When you’re an employee, you’re paid for working 52 weeks a year, and in many European countries you get about 4 weeks off, plus national holidays. You’re paid for those holidays, which is great, so the challenge is being able to switch off and not think about work when you’re on a well-earned holiday.

Nothing new there of course. When you’re working for yourself, in a consulting capacity, you can only charge for the time you’re spending on a customer’s work. When you’re not working, you’re not earning. You surrender a good deal of certainty, benefits and a regular monthly cheque for a good deal of flexibility.

I’ve been working in a consulting or contracting capacity for something like 6 out of the last 30 years, but, tellingly I suppose, 6 out of the last 15, and exclusively the last 4-plus years.

I should be used to the ebbs and flows of the consulting life, and I am, mostly. Except that when I have periods of not earning, I find myself worrying more, and the worry increases proportionately to the length of the period of not earning. This is an interesting dynamic when you’re working on a speculative project, like a pitch for work, or an idea for a new business, or book and so on. There’s an opportunity cost to choosing to spend your critical time on a non-paying project, which might turn out to be a pipe dream, over both a paid project and a proposal for a project. You’re not getting paid for the work you’re doing, but you are investing your time in the hope of a decent return. Still, it can sometimes make you feel uncertain, and makes you examine a bit more carefully your choices of what you choose to spend time on.

I don’t know about you, but it makes me very conscious of not wasting these non-earning days. I want to make them productive, because in effect I’m sacrificing income. Conversely, when I elect to take the day as a day off, I make sure to treat it as a day off, as if I was an employee.

Doesn’t always work though…

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