Last September marked the start of my third business year. This is a big deal for me. Firstly, around a third of businesses fail during the first two years, apparently. Secondly, banks see more financial stability when it comes to borrowing money, eg. for a personal mortgage (which has been a blessing), and finally, it validates Modest as a business to my clients and me.
I’ve looked at each business year as an opportunity to experiment with my business model which helps me decide in which direction to grow. It helps me answer questions like what’s best for revenue, what’s best for lifestyle, and what keeps me feeling the most fulfilled.
Modest Industries was set up for the sole purpose of containing all of my on-site freelance business. Not long after incorporating I went travelling for 6 months (still taking on some remote day-rate work though), so the experiment was actually more like half-a-year. When I came back my work was almost exclusively on-site with clients.
Upon reflection, I realised the downfalls of freelancing – namely if I’m not working, I’m not earning. I adopted another approach by seeking and accepting only project-based work. Aside from some client meetings, all I had was the brief, and a deadline for the deliverables, able to get the work done by any means I saw fit, whether that was hiring other people to do it, doing it myself on my own time (i.e.. not on-site 9-5), or a combination of both.
Both ways of working have their merits and drawbacks, and after throwing myself into both I came out with a better idea of how Year Three should be shaped.
Freelancing on-site for a day-rate is nice because you can turn up, get the work done, leave for the day and not have to think about anything until you’re next there, but if you’re not there, you’re not earning.
Project work is also good, you get to do the work on your own time, though it’ll always be at the back of your mind. You get the freedom to structure your day – spend it all day enjoying the sun, then hitting up the cinema before plugging in at night to get some work done, if that’s what you want. It also allows you to take on more clients simultaneously.
On one project I rented an AirBnB for four nights with another developer. We locked ourselves away with some food and a coffee maker, getting done the equivalent of ~2 weeks worth of work .
With all of that in mind, this year has been a steady mix of both project-based and on-site freelancing.
It was actually a bumpy start trying to take both on together.
I agreed to give four days on-site to one client with one day being devoted to my other clients. Initially it was okay, but when other clients needed attention, only having a single day started to turn my life into a juggling act.
Little did I know that it was going to get worse before it got better.
Another client needed urgent help on-site, so I did some reshuffling and ended up dropping form four to three days a week with one client, and giving two days to the other – leaving me with nothing. I couldn’t attend client meetings, it made it hard to maintain existing relationships, my new business proposals were shambles, and doing anything for Modest was completely out of the question.
April was intense. Commuting and working on-site during the day, catching up on other work in the evenings, and even having to work both bank holidays to keep everything balanced.
It’s a valuable learning experience, and being busy with work is never a bad thing – but burning out is. After my April responsibilities were complete I took a step back, agreeing to less and getting my workflow back to a good state. May was mostly managing that transition, and now it’s June everything is ticking along at a good pace. I can focus on everything that needs my attention, as well as jumping back onto building another Modest Product (which I’ll talk about at some point).
September will mark the end of my third business year, and until then I’m going to continue as I have this year. Year Four will be more innovative with the introduction of another (hopeful) revenue stream in the form of a new product/service or two.