Ninety six.

Build something new or stick with existing client work?.

In this episode, Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Anonymous, AKA Zoe Honeysuckle.

Zoe says:

“Hi Frankie and Steve,

I’ve been running my own business since May 2020 (with a 5 month old in tow!) and I feel fairly well versed with the peaks and troughs of freelance life.

However, over the past few months I’ve noticed a few clients who are on my smaller packages/retainers drop off because of financial reasons. All good, and all totally understandable.

I thought I’d use this new gap in my schedule to put together some new packages and try something a bit different around social media content creation and email marketing (and podcasts!) 

BUT, one of my existing clients has now asked for more hours and I am torn. I don’t know whether to go for it — my client is brilliant and I really like working with them — or say no and protect my new-found time to build something new.

I’m nervous that my new packages won’t sell in the way I hope, and I don’t want to turn down (well paying) work. 

What would you do? Help!”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:53] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:02:02] – Steve
Hello. Yes, each episode we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but we start each episode by looking back at the last one. Last time we were talking about …

[00:02:15] – Frankie
We were talking about whether or not to take on voluntary work on top of everything else in our lives.

[00:02:20] – Steve
Sam Kennedy Christian got in touch, saying,

“I have a couple of volunteer roles, both of which I sorted out myself. They use my skills and I fill my cup. One is in the evenings — although I’ve juggled that by literally joining board meetings on my phone from my bed with baby in tow! — and the other one, I take the baby with me. It’s breastfeeding peer support.

I’d encourage Lucette to get really selfish. What’s in it for you? It’s clear you care and I’m sure they get value from you. They sort you out, after all. But what do you get? Maybe you’ll learn something or it’ll fill your cup so that you can do better, more focused, paid work?

And if the role they’re inviting you to do is too big, perhaps there’s a different way you could support instead. Could you offer them something different? Fewer hours, less frequent support?”

Two volunteer roles? Go, Sam!

[00:03:11] – Frankie
Yes. I’m exhausted just contemplating that. I love that, though — ‘Get selfish’. I feel like that’s a phrase I need more in my life.

[00:03:21] – Steve
It’s getting selfish whilst being unselfish right?

[00:03:24] – Frankie
Yeah. But I do think there’s a lot of shame in, like, looking after yourself. Particularly — I can hear the women in the room going, ‘yeah sister!’ — it’s hard, as a woman, to go, “no, I’m going to make decisions that suit me over anything else”.

And obviously, if she does a voluntary position, there’s a benefit to the organisation as well. But, yeah, get selfish. Quite like it. Might put it on a T shirt…

Roswen Knight says,

“I’m so sorry to be that person, but Howard has always done the lead on Never Forget. And since they reformed in 2005 (yes, I was there) he’s been given some others too. And it’s just dawned on me that 2005 was 18 years ago. Fuck.”

[00:04:06] – Steve
Do you know what? I broke one of the cardinal rules by which I live my life and that was never say anything against Howard from Take That.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:06:51] – Frankie
Okay, episode 96 is anonymous. Oh, it’s anonymous. What does that mean? What do we do? Haven’t done one of these for a while. Oh, we were going to find something around us. Got any magazines?

[00:07:04] – Steve
Yeah, I do actually. I’ve got Freelancer Magazine.

[00:07:06] – Frankie
Oh, perfect. We can choose a freelancer’s name. No, don’t do that, that’s really confusing.

[00:07:11] – Steve
Okay, right, I’ve scanned through… page 61 has the word honeysuckle on it. That’s quite a good name.

[00:07:18] – Frankie
Lovely, yeah.

[00:07:18] – Steve
Okay, that’ll do. Zoe. Zoe Honeysuckle.

[00:07:21] – Frankie

[00:07:22] – Steve
I’m borrowing Zoe from Zoe Wilson who is a stone carver and it’s a really good article in Freelancer Magazine.

[00:07:29] – Frankie
Mmmm, cool.

[00:07:30] – Steve
She makes gargoyles. I mean, come on, how cool is that?

[00:07:35] – Frankie
Very cool.

Okay, so this question is anonymous from Zoe Honeysuckle.

Zoe says,

“Hi Frankie and Steve.

I’ve been running my own business since May 2020 with a five month old in tow and I feel fairly well versed with the peaks and troughs of freelance life. However, over the past few months I’ve noticed a few clients who are on my smaller packages and retainers drop off because of financial reasons. All good, totally understandable.

