Mission Impossible (or at least undesirable)


In my technology career, I have had many types of job, but basically they all fall into one of two major areas: development, or support.

Development includes areas such as research, design, programming, integrating, building, testing.

Support involves customer service, responding to “crises”, fixing things that are broken in a hurry, running maintenance tasks and constantly checking the health of a system to make sure things are operating as expected.

Although I am quite good at both, I much prefer the former. Development is calming to me, feeds my soul, is education. It is (mostly) divorced from client freak-outs. It is iterative, thoughtful, and most of all, creative. And support for minor things (fixing someone’s computer, helping them setup email or some program, explaining to them how facebook works, etc) does not stress me out. I do not mind it, and I feel a bit of good karma in helping others.

“Mission critical” support, on the other hand, is something I do not care for at all. Mission critical systems are those wherein any major problem is potentially catastrophic to that business. ┬áIt may be a large company’s email system or website, or a service they offer that paying customers have a right to expect will work flawlessly. I am not a huge fan of mission critical support, because it is highly stressful and people lose their heads and all sense of proportion. I don’t blame them, but it is quite a challenge to remain calm in the face of emails in ALL CAPS with many exclamation points (!!!!), to say nothing of the repeated phone calls and yelling. And I have realized over time that this type of support also brings out the worst in me. I don’t like the person I become towards others when people are screaming about fixing a problem (stat!). I definitely keep my cool much more than in the past, and I doubt that I project the agitation or tension that many people do. Still, on the inside, this type of support causes a greater level of anxiety than I would prefer.

I bring this up because I have recently taken on a client for whom there is a great deal of need for just this type of mission critical support, and I am debating with myself whether the stress is worth it to me. I am blessed at the moment to have a huge amount of work of all kinds, but as a freelancer I know it could all be gone in a few months. Feast or famine, as they say. And because of that, I have a slight aversion to turning down any work when I have it. I think I will continue for a couple more months and see how it goes.


  1. David says:

    The answer isn’t necessarily to avoid the “mission critical” – it is to price it according to the demands it places on you and your business. There is a “premium” to having someone available at a moment’s notice, night or day, to tackle the most important work. I would consider pricing different service types or packages differently.

  2. Stephen says:

    “We have already established what you are, we are merely haggling over price.”