Long-standing Safrea member Gwen Watkins tells why she is freelancing and will never give up or surrender.
I have been in business since September 1988, a year before my current marriage! I was a single Mom (not intentionally) and just leapt in without a thought or plan (those were the days). A bank manager at FNB (thank you Mr Maheter) believed in me and gave me an unsecured overdraft when my business partner and I split. I have gone under three times (on paper) but survived.
So, here are some key things I learned.
- You need a supportive life partner who believes that you are the best – some days only my husband believed I could succeed – long after I believed I couldn’t.
- Self-confidence attracts clients – Forget the English idea of being understated and go with the American idea of utmost confidence in your abilities. When do you ever hear an American say, “Well, I am quite good at what I do.” They openly state, “I am the best, the biggest, the most experienced, have the happiest customers etc.” Make ‘Simply the Best’ your theme song and soon it will be true 95% of the time.
- You need to remember the last ass of a manager you worked for, as a reminder of why you never want to work for someone again, only with someone.
- You want to remember that many of those people who told you that you were giving up the security of a pay check, got retrenched or fired and that is far worse (been there, done that).
- Bad clients are a physical, spiritual and emotional drain (like bad bosses) and, hard as it is to walk away from the money, you have to do it sometimes to save yourself.
- Partnerships are like marriages – get an ante nuptial contract (partner agreement) before you start – you can always rip it up on your golden anniversary!
- There are bad days – so what, most employees have an unending treadmill of bad days. At least you can drive to a park or a lake and look at nature and recover a bit of your soul – not possible on the job.
- Money is always an issue but you begin to understand what is important and what isn’t – remember the average South African has indebted his or her salary to around 85%, so everyone worries about money
- Be ruthless on collecting money – clients that don’t pay are not clients, they are bad debt and no small business can afford them. Equally pay your service providers timeously, they are also usually small businesses.
There are small hidden perks. I remember going to my son’s soccer match 20 years ago in the middle of the morning and being able to visit my dad-in-law in hospital during the week when he broke his hip – small happy memories that offset the late nights working and the stress of business.
So ‘Never give up, Never surrender’, to quote a movie that I had time to see.
Gwen Watkins is a member of the Southern African Freelancers’ Association and managing director of Freelance Writing Services. Visit www.freelancers.co.za for more information.