It’s hard to believe that April is almost over. Easter crept up on me and before I knew it I turned 40. No my birthday wasn’t on Easter this year but it might as well been. The following weekend I celebrated my birthday with a long over due visit from my cousin. She’s two weeks older than I am and knows me probably better than anyone else. We sat down and did the math and figured that we hadn’t seen each other in over 10 years. The invention of Facebook and email has done little to satisfy that face to face contact so we made the best of the four days we had.
Deep discussions, crazy laughter, reflections on aging, motherhood, hot flashes, wine and some margaritas and it was like we were teenagers again (sans the margaritas and wine – we were very very good teenagers back in the day). We were too busy and wrapped up in the present to preserve time with pictures together, so I guess this means another visit will need to happen soon (before 10 more years go by).
Her visit was a stark reminder of how fast time moves and how much of it we fritter away on things that don’t matter. We’re in the middle of a giant move and life change here and I had struggled with throwing away a collection of recipes that I thought I might want/need. Just about every desert, beverage, main course, side and even a few oddball recipes were spilling out of file folders. My cousin (always the older and wiser) asked me what attachment I had to the recipes.
Nothing. They came from a dear family friend who had passed away. Given to me because I was thought of as the person who would get the most use out of them. But in the years that I’ve had them in my posession I’ve done nothing with them. The fact that I’ve kept them has more to do with who they came from than their usefulness. The recipes amounted to clutter in my life and stood in my way of moving on to the next thing. With a lighter heart, I made the decision to rid myself of the collection.
This got me reflecting on business. Much of my freelance work comes from word of mouth. I have done little marketing in the last four years so what freelance work I do get comes from people who recommend me. And because I am grateful that people think of me, I take on the work; rarely bothering to consider how much time, energy, or space the project will take up in my already full calendar. I cut the client a deep discount give them more time than I probably should because again, I’m grateful that I was thought of.
This kind of freelancing however is like the collection of recipes that I’ve been holding on to needlessly.
They’re space eaters. They take up valuable time I could be spending on marketing myself. I love word of mouth business but marketing myself is still important because you never know where your next word of mouth client will come from. The recipe collection had been taking up a lot of shelf space and when we move they’d end up taking a lot of packing space. I need to use my available space wisely.
They aren’t reflective of what I love to do. The recipe collection was vast and diverse but much of it wasn’t things I would make for my family on a regular basis. I’d probably be pulling teeth just to get a kid or two to even try a bite. The work I’m getting now is extremely diverse but not what I love to do. It helps put extra money in my pocket but it’s not refective of the kind of portfolio I need in order to get the kind of work I want as a freelance writer.
They won’t sustain me in the long run. I would need to cook a lot of those recipes to get to the kinds of dishes I’d want to keep and fill my own collection; that’s a lot of time in the kitchen. By taking on the lower, deeply discounted clients, I would have to work from morning until night in order to make ends meet. Talk about cooking up a storm!
At first it might sound like the perfect way to keep from being hungry but I don’t want to cook myself to death. I like to be smart in the kitchen and not spend a ton of time making a meal. The same goes for my freelance business; I need to weigh my project fee and my time to complete the project against the scope of work. Taking on the low paying clients seems like a great idea at first glance especially if you’re starving (think kitchen, cooking, HUNGER) but you may find yourself taking on a ton of work for what amounts to a light snack.
In the end, I know that the memories I have of the person who built that recipe collection are far more important than hauling the file folders to our final destination. And when it comes to business I know that building my own freelance recipe collection must consist of creating the kinds of meals that will keep me full and not hungry from one minute to the next.
What’s your recipe for freelance success? Tell me about it in the comments!
Anne Wayman says
In a word? Persistence.
See, I keep that sort of thing because I’m a sentimental nut. I have my grandmother’s hand-written recipes. She was a great cook, so there’s that reason, as well. But I keep scraps of paper from my other grandmother — the one where she wrote everyone’s birthdays down twice as Alzheimer’s was undoubtedly scaring her. I have cards from friends in high school — not a lot — but a few from those special people who’d taken time to think of me in some way.
But I totally get why you gave them up. My husband inherited BOXES of papers from his father and then from his mother. We’re scanning and recycling. It’s just easier.
And not to get completely off topic (sorry!), but you’re so right about the kind of clients we need to bid adieu to. If they’re not serving your needs, stop serving them. 🙂
Cathy Miller says
Love this analogy. I would say my recipe for freelance success is understanding. Understanding what I want. Understanding my fears. Understanding nothing will change unless I change. 🙂