Feeling Overwhelmed?

Join the club.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed. It isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. But it is bothersome — an uncomfortable feeling that makes me question everything about my life.

I’ve made some serious personal decisions recently that are likely to rock my world over the coming months. This is a stressful situation that’s not made any easier by the lack of support by friends and family members. I’m going it alone — as I so often do — and it’s weighing heavily on my mind.

But the feeling of being overwhelmed is primarily due to my workload. As a freelancer, I work when there’s work to do. When there isn’t work to do, I’m usually waiting for or looking for more work. Sometimes I need to make work. Other times, work appears unexpectedly — even when I don’t want it or have time for it. But I have to do it all — to turn down work is to possibly miss out on future work.

Such is the life of a freelancer.

Right now, I’m working on four content creation (writing, video, etc.) projects:

  • Book CoverFinishing up a special iBooks 2 interactive edition of my iBooks Author book. This requires me to record and edit dozens of screencast videos and completely re-layout the book in iBooks Author. The good news: I might be able to finish up today. That is, if Alex the Bird can keep quiet and the landscapers don’t spend much time blowing leaves outside my window. And the neighbor’s dog doesn’t bark nonstop for an hour. Again.
  • Lynda LogoPrepare scripts for a revision of my Twitter Essential Training course on Lynda.com. We’ll be recording this course soon and I want to be fully prepared before I fly out to Lynda to record. And my new producer, wants to see the scripts, too.
  • An aerial photography book. I began writing this last year and have put it aside repeatedly because I need artwork and photos that I can’t produce on my own. I suspect it’ll have to wait until this summer to finish up.
  • A book of helicopter pilot stories. I’m collecting these stories from other pilots and plan to compile them in a book for release later this spring. As I get more and more bogged down with other things, however, the self-imposed deadline keeps slipping. I suspect this will be finished up when I get to Washington, too.

Of course, with Mac OS X Mountain Lion announced, I know what I’ll be doing first when I get to Washington: Revising my Mac OS X Lion book for the new version of the OS. Oh, yeah — and then there’s the videos and Websites I’ve been asked to create for a handful of winemakers up there.

It’s not just writing work and the occasional helicopter flight that’s stacked up before me. It’s all the paperwork that goes with it.

I have two separate businesses, each with their own bank accounts and accounting records. I don’t have an accountant — hell, I am an accountant; my BBA is in accounting. To hire an accountant would be silly, since I could do that work myself and save a bunch of money. So I do. Or I try to. Often, it just stacks up, waiting for me to get to. I haven’t balanced a bank account in several months. And I’m only partially switched from Quicken (since it no longer works in the current version of Mac OS) to iBank (which I really don’t like). It’ll take days to sort out the accounting mess I face when I get around to it.

And then comes tax time. What a freaking nightmare that is.

And then my annual migration back to Washington. That’s a logistics issue. Find someone to fly up to Washington with me to help cover the flight costs. Do the flight. Catch a commercial flight back to Arizona. Pack the RV, get the truck ready. (Did I mention that I might have to buy a new truck this year, too? And take delivery before the end of April?) Make the 1200-mile drive to the Wenatchee area. Retrieve the helicopter from wherever I left it in Washington. Get my contracts set up for summer work.

Of course, that’s if there is summer work. My clients never want to sign up until after the last frost. There’s a chance I might get to Washington with the helicopter and a frost will wipe out the cherry crop. No need for my services then. Ready to fly but no clients. How do you think this possibility affects my stress levels?

On the flip side, there might be too much work for me to take on by myself. Then I have to scramble and find people who are willing to put their life on hold for 3-6 weeks and wait around for the rain in Washington. I’ve already started collecting possible candidate phone numbers. None of them are happy that they’ll have to wait until May to know whether there might be work for them.

Before I leave Arizona, however, I do have to pack up everything I own that’s in our Phoenix condo in case it’s rented or sold while I’m gone. That’s a whole office full of stuff, as well as clothes and other personal effects. Hell, I haven’t had enough time to unpack the boxes that brought some of this stuff here.

And I did mention that I have to travel to Lynda.com for a week to record a course, right?

And there is the possibility of a very big client needing to fly with me in late March or early April, before I go to Washington. Unfortunately, they can’t pin down a date. Once they do, if I’m not available, I’ll lose that job — and it’s not the kind of job I want to lose.

