Without money, we cannot progress. I was quite candid in my admission that the lack of money was troubling me. Even worse, my Plan B was not working. That was early February (really? God, to me that seems ages ago, not 8 weeks’ ago!!).
Now it’s early April and the money situation is finally beginning to sort itself out.
I will give you some advice now, and this will be particularly for freelancers. If only your income covers your bills, get a part-time job or freelance contracts sorted BEFORE you leave your full-time job. Especially if you haven’t secured large contracts for your main business.
It will take you longer than you think to get work, so don’t worry about whether a part-time job will clash with what you really want to do - it won’t. It’s very likely you will not get that major contract out-of-the-blue from a stranger, who’s only heard of you once. They will want to hear about you many times before handing over thousands of pounds in business.
I wish I had got my Plan B sorted when I left. But then I wanted to enjoy complete and utter freedom and lots of time to get my business moving. My Plan B was - and still is - to do freelance desktop publishing and PowerPoint design work. I did this in my full-time career and enjoyed it, so it made sense - 10 years’ experience, a rack of software knowledge in the bag, how hard could it be?
VERY hard, as it turned out. Three long months it took to get just one recruitment agency to ready my CV properly. I was ignored for so long, I was really getting worried. At one point, I did give up applying and searching for jobs - for about 2 days.
But I kept going and got my 1st freelance DTP job in mid-February. Now I’m registered to seven agencies and have worked for three more clients.
What I’m about to tell you is a classic case of persistence. I’ve emailed most of the agencies I’ve signed with at least three times with my CV. I’ve called them more times than that - each time, a receptionist told me that I couldn’t be put through and a consultant will only talk to me when they deemed me suitable for their role.
I called back, either about the same role or a different one. Why? Because sometimes you can get through to a different consultant - one who actually reads your CV. Sometimes you get a different receptionist, who will put you through because it’s not crazy in the office. And sometimes, you get the same receptionist who recognises your voice and realises you aren’t going to go away anytime soon, so puts you through - in the hope you don’t call her line again.
To us normal, self-employed people, that would seem like borderline harassment of hard-pressed office types who don’t want to be disturbed! But you know what? I need to earn money. The skills I have are worth paying for. And if I think they deserve that, then it’s worth persisting in contacting them.
I can confirm that I have not been slapped with a restraining order by any agency, so the same will apply to you when chasing business. Be polite, be courteous, be patient. Don’t be sarcastic and don’t speak to people as if they owe you. When I was interviewed by the agency that took three months to read my CV, I didn’t bring up that a colleague had seen my CV two months before and rejected me. There was no point. I was there now, I hadn’t gone bankrupt, and I would only have looked petty. Would bringing it up meant that they felt bad and put me up for more work. No, it would not. So I didn’t say anything.
EGGS IN SEVERAL BASKETS
Oh yes, if you’ve noticed, I said I’d registered with seven agencies. A lot, isn’t it? Well, the good thing about reading contracts is that they give you an insight of what it’s really like to work freelance.
An agency is not obliged to give you any work. There will be times when their clients don’t need anyone. So if I relied on my first agency, they could go weeks, sometimes months without any suitable work for me.
Even if they call to say they have a job they could put me forward for, I won’t always get it. The client doesn’t always sign off jobs, they find someone else, the work clashes with a job I’ve already signed up to, or it contains a skillset I don’t have.
So I kept calling until I got registered and tested with seven agencies. I want to get paid work every week. That means keeping in touch with consultants that regularly provide me with work. And that means booking any confirmed jobs as soon as there’s a start date and location.
Another piece of advice - for your main business or Plan B: until someone signs a contract or confirms a date, time, rate and contact name for a job - assume the job or project is NOT confirmed. I put off work because of another job which I thought was confirmed - only to have it put off. Fortunately, another role turned up to make up for any lost income, but I swore I would never be inconvenienced in that way again.
Am I cross with the person who postponed? No - it’s annoying but that happens. Potential clients can change their minds as much as we can.
Which is why you DON’T have all your eggs in one basket. Look for many different clients, then whoever secures you first - wins.