Returning to Normal (#10 of 52)

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It’s been a full three weeks since my last weekly update, mostly due to my inability to manage mental bandwidth. Even though I had the time I needed, I kept finding other things to do instead.

The last three weeks have pretty much been a paralysis loop. There’s a project that simply refuses to end – it’s constantly urgent, creating anxiety on two levels: First, that we’re several months overdue, and second, that any time spent working on this means I’m letting work pile up elsewhere.

It’s pretty much the same negative feedback loop from a month ago:

* I have this very important thing to do
* I really don’t want to do this, it’s gotten too difficult
* But I also can’t do anything until I do this
* It’s already 1pm, I need to start
* It’s already 5pm, I’ll have to work this evening
* It’s 2am, I need to push through to the morning
* It’s 4am, I can’t do this anymore
* I woke up late this morning and I have a very important thing to do

The Longest Year Of 2019

On top of that, there was The Great Taxening of 2019. Just over a week ago, for the first time as a company owner, I had to pay my CIT tax (28% of profit) over to SARS. It stung.

I could probably have avoided it if I were a sole proprietor. Even as a registered business, I still have to pay PAYE on my own salary, plus I get taxed on the company profits at the end of the year. The only real benefits I get in return are appearance (having a registered company looks more legit than being a sole proprietor), and I get to save on some taxes by running relevant expenses through the business.

Chances are, the last year has just added up to me hosing myself. If I total up all the taxes and accounting fees, vs what I would have paid without this business, it might have been cheaper to not register one at all. So that’s been a fun line of thought.

On top of that, the amount was enough to dent my runway. The whole reason I worked so hard over the last few months was to build up a large enough cash buffer so that I could start limiting my time spent on consulting, and that payment was quite a setback.

Still, I survived it all the same and am still trading, so I guess there’s that. All I can really do is carry on, which is where I got stuck in the paralysis loop again.

I’ve learned a few new things over the last week, though. It’s been difficult, but there’s been some growth.

First, I’ve learned (and am still practicing) the ability to put things out of my mind and focus. I need that focus on my projects to deliver good work, but I also have to maintain effort on several projects at once to ensure I don’t run out of work, and so it’s a constant tug-of-war.

Despite that, I’ve had some productive stretches in the last few weeks, and they were generally the ones where I had simply decided to stop stressing and focus. Even if that meant missing an opportunity, or being late on responding to something I had committed to. Just the decision to focus alone was enough to make headway.

Next, I really need to increase my rates. When I first set them up, I did some relatively simple math that had me replacing my last full-time salary + the ability to accumulate some buffer every month. While that number has served me well so far, it’s technically undervaluing what I’m actually capable of.

Of course, this is an easier decision to make when you’ve got some experience under your belt (and a little cash in the bank), and this is still all technically part of the plan. I haven’t even finished my first full year of freelancing yet!

Finally, I’m learning more about what really makes me tick. One of my projects has ballooned into something more closely resembling a digital transformation project, and I’ve found myself fully-engaged in the work – combining technical and political experience to help a business level-up their operations.

It’s been a lot of fun (and it means my company website is woefully out of date!), and it’s also helping me solidify a few more things in my life.

One of them (and this has been overdue for a while) is finally letting go of the online communities that were formative in my youth – and are still around today.

I guess it’s difficult to see it today, but I had a fairly isolated existence growing up. Like most children of my generation I wound up online, meeting people and sharing experiences with them, as a substitute for reality (which was oftentimes quite harsh).

I feel like those communities have transformed from safe spaces to explore, to regressive environments where I’m no longer welcome (not that I want to continue participating anyway). About a week ago I finally decided to quit. It feels like I’m breaking a bad habit, which is probably a good sign 🙂

Not much else has happened on the personal front over the last 3 weeks, which is not a great sign. It means most of my time was either absorbed by work, or fretting about work to the extent where I did nothing for myself – this being the problem I have with managing mental bandwidth.

On the plus side, I have a break coming up – two solid weeks off in April, which I’m really looking forward to. It’ll be the first time I take leave as a freelancer, which probably means I’ll end up tinkering on some personal projects – and catching up on my games library.


Despite the hectic work schedule, Odin and myself have continued to produce a weekly podcast. The Noscript Show has had a new episode every Saturday.

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Wogan May

By day, I run a software development agency focused on business tools, process optimization, data integration and automation. By night, I build tools and platforms that serve online creators.

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