Along the way, I need to start seriously considering where I’m going to live and what I’m going to do when my work in Washington is done this year. I’ve been wanting to relocate for years. I’m sick of Wickenburg’s small-mindedness and the bullshit politics and greed that have ruined the town. Phoenix is no gem, either — except on February days like yesterday when the temperature hovers in the high 70s and there’s not a cloud in the sky. The personal decisions I’ve made recently give me a good opportunity to make the change. Unfortunately, I don’t know where I want to live. I’m leaning toward Oregon — perhaps in the Portland area — but who knows?

So with all this on my plate and on my mind is it any wonder that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed?

But this is typical in my life — and in the life of most hardworking freelancers and business owners. Things don’t get done by themselves. And if things aren’t done, I start feeling it in the bank account. I don’t know about you, but I like to pay my bills on time and eat.

Guess I’d better get back to work.

13 thoughts on “Feeling Overwhelmed?

  1. I’m sure that there is a 12 step program for workaholism. You need to set aside time to smell the roses (or coffee as the case may be). You will be assigned a “Workaholic Buddy” who you can call 24 hours a day. You will be able to leave a voicemail if he/she is busy working. Good luck.

  2. Hiring an accountant is not silly. Isn’t your free time worth money? Mine is. Hire a bookkeeper and an accountant and get rid of the stress. I use Taryle Accounting, CPA PLLC in Scottsdale, AZ. http://www.tacpas.com/ I have online banking setup for QuickBooks, which makes importing transactions a snap (so I don’t have to enter them manually, just click, click). All I have to do is send TACPAS my QB files, and all my bills and such are online for them to access via DropBox. Tax prep = sign here. I also manage accounts for two companies, plus a third “company file” in QuickBooks for personal/household accounting.

  3. You recently helped me focus and check my priorities, and now it’s my turn. :-)

    You sound really busy, doing things you love and want to do: flying, and writing (in the widest sense, eg including making videos).

    To do things though you need more than just skills and qualifications. You need time and motivation. I assume you’re hiring on pilots, even though you know how to fly, because you can’t be in two places at once.

    Just because you have accounting skills and qualifications doesn’t mean you should do your own accounts. You clearly don’t have time. And while you have the kind of secondary interest of knowing how important it is to get the accounts done, you don’t have the primary interest that you have with flying, for example.

    You’re running 2 businesses, for heaven’s sake! That means you’re more than ‘just’ a pilot and writer, you’re project managing, hiring on people to do work for you, planning, building the business, promoting etc etc.

    You’re also needlessly loading yourself up with the ‘weight’ of needing to get the accounts sorted. That’s bound to make you less efficient and less focused on what you really need and want to do.

    Just hire an accounts person. Use your expertise to make sure things are done correctly and you’re not being scammed.

    After all, your time has a cost. When you’re doing accounts you’re not writing, flying, finding new business. Hire someone whose time is worth less than yours and you’ll be better off all round.

    See what other tasks you don’t need to do either. Maybe you could get a moving company that also packs boxes, for example.

    Step back, and assign tasks based on skills and timing. You do the flying, a moving company packs boxes; you do the writing, a bookkeeper gets your accounts in order.

    BTW: you say you don’t like iBank. Take a look at http://www.xero.com . It started in NZ and is now in the US. It’s superb – I’ve been using it for several years now.

    Oh, and remember your virtual friends who may offer support where others don’t. :-)

  4. Thanks everybody for your support and suggestions.

    Please don’t think I work like this all the time. I don’t — although since publishing has taken a nosedive, it’s become necessary to work on more projects than ever before. Understand that I need to maintain a certain minimum income level — as most people do — as well as bank some excess for the times when things really dry up.

    As far as hiring an accountant/bookkeeper, it really isn’t such an enormous deal to do it myself. This switch from Quicken to iBank has really knocked me for a loop because my files didn’t transfer as nicely as they should have and I need to reconcile back at least a year to see why there are differences in the account balances. I’ve been putting that off for months now, which really wasn’t a good idea. The learning curve is what’s killing me. I’ve used Quicken since the 1980s (for Pete’s sake!) and iBank is different enough to slow me down. Switching to yet another bookkeeping package would only make things worse at this point.

