Great offer from client but hesitating - any advice please?

(19 Posts)
CommsWhizz Tue 28-Jan-14 11:13:18

I wondered if any of you fellow self-employed folks could help me mull something over?

I took the plunge and set up on my own last summer. I've been amazed at how well it's been going, it's surpassed all my expectations but I have a bit of a dilemma now, and I'm not even that sure why.

Forgive the length of post, but I'm hoping by writing it all done, it may help clarify things in my own head.

Currently, I have one main client that I work for and I also work on other ad hoc items of work from other clients that come in here and there. My main client has now offered me a lot more work. Potentially, almost twice what I was doing for them before and, in effect, I would be running the show on their behalf. This is a great compliment and could be a brilliant opportunity, but I'm hesitating.

Until now I have chosen to work three days a week and have childcare sorted for those three days (two days at nursery, one day with playgroup then my mum). The reality of this is that I work like a lunatic during that time, plus evenings and bits at weekends when a work project comes in. I haven't yet turned down any work. My children are 12, 3 and 18 months. The eldest is at high school but needs me to be around from 4ish onwards (my choice), my middle baby loves childcare and loves company with other children so I'm less worried about her, but my littlest baby is still just a baby herself, and I don't want her to miss out on time with me that the others have had.

My current big client pays less per day than other clients (approx. £50-80 per day less). I was looking at increasing my daily rate anyway (with other clients as there's not much room for manoeuvre with this particular client), and this would mean a lot more days sold at the cheaper rate. But, it's a lot of days and it's guaranteed work on a contract. The existing work is pretty easy, I like it, the days can be long or short, and I can work however, wherever and whenever I like as long as the work gets done. The new work is a lot more responsive, needing to be at their beck and call far more than I am now and I would imagine that it would be more stressful. I would need to be in the office one or two days a week whereas now I'm at home.

I also work for other clients but I can't rely on work coming in and it can be tricky and unpredictable. Yes, they pay more per day, but I never know what's coming when, so I can't make any assumptions about my finances or my time. The same clients are using me again and again, but some of the projects are once a year (but take considerable time) while others are every three months or so, or totally sporadic.

Currently, my main client forms approx 65% of my income, with the ad hoc stuff making up the rest.

Longer-term, the plan is that my husband leaves his work and joins me and run this ship together. We're planning to launch our own product later in the year which will require time and focus (and financial input), but we're not at the point yet where my business could support us both. Also, so far I/we haven't pitched to anyone - all the work has come via people who already know my work, and it's all repeat business.

As some added insight, in the lead up to this offer, I'd been toying with the idea of adding another day as I'm struggling to cope with the level of work that I have (currently lots of big project ad hoc work in addition to the main client), and my work/life balance is not good. But I didn't get very far with mulling it over...

So, if I take the additional work, effectively the cons are:
I'll be available less for my children (by one more day) which makes me feel guilty.
I'll be available less to other clients for quick turnaround things though could fit less urgent projects in by working evenings/weekends as I do now.
I'll be available less to devote time (albeit unpaid time) to our own product
There will be increased costs potentially for childcare
I may struggle even more with the work/life balance (but adding an extra day to my working week will go someway to address this)
There is a risk that if I don't take it, someone else will be recruited to do it, and may end up having everything, including the work I already do (the contract is coming close to the end).
Devoting too much time to one client who may decide to take things in-house at the end of the contract, or go bust, or change their mind.

The pros:
It's more work, more strings to the bow
More income, albeit at a lower rate
It's guaranteed work and ensures a monthly income
By earning more, we're getting closer to the point where hubby could come onboard and we can divvy up some of the work and launch our own product.
Makes sense to take the work now, while it's offered as few freelance gigs come with a contract, and if it goes tits up, well, I've had a year of decent money.

I think that's all the main points covered. I'd be really grateful for any words of wisdom from you fellow worker bees, as I'm not entirely sure why I'm struggling with this...

Thanks in advance from the bottom of my slightly-frazzled, bewildered heart,

OP’s posts: |
Waitingforflo Tue 28-Jan-14 11:15:54

I think you're veering towards 'no' yourself. The biggest issue is that you might lose the work with them you already have I think, but if they pay you less and it's all going well with other clients, I'd build that up instead.

Waitingforflo Tue 28-Jan-14 11:18:04

I'm self-employed and don't trust my gut/heart/intuition at all, so make lists like these. I quoted a recent potential client double what I usually charge and they didn't flinch. I still turned it down as it didn't feel quite right, so sometimes there is that extra thing even if you don't really know why . . .

(that doesn't make much sense, does it?)

CommsWhizz Tue 28-Jan-14 11:24:47

Thanks so much for your thoughts. I must admit, I can't put my finger on why I'm so apprehensive. I think it may be that it'd be the lack of control over my own time? I used to work for the client a long, long time ago and it was miserable as I spent all my time justifying myself and living on my nerves, and although it's working wonderfully now, everyone's super happy with my work and really, it couldn't be better, I wonder how much that is influencing me. As a freelancer, things are different obviously, and my terms and conditions are very different, but still...

OP’s posts: |
Littlefish Tue 28-Jan-14 11:29:27

Would you still be able to be self employed if such a high percentage of your work comes from one client? I thought there were HMRC rules about it? It would be worth checking....

