Monday, April 30, 2007

The Work I Want to Love

MathAs I have continued in my journey as a sole proprietor and business owner, I'm trying to do more than just get the work, get it done, and get paid. I'm also observing myself. I want to know what parts of the business excite me. What makes me love what I do? What areas should I focus on? For what parts should I find a good subcontractor to help me out?

A while back, I started on a project with a local cello teacher, Suzanne Smith. She has a cello school called cellochan and she wanted some help setting up her website. Now, I've done some of this stuff before, but this is the first time I've gone solo on such a project. Despite that, we are making real progress with the site. Suzanne is a lot of fun and has a great artistic and creative talent (as one would expect from someone working in the arts).

The personal challenge I am running into is that the work is "squishy".

Let me explain. When I was in school, I loved the "hard" sciences and math. Every question you could ask had a hard answer. If you found that answer, you were right. If not, you were wrong. The subjects had very little in the way of gray areas. By the same token, the humanities and "soft" sciences always plagued me because the answers were much more subjective (or so it seemed to me). With a math problem, you could always work it backward to make sure you got it right. The same process didn't work so well with an English essay.

I've noticed that my work tends to fall into similar categories. Most of the web applications I help develop tend to fall into the "right or wrong" category. Either the system works or it doesn't. Oh, some minor details about user expectations can introduce a small amount of "gray" to the equation, but for the most part, it's either one or the other. Ironically, these projects tend to go quickly for me. Witness the recent MVCA project -- three weeks from initial meeting to final deliverable.

The cellochan project, on the other hand, is full of gray. Most of the work to date has been designing the user interface. It's all about images and color and fonts. It's about wording and formatting and layout. Each person involved in the process has different ideas on what looks right and what will work for the end user. While it can be an enjoyable process -- I do love working with creative people -- it is also time consuming and can be frustrating. It's kind of hard to back-check my answers to make sure I'm right!

So, what's the upshot?

I guess I continue on as I have been for now. I can't judge all of my future business on a single data point. Still, I will be on the lookout for projects which allow me to do those things for which I am particularly suited -- online databases, membership directories, and other similar applications, and the administrative facilities to support them all. This means, too, that I may have to refine my target market a bit, too.

Of course, this is all part of the fun of being a business owner, right?

So, what, if any, aspects of your job have you discovered that you may have to avoid even though they might be enjoyable?

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