I was reading the back page of The Sunday Times this morning an article by Luke Johnson of Pizza Express fame (though that description doesnt do justice to this serial entrepreneur and business investor). Todays article was about how to get rich quick. Interesting, I thought, as it made me think of all the people I know who have exactly the opposite wish for their lives.
I am talking about freelancers, especially designers, editors and cameramen, who sometimes have that terrible problem ¦ having too much work. And, yes, that can be a problem.
Lifestyle, not riches
People become self-employed for a variety of reasons. It might be forced upon them, for example by redundancy or the company that employs them going into receivership. It might be a lifestyle choice to balance work with leisure, or a wish to live in a different location to avoid commuting, or it might be to work differently or to combine work with bringing up children.
None of them is in the get rich quick category. None of them wants to set up multinational businesses. However, their working lives as freelancers often need as much planning as do those of people leading small to medium or even big businesses.
No lack of talent
A lot of freelancers are very talented, perhaps even at the top of their class, but for perfectly valid reasons decide they dont want to conform with the corporate world or the get rich quick category. They go solo and, as I mentioned, can find that the phone doesnt stop ringing. Why? Because they are good. And because they have a conscience which is half the reason why they chose to move out of the rat race. Their problem is that their commissions are rather like London buses: none for ages then several come all at once.
Suddenly you have to manage everyone elses timelines when all you want to do is work a 25-hour week and take home £25k to £30k a year. Or you want to work full-time but without the problems associated with employing people to help you manage your excess workload.
Plan it, write it
Well, heres my advice, and I may not be right but I dont believe you can go very wrong if you have a plan. It may be planning your time, your hours, or your income but, whichever, you need to be very clear on this: how you will achieve what you want. If your wish is to work 25 hours a week and earn £25k, work out what you need to do achieve that. If you want to work full-time, have clear expectations of what you want to earn. Many freelancers believe that having a mental plan is enough. Then they discover how easy it is to argue with themselves, to make mental adjustments to their mental plan from month to month, week to week, perhaps minute to minute. A written plan is clearer and harder to argue with.
Which job and why?
First, categorise your jobs. Work out which of the types of job you do gives you the best return, which are repeat jobs from clients you want to nurture, and which are one-offs. You need to end up with the perfect supply-demand equation when your pricing depends on how much you really want the job. For example, if you have a choice between a regular retaining project and a one-off tricky job then price high on the one-off tricky proposition. Why? Because time is a precious commodity: you have limited time so marginal time has a higher value.
If three jobs come in at once, work out which is more long-term; which might add better value to your own proposition; and which one can wait. Then make sure all your communications are clear and explicit. All customers respect clear, honest communication so dont be frightened to say, actually, I cant do your job until next month. You might lose that job but it might also be that you wouldnt have had the time to do it and letting down the client by not meeting the deadline is worse than turning down the job. The choice then becomes theirs and it is remarkable how many will wait. It might also be that you would have become over-stressed trying to juggle too many jobs and end up more stressed than you were when fully employed.
Have back up (but not employees)
Next try to forge some good alliances. You are likely to be asked for work that might not be your forte or that you cant fit in. It is then that having someone you know well, and who works in the same way, can give you a huge advantage because you can refer them. Yes maybe without any benefit to you, but the client will remember that you have done them a favour and the referral will definitely remember you and, in a perfect world, refer back to you.
Employing people should be the last resort. People who have opted for a lifestyle change are likely to struggle because management is time-consuming (it involves a lot of training) and you are likely to find yourself back in the world of stress and worry that you are trying to keep well away from.
In summary, make a plan. Understand your reasoning, allocate your time, communicate clearly, build alliances and dont start employing people. If you can stick to all of these I can almost guarantee you will achieve your goals.
If you would like to know more about good business practice then email me at email@example.com or see our website to read the other articles in this series: www.azule.co.uk