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December 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm #505
(1) Chris and Robert are married to each other and have a coaching business.
She’s a certified coach, a published author, and loves to get out to conferences to network and speak or teach workshops. He runs the “back end” of the business. He loves numbers and quiet and likes to have everything around him organized.
They met when they were both consultants working for a big corporation, and now they’re living their dream of being partners, owning their own business, and doing things their way.
They’re doing pretty well. They live simply but within their means. Sometimes they worry because they haven’t put aside any money for retirement. They shrug and joke that they’ll just have to keep working until one day they keel over at their keyboards.
They purposely headed down this road with the dream of being able to work from anywhere. “Someday” they want to be able to sell their little house and just leave.
They’ll settle down someplace they’ve never been and always wanted to see, and they’ll continue to work as they do now – but their downtime will be their own, to explore and savor their new location for as long as they feel like it. Then they’ll pick up and move somewhere else, maybe just close their eyes and point at a map and go wherever their finger lands. Have a real adventure!
But “someday” doesn’t seem any closer now than it did before they started. They always seem to be working, and because he’s a night person and she’s a morning person, their free time never seems to be at the SAME time. And they have to really make an effort to talk about anything other than their clients and business projects.
They’ve been thinking for awhile that they need to expand their team, find someone reliable they can count on to handle things and keep things running, someone who can take over some of what each of them does so they have more free time, and so they’ll have the luxury of some “off the grid” time that would allow them to pack up and to move, and to explore and enjoy wherever they end up.
They both understand how teams work and understand the benefit of having systems and procedures from their days as consultants. But all that seems kind of silly to spend time on when it’s “just them.”
When they hired VA’s and independent contractors in the past it’s been pretty awful. The contractors were impossible to reach, didn’t do what they said they’d do, didn’t let them know what the status was on their projects so they just had to hope that they would get the promised results in time. And they found them on eLance or oDesk or by asking around on Facebook.
Looking back they realize they didn’t really know going in whether any of the contractors and freelancers were any good or not. And it all took time. It felt like they were saying the same thing over and over and over again – and they still didn’t get what they thought they had very clearly asked for. In the end it just seemed so much easier to just keep doing everything themselves.
But doing everything themselves isn’t getting them any closer to where they want to be.
(2) Amy is a talented VA or web-designer who’s been full-time self-employed for a little over 3 years.
She’s never worked for anyone else. She always knew she wanted the creative freedom of running her own business and working with people who really appreciated her work, instead of a big company that would see her as just another cog in their wheel who was happy doing things “the way we’ve always done them here” without question and not making waves.
She loves her clients and feels that she is really helping them, which is really satisfying most of the time.
And her business is doing OK. She has a team of contractors that help her when she gets really busy and with the administrative, billing and really basic routine tasks her clients need.
But she’s not having fun any more. It feels like she’s always working, and she never seems to have time to work on the cool new ideas she gets excited about while she’s stuck in traffic or taking a shower – places where she can’t really do much about them at the time that inspiration strikes.
Her business is treading water and surviving on past clients and word-of-mouth. Her website is pretty sad and out-of-date, doesn’t do her justice, and she stopped even thinking about trying to do social media and launches strategically a while back because she just gets really stressed out and even more busy, and ends up aborting the effort before she gets any results.
Because her current clients have been with her since the very beginning and she doesn’t know how she would replace them, she’s scared to raise her rates, although she knows that the work she does for them, and the expert advice she gives them, is a LOT more valuable to their businesses than what they are paying her.
She knows what the problems are. She even knows what to do to fix them. But it seems like days turn into weeks turn into months and nothing changes.
She’d like to have time for her music, maybe play out occasionally at open mics and when some of her friends need a good backup instrumentalist or singer. And she’d really love to regularly get outside and do something physically active – both because they would feel good and because she’s getting concerned about her increasing weight and lack of energy… and the fact that the stuff she used to love doing just feels like too much trouble these days.
(3) Mike is a freelancer, or independent contractor as some people prefer to call him.
He’s pretty good with hardware and software and he loves the problem solving projects. Give him a technical problem and leave him be for a bit and he can pretty much figure anything out.
Helping people makes him feel good about his skills, but even though he’s been doing this for about a year now, he still never knows if he’s going to be able to afford his rent each month.
He used to love going out to movies and dinner or drinks with friends, but these days he worries so much about whether or not he’ll have any jobs come in next week that it takes all the fun out of it even when he does go.
He has no savings, no health insurance, no retirement. And he just prays his old car will keep going. It’s always been reliable and he takes good care of it, but it passed 150,000 a few months back and he’s not sure how much longer it’s got.
Mike reads a lot of blogs about how to build a list and a website, how to charge more money and get more clients…. but he feels so awkward with it all. He’s tried some of it, but if he’s honest with himself he hasn’t really “gone all the way” with any strategy long enough to find out if it really works for him.
He still loves the dream of being a freelancer or independent contractor; working the hours he wants, and the projects that he wants for the people he likes working with. And he really does love the work itself and he knows he’s good at it.
But he wonders whether maybe he’s just not cut out for it. He doesn’t sleep very well knowing he might be just one “dry spell” away from being homeless. What’s he going to do when all his regular customers take off for the holidays at the end of the year?
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