    Understand that I’m a real believer in Franklin’s adage, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” If I had to put an accountant on retainer for $200 or $300 (or more?) a month, that’s money out of my pocket. I have that money now, but with things changing here, who’s to say I’ll have it in six months? What happens then? Once I sign up with a bookkeeper, I have to keep him/her. I pride myself on running a really low-overhead operation that keeps me flexible and ensures there’s cash around for when I need it to cover emergency expenses and unexpected marketing costs. It would be very difficult to change that mode of operation — especially given the amount of orientation time I’d have to spend with an accountant just to get him/her up to speed on my setup.

    And do remember that when the work is done, I play just as hard as I work. I goofed off for most of November and December. I’d like to goof off with a month-long trip to Australia and possibly New Zealand next year at the same time. But in order to take that time off, I have to work hard for a while and bank the results.

    So yes, I’m overwhelmed now. But in a few months, I’ll be fine again. And after cherry season, I’ll be in even better shape (provided I get work in Washington).

    I really do appreciate your support. It’s unfortunate that all of my non-virtual friends have all left Wickenburg and the Phoenix area. I have many friends in Washington; I had a long talk with one of them today. I’m looking forward to going back to see them all. And maybe this year, I won’t come back to Arizona when cherry season is over.

    • First of all, I can run Windows on my Mac — and occasionally do — so there’s no reason to buy a PC. Second, the Windows version of Quicken is horrendous bloatware that has a lot of features I neither want nor need. I know this for a fact: I wrote the Official Guide to Quicken for Quicken Press for 11 years. I continued to use the Mac version.

      But thanks for the suggestion.

    • Well, I can’t agree with you there. When I adapted my Quicken for Mac VQS for Quicken Windows many years ago, I converted my stuff to Quicken Home and Business for Windows and would never go back. Because we incorporated and now need to do corporate and personal tax returns, we’ve hired a CPA who kicks ass. And to make life easier for her (and therefore me), I’ve just switched from QuickBooks Mac to QuickBooks Windows for the corporation (had to spend the money on the tri-yearly Intuit obsolescence tax anyway). Actually, I don’t understand why you don’t move to QuickBooks, keep both your businesses in it, and separate the two profit centers with classes.

    • My bank charges an additional fee to import data into QuickBooks. If you can believe that. With two businesses, it’ll cost me $30/month. I don’t think it’s worth it.

      I hate Windows. I really hate Windows.

      I don’t like Quicken for Windows. I know it very well — I wrote the “Official Guide” for Quicken Press for 12 years straight. I stopped writing that book because I hated the software so much. Writing the book was painful to me. I couldn’t even consider using it by choice. Bloatware.

      Frankly, I think the tax situation is completely out of control. Way more complex than it needs to be. It should not be a burden — beyond the obvious financial burden of paying a tax bill — to prepare tax returns.

    • Our taxes didn’t get outside of our abilities until we incorporated, which we needed to do to obtain affordable health insurance.

      We’ve got a relationship with our bank that causes them to waive most fees, including online banking fees. I can do Web Connect into QuickBooks with no fee.

      I don’t get hating operating systems, given what we do. I have to use Windows because most of the installed base for Dreamweaver are on Windows, which is also why most of our screenshots for that book are Windows-based. I’m Mac-centric, but I’ll write about software on any platform that brings in the bucks.

  5. Maria, sorry that you’re feeling overwhelmed — I feel the same way some days, considering the amount of travel I’m doing so far this year. It sucks. But it’s transient.

    Take a moment to breathe, ask for help when you need it… you’ll pull through.

  6. Thanks for your Quicken contribution Maria. I have loved your books – now will need to explore your other works :). Was sad when looking for the new book (The MARIA Book) and found that you weren’t writing them any longer. So “Thank you for your contribution – it did not go unnoticed even though you hate windows”. I can appreciate your decision, but will miss your work! Happy New Year!!

    • Thanks very much, Chris! Although I’m not likely to be writing any more books about Windows programs, I’m not done writing books. And I still do quite a few videos each year for Lynda.com. Maybe you’ll look for me there?

      Thanks again for all the kind words. It really does mean a lot to me.

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