Working for yourself can give you as little or as much flexibility as you would like.
Do you want to head to the beach for two hours in the middle of the day?
Do you want to attend that school concert that starts at 11am?
Do you want to spend every Friday having lunch with a different friend every week?
Working for yourself can enable you to do exactly this, however the more people I speak to that work for themselves, the more I understand that it isn't just myself who struggles with maintaining that work life balance. I used to consistently work too many hours for not enough money and seemed to never be "me". Just recently (like 3 months ago) I finally sat down and worked out exactly why I was doing this and the answer was not a surprise. I knew I did it, in fact I knew it was my worst character flaw, but somehow even though I knew I repeated the same behaviour over and over, I never stopped doing it. Until I did!
Wondering What It Was??
Why I Never Said No
It can be very stressful working for yourself and particularly in my line of work. There are so many well qualified good web developers out there and it can be hard to establish yourself in such an over saturated market. My background is programming, and when it became clear that I was going to have to spend many many hours of my non work life staying on top of the constant barrage of changes that goes hand in hand with working as a programmer, I decided that even though I loved the work, I didn't want my life to be just work. Basically while I loved programming, I wasn't a geek in my life. So I morphed into a role that used my coding head, but didn't mean that I was spending every waking moment learning the latest platform changes.
What I hadn't done at this point however was really drill down what my web niche would be. So I never said no. If someone that was a Wordpress client (which I never use) wanted some changes, sure I would do it, but in doing it spent at least double the time it should have taken me because I wasn't a wordpress specialist. A new client would ask me to make changes to their eCommerce store without telling me that it was run through an integration into their physical point of sale. So I would work out how to do it and of course be charging way less than I should because so much of the time was me figuring out a POS system that I'd never used before. I used to think that it wasn't the clients fault I had never used that system before so I couldn't charge them for it, and to a certain extent I do still think that. HOWEVER: by saying yes to everything I was spending my valuable work time learning systems and processes that I would never use again. That was time during which I could have been earining good money. I was, by never saying no, being the Jack of all trades and master of none.
Saying Yes To Saying No
I've spent the last three months embracing my "saying no" principle and honestly its like a light bulb has gone off in my head. It wasn't easy and I"m sure I've said no to work I could have done, however it was important for me to embrace the action of saying no. I felt like if I didn't say no to things that were just outside my scope, I wouldn't say no to anything.
How I Did It
I did what I do best. I broke it down into numbers. I started by sitting down and listing my skills. I made a list of skills I had and then added a capability % against each skill. I created my ideal client and described who they were and why they would use me. I created a project plan for around 10 different development possibilities, from a new website design through to image edits and updates and assigned value to each one. Then I decided that for now, I wouldn't stray more than 10% away from those skills, clients or project costs.
What I did also decide though, was that if a client presented me with a project that was less than 25% outside of my skillset (IE: small changes of text or images on a wordpress website - well within my capabilities but outside of my immediate skill set) instead of saying an outright no, I would say "no - not right now". If the project was outside of my perfect scope of works, I simply told the client I wasn't able to do it because I was fully commited to a few projects that had open end dates. I felt that by doing this I could always give them a call in a month (if I didn't have any work on) and ask if they found someone to help them. If they hadn't I could always fit it in on an immediate basis which would fill my open time frame and give the client a sense of urgency which (fingers crossed) would mean they would commit to the project and provide everything I needed in the most timely manner. I felt that keeping an open relationship would give me options if I needed it, however I've still not made a single phone call to those possible clients.
The Outcome Of No
I actually work a four day week now instead of just saying I do and now that I am well versed in my no responses I don't even feel bad about doing it.
What I worked out was that by not saying no, not only was I making it hard for myself, I was making it hard for my clients too. While they never knew that what they'd asked for wasn't really in my line of work I did realsie that I treated those client differently. I never meant to, but because the level of stress that I had attached to those clients was very real, whenever I heard from them I was wound so tight that I could never have provided them with the level of service I should have. I would just do whatever they asked for and get rid of them as soon as I could. The other thing I discovered was that I was doing myself out of work because by not fully understanding the platform or system they needed edits on, I could never suggest options they could take up. I couldn't say - "look at a later date why don't you consider a dynamic shipping integration" which not only would have been great for that client, but also for my bottom line. If they were a Joomla client I didn't really know how to integrate a shipping component to that so I would never suggest it.
Now that no is ingrained in my vocabulary I've noticed a few things:
Small business owner, web developer and programmer.
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