I thought I’d use this new gap in my schedule to put together some new packages and try something a bit different around social media, content creation and email marketing and podcasts. But one of my existing clients has now asked for more hours and I’m torn. I don’t know whether to go for it.
My client is brilliant and I really like working with them. Or should I say no and protect my newfound time to build something new? I’m nervous that my new packages won’t sell in the way I hope and I don’t want to turn down well paying work.

What would you do? Help!”

She’s been on an absolute roller coaster here. It’s like classic freelancing, isn’t it? It’s like, “oh, I’ve lost loads of clients. Gutted. How am I going to use that time in a positive way?” She’s really embraced that and gone, “okay, I’m going to build this new thing, a new package, a new offer”, and then existing clients have come back and said, “Oh, actually, I’d love some more time with you instead”.

I get the impression she’s not excited about that idea. She’s more excited now about the new stuff. But also, what’s not to like about an existing client who pays you well and is great to work with?

[00:09:03] – Steve
Zoe Honeysuckle, you finish it with what would you do? What would I do? I would take the work.

[00:09:09] – Frankie
The existing client work?

[00:09:10] – Steve
Yeah, I would. Now, that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t keep, in the background, developing those packages and start promoting those packages, talking about those packages. But personally, you know, unless I really, really didn’t need the money, I think I would take the work. I mean, she says that they are a brilliant client. She likes working with them!

[00:09:34] – Frankie
Yeah, but I think, I think… reading between the lines, that work’s a bit boring?

[00:09:39] – Steve
But she said, what would you do?

[00:09:41] – Frankie
Yeah, all right. Fair enough.

[00:09:42] – Steve
I’d take the work. I’d take the money.

[00:09:43] – Frankie
That’s fine. However, I know for me, personally, if I took the work — because that makes sense financially — if I took the work, finding the time for those other new packages is never going to happen. It just wouldn’t happen. And I feel like, in a way, these other clients canceling is a sign?

Can you tell I read my horoscopes this morning? I never do that.

But I don’t know, I feel like that’s a good opportunity to jump on. And I appreciate there’s a financial risk there — and I don’t know how much other work she has and what her outgoings are and what her overheads are — but, you know, for example… There’s a difference between a freelancer who is a sole trader and they work entirely on their own, and they’ve made enough money over the last quarter to feel like they can take a breather and concentrate on something else. Great. There’s a difference between that and somebody maybe who subcontracts a lot of work, who has other freelancers they work with regularly, has a team of people. In that instance, maybe, is turning down the paid work not the wisest move? You’ve got big overheads, basically. I don’t know. My gut feeling is she wants to do the new stuff, and she’s been given an opportunity, and she should absolutely go for it.

[00:11:03] – Steve
Another way to look at it is that maybe this client is coming to you for the thing, right? And you do the thing for them that they know you do. But of course, you can also say, “Oh, by the way, can I interest you in this other thing?” You know, like in a shop. Make sure you tell them about the new packages that you’ve got on the horizon and this new service that you’re offering or whatever — who knows where that’s going to go. Maybe you could work with them in that respect.

[00:11:29] – Frankie
Maybe part of why she’s conflicted and not fully just saying, “no, existing client, I’m going to concentrate on this new thing”, is that she’s not sure-, well, she says it. She’s not sure how well these packages are going to do. So what can she do to allay those fears? Like, could she say yes to the existing client but then concentrate on research or testing, without actually building the new thing? Testing the new thing to make sure it has legs so when she does find the time to build it, she’s more confident it’s going to be successful? I just feel like research and exploring a new idea is a much more realistic use of time around existing clients than actually building the thing.

But — and you and I both know this well, Steve — even if she turned down the client and does build these new packages, that’s all very well, but then if she then jumps straight back into taking on new clients with her existing work, blah, blah, blah, blah… She still needs to find the time and the energy to sell the new thing.

Like, you can build it, but if you don’t start selling it, people aren’t going to buy it!

This is what I’m saying about… Is turning down the existing work good because it actually gives her the time? Because there is so much involved in launching something new. There is the research and development and the planning. Then there’s the actual making of the thing, but then there’s the, like, building it into your existing offer. So if it’s something that complements what she’s already doing, maybe she needs to update her website. Maybe she has various package PDFs she sends. I don’t know how it works, you know, proposals, blah, blah, blah… That all needs updating to include this new stuff. And then, yes, selling it! Building it into her marketing and comms, building it into everything that she’s doing, and that’s if it’s aligned with what she’s already offering, it could be something completely different.

