The worst client of all

Consultants, how do you deal with your IT needs? Do you schedule time for yourself, as if you were a client? Let us know in the discussion.

TechRepublic member Bob Eisenhardt (reisen55) sent me an email in which he complained about his worst client EVER. This client demands a lot of time and immediate attention on urgent problems, yet never pays a bill. Bob would gladly drop them if he could, but he can't. Why? Because that client is himself.

Bob had a problem with his own network that prevented him from working for his clients. That means he had to drop everything and do some unbillable work instead.

I sympathize with Bob's frustration. It really hurts when I couldn't see it coming. For example, when a software update suddenly breaks things, and I have to figure out what's wrong with that before I can get back to real work.

I'll take that back — it hurts even more when I did see it coming, and I told myself that I should do some preventative work "when I get a free hour or two," which never arrived. That piece of hardware that had been in service for far too long finally drops off the grid and forces me to do something about it right now. I should learn my lesson and schedule that kind of work just as any good consultant would schedule maintenance for their clients. Perhaps I wouldn't be my own worst client if I treated myself like a client, instead of like someone who will never have a problem except when it's convenient.

The funny thing is that I do allocate time for self-improvement: learning new languages and frameworks, for example. I understand the importance of getting around to that so I can stay relevant. It's just too easy to put off the little nits until they become urgent.

How do you deal with your own IT needs? Do you schedule time for yourself, just as if you were a client? Or do you deal with things as they come up?

They say that doctors make the worst patients. What kind of client are you to your vendors? I like to think that I'm a pretty nice guy, but I have to admit that when, for example, my Internet connection is down for more than 30 minutes, I can get pretty testy with my Service Provider. I find myself saying the same things that the most aggravated clients say:

  • How can you run a business like this?!
  • Is there anyone there who knows what the hell they're doing?!
  • I should bill you for my lost business!

Of course, I could afford to be nicer if I had a backup plan for Internet outages. Back in the days when Internet access speed was less than a megabit, I kept a dial-up account for such emergencies. These days, that wouldn't help much. So I don't know what I could do to lessen the impact of that. ISPs must frequently find themselves on the critical path these days. How do you go about backing up that link, and any others on which your business depends?


Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

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