the work has been roughly 40% University A, 30% University B, 20% University C, and 10% state government. I think it's pretty conclusive that the tertiary education sector has emerged as my key niche market at this stage of the game.

- Had 9 weeks completely off - a week apiece in the July, September and Easter school holidays, 4 weeks over summer, a week of being bedridden with flu in August, and one week in early September when I had an unexpected mid-project lull and literally no work in. Taking the time from 23 December til 18 January off was FANTASTIC and I hope I can do it like that every year!

- Worked an average of 4 days a week in the 43 weeks I worked (this was unevenly deployed, with a few 10-day-no-break stretches and some weeks with only a couple of working days in them).

- Attended client sites for meetings an average of 1 day a week except in my Monster Quarter, where it was usually 2 days a week.

- Had a very uneven spread of work across the year, with Monster Quarter 2 (Sept-Dec) carrying 35% of the overall year's work while Quarter 3 (Jan-March) carried only 17% (this was largely due to the 4 week break and then slow start back to projects). Quarters 1 and 4 were similar to each other, carrying 25% and 23% respectively each.

- Made use of subcontract labour to deal with overflow work. Using subbies was a new experience, with a significant learning curve, for me, but as I progress in business, it's an absolutely necessary tool to have in your box for those pressured times.

- Out-earned the salary I was on in the fulltime job I left in June 2015 by 10% in gross terms, although in real terms, this isn't true as it doesn't include superannuation (I made a self-contribution of 9% of earnings this year, which left me basically level-pegging). Still, if I'd have stayed in that fulltime job, I would've worked 240 days in the year as opposed to the 172 I actually worked this year, so working 35% less days for the same money strikes me as a good outcome! This represents a growth of 27% on my earnings in 2015-16, and given that I set myself a goal of 5% growth, I think I can safely say I kicked that to the curb.

Overall it has been another good year in less quantifiable terms, although more challenging than Year One (and not just because of the increased workload). I have navigated some complex projects in ways that were ultimately satisfying but caused a few sleepless nights along the way. I am still a lot happier and more free doing this than I was on salary, but the rubber certainly hit the road a lot more firmly this year.

Looking back at this time last year, I note that my goals for year two in business were:

- Save 70% of the Japan holiday money: No, I did not quite do this. I saved enough for the airfares, travel insurance and most accommodation, but that is around 60% of the total cost. Still, I made good inroads!
- Increase earnings by 5%: Kicked it (see above).
- Take at least 8 weeks off, including 4 in the summer: Yes indeeeeed!

So, I'm going to just keep swimming in business in 2017-18. I'm not ruling out an eventual return to some kind of salaried work, but for now, this is what suits me and my family best. My goals for 2017-18 are:

1. Get within 10% of 2016-17 earnings: To be honest, I don't have or want to have a growth goal for earnings in the coming year. I earned plenty for our needs this year, and I think a lot of it was a bit flukey, frankly. I don't want to set myself up to be crushed when it turns out that I can't make more rain this time, in a slowing market for my kind of work. I am continuing with my biggest project through til November and have two more biggish ones coming online in July, but replicating this big year probably isn't fully achievable, especially given the time out I'll be taking in what is traditionally one of the hottest work zones of the year.

2. Take 10 weeks off: This financial year includes our long-anticipated trip to Japan in the first three weeks of April. It's my intention to take 4 weeks off altogether for that - a few days either side of the travel for prep / recovery. I'll also be taking a week each in the July and September school hols, and I really, really want to repeat the 4 weeks off over summer.

3. Try to expand my client base: Ideally I'd like to have 5-7 regular clients, rather than the 3 regular and 1 intermittent I have now. I think it would be a much more stable way to operate. So I'll be trying for that in 2017-18.

Onwards and upwards, then!