But yeah, there’s a lot of work involved in the new thing. Hence why taking the opportunity feels like… I think I just don’t want her to miss out on the opportunity and regret it.

[00:13:40] – Steve
I mean, I guess a big part of this is how much do you need the gig? How much do you need the money? There’s no guarantee that the new things are going to pay off immediately or that people will buy it and so on and so forth. You’ve come up with them because there was nothing there, but now there is something there. Why not take that work, earn money, and then you’ve got that safety net of building up the other stuff around it? If, however, you’ve got tons of money in the bank because you’ve been sensibly putting some savings away and you’re not worried about it, you can go for it.

[00:14:10] – Frankie
Who are these people putting sensible money in savings accounts?

[00:14:14] – Steve
This is why I’m taking the job.

[00:14:19] – Steve
My new office is right next to a road junction. I can see as an unmarked police car with all the lights flashing, coming towards the junction. Can you hear it? Here he comes.

[00:14:31] – Frankie
Oooh I can hear it.

[00:14:32] – Steve
Sneaky Volvo. Looks like a normal Volvo, but it’s not. That was a fun siren, wasn’t it?

[00:14:40] – Steve
You know, you can take the work which has come your way, right. But if that isn’t the sort of work that you want to be doing going forward, then you don’t have to shout about the fact that you’re doing that work. Instead, what you put out online is the fact that you’re offering these other new things.

We’ve said, I’m sure probably many many times before, that people will hire you to do what they see that you are doing. So if you want to be doing something new, you start putting out that new thing, publically. Personally, I would probably take the work and the safety network comes with that, but publicly be showing the new things that I would like people to be hiring me to do.

[00:15:25] – Frankie
But can you do both of those things at the same time and have a life and look after your, however old they are, two-and-a-bit year old? I just know from my own experience, if there’s more drain on the client work side, everything else just… There’s only so many things you can do. There’s only so many hours in the day basically.

[00:15:47] – Steve

[00:15:47] – Frankie
I don’t know how much child free time this person has a week, but they’ve got a small kid, they’re not going to be at school yet. So I guess it’s about — is this an opportunity to reassess or even look at your long term goals? And how do both of these things fit into that? Because it might be that, you know, you’ve been thinking about doing something new for ages. This has come along as an opportunity to make a shift, to make a change, move towards your long-term goals, whatever they are. That’s slightly different to — you’ve lost a bunch of clients and you’re just trying to make the best of it by coming up with something new. That feels like a different approach.

But if it’s like, “oh, I’ve been gifted this time to pursue that thing I’ve been thinking about that I really want to do!” it’s slightly different, isn’t it? So maybe looking at your priorities and your longer term vision for your business and trying to make some decisions off of that.

Is there also scope to take a bit more work on with this existing client, but not fill up all of your available time? We talk about wiggle room a lot, like, could you offer them a few more hours a week, a month, whatever, but still leave yourself a bit of flexibility to build the other thing?

[00:17:05] – Steve
Another option might be whether you can sort of subcontract. So, take on this work, but hire somebody else to do that work for you so that your client remains happy. You can tell them, it doesn’t have to be a sneaky thing. So your client still gets what they need, you still have the time to work on something else. And if the new things don’t play out the way you hope they do, your client hasn’t gone elsewhere, they’re still there with you. You can take back on that work again.

[00:17:39] – Frankie
Yeah. And I also think that’s the right way round to do it because you could pay somebody to build the new thing, if you see what I mean, while you maintain the relationship with the client. But it sounds like you find the client work less interesting. And also, you’re going to know what those new packages are better than anybody else because it’s your business. So, like, putting that side of it together, it feels like the most logical for you to concentrate on that while somebody’s doing the legwork admin stuff for this other client.

But, yeah, ultimately, you know your business, you know your family, you know what the best decision is going to be. And I feel like we say this all the time, but the gut knows. Trust your gut!

[00:18:29] – Steve
Okay, if you’ve been in this situation before — like, work’s gone quiet, you’re planning to do something new, but then the existing work has come back. How did you approach that? How did it play out? Let us know, get in touch, whatever Frankie’s posted about this, be it on various social media platforms or of course in the Doing It For The Kids community. If you’ve not joined, it’s full of freelancing parents you are yet to meet and you’re going to love it!

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation over in the DIFTK Community.