I’m excited about presenting my first Small Business / Freelancer Chat update today. In case you’ve never seen this before, I have been featuring a fellow small business or freelancer on this blog every week for a year now, with each person answering a set list of questions. The last question is “Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time”, and the very last, unseen, question is “Do you mind me getting in touch in a year’s time for an update?” So now I’ve started getting in touch with my June 2011 interviewees for their updates – and first to feature is Carl Nixon from Excel Expert.
Carl’s original chat is here, and I asked where he wanted to be in a year’s time, he replied “Hopefully employing people so I can take on more work”. Let’s see what’s happened in the intervening year …
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
In a word no, due to the passing of my mother and prolonged lung infection for me, I had to put my plans back by about 6 months.
The plan to hire people was based around hiring students from the local university, but that hit a massive brick wall. Most programmers work best when they can keep their own hours and work when they choose to work (both Google and Microsoft allow their programmers attend work anytime they like and many can be found working through the night), so I wanted to hire programmers who would work from home. Talking to the students, this suited them down to the ground, as it allowed them great flexibility. However, the health and safety bods at the university insist that they should work from an office and during normal office working hours. This means I would need to lease an office and take on all those costs as well. This has meant that the plan is shelved for now – however there is a plan B which is gaining more and more momentum at the moment.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I think the above outlines what has changed.
What has stayed the same? We are still offering the same bespoke services to the highest level we can, which is bearing fruit in the form of lots of repeat business.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
Don’t be afraid to get rid of troublesome clients: they will eat your time and there is no way you can get that back. We had one client who represented 25% of our turnover last year, however they were terrible payers and I had to spend hours and hours having to jump through hoops just to get paid. When I told them I wasn’t supplying them anymore they offered to pay me 100% up front for all work and to pay a premium. I mistakenly accepted this offer and started working for them again. As soon as I did they started trying to creep in specifications to include more and more work, and have been doing so ever since. Things came to a head recently when they tried to demand that I made myself available to work for them at 11pm on a Friday night having only given 3 hours’ notice. It was at this point that we went our separate ways for the final time.
If I had stuck to my guns the first time around we could have all walked away with no eggs on faces. Now the separation is getting messy
Any more hints and tips for people?
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time.
I’m moving the business from providing bespoke services to providing off the shelf solutions such as accounts packages. This will mean a totally different business model, but we have already struck partnership deals to bring in outside expertise.
So a real year of ups and downs for Carl, and while he’s not exactly in the place he imagined this time last year, things are looking positive (he’s also had a website and logo redesign). I look forward to seeing what happens to these new plans over the next year!
Carl’s website is here and you can call him on 029 2125 1450.