I come from a working family. My dad’s side of the family were almost all employed by the railroad; My mom’s side almost all employed (at one point or another) by Paramount Studios. The word “work,” to me, means spending time doing something, and ending up with a product you can point to and say, “that’s what I did.”
Until recently, I was happy to answer questions and do research for clients whose projects I was working on. It didn’t seem like a huge deal, until I spent an entire afternoon writing an email suggesting hosting options for a client’s web application.
Analysis is almost as important as the work itself. Analysis before, during, and after a project is completed are all equally valuable: Stopping for a second to consider your direction of travel is usually a good thing. While the value of analysis is clear to clients, it turns out that it wasn’t clear to me.
Writing that email, I didn’t think to check the time, or even bill for what I was doing. I’ll just answer this question real quick, it’ll just be five or ten minutes. I enjoy solving problems, and coming up with plans, so perhaps I don’t notice the passing of time quite as easily as with other tasks.
Later, when a (different) client specifically asked for some research on a specific topic — for pay — I was a bit worried. What end product would I provide to her? It was clear she didn’t want anything terribly formal. A report or a PowerPoint would have been overkill. I felt weird about just replying with only an email, so I included a simple chart and some links that I turned up. It turned out to be exactly what she needed.
This is one of the many reasons I love my clients. I never thought of being paid to think, but perhaps it’s something I could get used to.