When you’ve been testing for a while, you often latch on to a single client who is your main source of employment. They know that you do a good job, and you might have become somewhat of a ‘specialist’ in the areas that concern the client. In some months, 100% of your paycheck might be from hours spent working for this client.
But what happens when your primary client is on hiatus? Let’s say that they might be having a light month, or the work that the client generates comes in cycles, due to the nature of their industry. What do you do at that point, when your cash cow isn’t in the barn?
Well the simple answer is ‘find other work’, but it isn’t that simple in reality, now is it? The reason that certain testers gravitate towards special clients is because those clients pay well, and the tester has a very specialized set of skills. If you find other work, it’s most likely going to be less reliable hours and for less money.
My first piece of advice is: Think like a bear. A bear gathers resources and fattens up during the plentiful months, and is prepared for those lean winters. In your case, don’t spend your contracting money just because you have it. Instead, start pinching pennies and saving money a couple of months before any expected ‘lean’ period. Make sure that you always have a couple months worth of income in a savings account, just in case the well runs dry.
Secondly, when looking at replacement work, err on the side of having too much work rather than too little. For example, if you have the option of picking up a 6 week project to fill your 4 week downtime, take it. Yes, it might mean that you’re working double time for 2 weeks, dropping all social and recreational activities for that period. But take the contract, grit your teeth, and get it done. You need to cover the gap in your income, and you can’t afford to turn a project down because of a short overlap.