Updated: Jul 1, 2022
Since the government shutdown on December 21, 2018 I've had a hard time explaining to people what the impact is. Living in the DC area, through the longest shutdown in U.S. history, everyone understands that most people who worked for the government were going without pay. A good portion of people also understood that the number of people affected extends beyond government employees to the various contract agencies that work to support the functioning of buildings and agencies.
But I never knew exactly what I ought to say. I don't work for the U.S. government. I work for myself. I own my own business and it's a freelance business and it has natural ebbs and flows. That's completely normal, and I have operating practices to make sure that there aren't disruptions in cash flow during those periods.
But 85% of my client work is directly related to the U.S. government functioning as it should. I work with some private foundation donors, but mostly I help my non-profit clients secure U.S. government funding by developing high quality responses to government solicitations. It's crazy hectic work and I love it.
Before the government shut down, I was poised to start work on a new bid. My client was prepping for the release of an annual funding announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and my contract was all signed and sealed ready to start work as soon as the solicitation dropped.
It never did.
There's no need for a client to be paying me to sit on my hands. So I didn't have anything to bill. Or anything to do. And none of my other clients did either. There was a brief glimpse at a foundation bid, but it didn't fully materialize.
At first I didn't worry, because I'm smart and I don't have cash flow problems and all the previous shut downs have resolved relatively quickly. I figured it'd get delayed by a week or so and then I'd be off and running. No dice.
Instead, I dinked around for a month. Waiting. Working on back-burner projects. Starting on those online training courses I've been thinking about for years. Connecting with clients and others in my network to see what was going on. Then, I got a little depressed. I watched all of Parks and Recreation (my go-to for self-cheering).
Finally, things kicked back into gear. Instead of taking a little over a week off at the holidays, I had spent six weeks not working. That will hurt anyone's cash flow.
I wasn't furloughed. I won't get back pay. I'll spend the year trying to make up the difference. I'm sure I'm not alone.
Here's to a better February.