Setting Your Foundations: Build It Right from the Beginning
If you are considering starting a business or going freelance, this first part of this guide is aimed at helping you decide what it is you really want. It may seem a little like daydreaming at times. However, taking time out to think about what it is you really want means you are more likely to get it.
We will be doing a series of exercises to help you do this.
Exercise One: Daring to Dream
This is what I call The Utterly Decadent Vision
I’m going to split your dream down into different areas. What I want you to do is to write down how you’d like your life to be in each of these areas. Think about your possible business or freelance practice as you do. For the sake of simplicity I will refer to a business as one where you pay other people, either as employees or associates. A practice is where you are working alone, as a freelancer or consultant.
Think about how you would like your life to look.
Imagine you have your business or practice up and running and working at the capacity that’s right for you. What would your ideal life be like? Questions to think about are:
- Where would you work?
- With whom, and with how many people?
- Describe the type of office you work in. Is it plush and traditional, or perhaps modern and funky, in a shared space with other businesses with onus on fun and sociability?
- Perhaps you’re not in the office at all, but working alone in a beautiful garden (of course it’s a sunny day!) on your laptop, sipping chamomile tea
Picture it now and write it down.
Let’s have a look at your day to day work life and conjure up just what’s right for you.
- What type of clients are you working with?
- What’s your relationship with them?
- Do you have a small number of clients who have become, in a way, friends?
- Or perhaps you’re working on a large household name with a budget to match?
- How much work are you doing?
- Or perhaps you have moved from doing the work to managing a business and have staff or a team of freelancers to do the actual work for you?
- What pace are you working at?
Do you have anyone else working with you?
- If so, what sort of relationship do you have with your staff? Are you in your own office with a large team of people scheduling in meetings to see you?
- Or maybe you work virtually with staff scattered all over the country?
- Perhaps you’re on your own and relishing the quiet life with the occasional client meeting.
Again, write it all down.
If you are anything like me you’ll love this bit…and the beauty of it is that it’s always changing!
- Outline the sort of technology you are using
- What car are you driving?
- Do you have tech that makes your work life easier?
- What tech skills do you now have?
Exercise Two: Let’s look at the Dark Side
Now what I want you to is to look at your Utterly Decadent Vision as if it belonged to someone else. Imagine that your mate has come to you with this great idea about setting up on their ow. They want to know what you think. They don’t need to hear how fabulous it sounds. What they are asking you to do is to point out the downside of what they have put together. Let’s give you an example.
Helena is a great fan of the old TV series Ally McBeal. Her utterly decadent vision for a marketing company involved large offices with lots of interaction – just like Ally McBeal’s law firm. She imagined a number of small closely-knit teams working together on glamorous clients in the music business.
The Dark Side
The dark side of her vision is that the office would also cost a lot of money. She would need to be bringing in a high minimum of clients just to pay for it and the staff she imagined. This was a scary thought in today’s tough business climate. And, talking of staff, she realised that although she could appoint heads of teams, she would have to play the role of manager and leader of all of them. This was something of which she had no experience.
But the dark side didn’t deter her. Helena realised that she’d quite like a partner to help share the burden of finding these high-paying clients and the role as leader of the company. The music business clients came under scrutiny too. She realised that they would also need to approach larger, more secure clients who in return would help ensure the security of their own business.
So, Helena looked for a partner with experience of managing teams and solid experience in the retail area, who could help bring in higher-paying clients. You might call it a compromise but Helena was happy that she had found a way of making her dream work.
On a different level, Chris was worried that the plan of freelance PR work that he’d put together – a leisurely life where he looked after a handful of quality clients, people that he really enjoyed working with – wouldn’t quite pay the bills or keep his wife happy. His compromise was to launch a press release writing service (which he often subbed out to other freelancers) to keep regular funds coming in. When he’s given his attention to a release, he can get back to focusing on his main clients.
So, what’s the dark side of your dream and how can you get around it?
What I want you to do is look at every wish you’ve made and decide if there is a cost to it and if so, do you want to pay that cost or find another solution?
So, if your dream is to work from home with a small number of clients that’s great, but the cost to you could be:
- Not having a separate place to work and so it’s easier to topple the work life balance
- Possibly being out of touch with what’s happening out there professionally
The next step is asking yourself what can you do about these risks. You could persuade your family that you need to change the guest room into an office. You could also ensure that you visit at least two professional events or meetings a month to keep your finger on the pulse. Finally, you can only accept clients who pay you enough but won’t encroach on your home life.
Hopefully at the end of this you won’t have destroyed your dream, but instead looked at the practical ways that you can ensure that it comes to pass.