CommsWhizz Tue 28-Jan-14 11:40:31

Thanks Littlefish. As it happens, I've just been talking this through with my accountant as I had the same concerns.

Seems that as I can demonstrate that I'm also taking on other work from other clients, she thinks it'll be fine. If it does look like it's primarily just one client, I can become limited rather than sole-trader.

OP’s posts: |
freelancenewbie Tue 28-Jan-14 12:52:24

Hi, my thoughts:
1. Your new freelance life is going great - you've only just started and it's going really well. This gives you options.
2. You get increased rates from other clients.
3. You've not even pitched yet - that could be another successful venture for you.
4. You enjoy things as they currently are - this is the crucial point I think.

The main risk, as I see it, is losing all the work if you turn down the additional work - as the whole lot may go to someone else. For me, I would want to just ticking along as you're doing. No additional workload from existing client (so that you can keep balance with children/work on your product/take on additional client work). The more work you take on from this client, the more you may start to feel resentful for the lower rate, knowing that you could (potentially) be earning a lot more with other clients. You may also feel resentful for the additional obligations they start to slowly put on you.

Here's my recent experience, if it helps. Work primarily for one client - everything was great (hard work/tiring but great) except I wanted more pay. Didn't want more work, just more pay as my rate did not mirror the services I was providing. Took plunge, went right in there and got a 100% increase in my rate. Excellent result. But, had the additional pay been conditional on me providing more work/additional days then I wouldn't have been happy. I also don't want to start going to their offices, getting more involved. I just want to do what I'm doing, do it well and get well paid.

Try and suss out how secure your contract is/renewal will be on the current workload. If that's an option (without the additional workload), I would be tempted to just stick at that. Sometimes the initial thought of additional work seems great, but then the lower pay rate and additional workload/stress actually doesn't pay off.

Actually the absolute best would be stick with the current contract terms - try and get a renewal and increase your rates!

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 28-Jan-14 12:56:52

As an unemotional outsider.....

It sounds to me like they have found an excellent 'worker' and they have found a low risk way of outsourcing x rather than the hassle and expense of employing somebody...

Your current set up sounds like it suits you. If you 'sign yourself over' to them will they expect employee like behaviour? It sounds like they already want you in their office. Will you be able to take work calls/meet other clients - off the clock obv?

Have you got any idea what salaries are like there? It would be interesting to see how your day rate compares to a salaried position remembering to take into account lack of sick pay, hols and pension payment.

If you do decide to go for it, I would look to raise your price though. You don't want to be thinking about the "missing" money each hour.

I'd try to think about where you want to be in a year/3 years etc. What sort of client mix do you want etc?

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 28-Jan-14 13:03:06

Also looking at your username. If you are going to be doing their PR will there be an expectation of dealing with stuff when it arrises?

CommsWhizz Tue 28-Jan-14 14:12:03

Oh thanks ladies, your comments are incredibly helpful.

Margot - yes, part of the role would be their PR and media handling but the industry is niche and the vast majority of the work is planned ahead, though there will always be an element of 'on call' about it (which I think will help my cause of campaigning for a higher rate, if I go for it). In terms of their expectation, they want me in the office initially a day a week or so, but that's just to embed a new, dedicated team. Once relationships are formed (weeks down the line rather than months), my impression is that they'll expect things to work as they do now, which is I work in my own way, in my own time but as it's a more 'instant reaction' kind of job, the chances of needing to drop everything and do X or Y is more likely.

Salaries there are OK (I worked there a few years ago) and so I know I'm on a fair whack more than they're paying folk, but not disgustingly so taking into consideration holiday, sick etc.

Newbie - thanks for your example, that was really helpful. I would campaign for a higher rate for the existing work but it's a self-funded mag which currently is doing OK with the ads (which fund it) but the ad salesy've not taken off in the way they hoped, so there's not much in the pot to increase the rate for my existing work. I think the area for negotiation is the new work as it's a bit of an unknown quantity. It could be a real drain on time or it could be money for old rope that doesn't take the time we expect it might. Hmmmm.

Also, to add more info into the mix (sorry), originally, I was contracted to X hours at £x a day. This has had to reduce for a variety of reasons (theirs, not mine), so my projected income from this job alone has gone down by nearly a third. This will boost the days back up and obviously boost my income back up too. Well, realistically, it'll surpass what I was originally going to be on.

I think it's slowly becoming clearer what to do. I think if I can get a decent rate, one that I feel recognises the extra role, the extra scope for what I'll be doing and get reassurance about the way of working, it may be worth doing. If, after the initial period it's hell on earth, I rethink.

I think.

Never bloomin' easy is it?

OP’s posts: |
CommsWhizz Tue 28-Jan-14 16:31:55

OK, an update. Having pondered all morning about the pros and cons, you very helpful folk helped me to make my mind up.

I've emailed the client and set out my questions about expectation and ways of working, named a fee that I would be thrilled with (I'm fully expecting him to negotiate this down, but we'll see) and set out all the reasons I'm worth it.

And now we wait...

Thank you again to all of you who took the time to comment, it really did help to get fresh perspective. I'll be a regular on here from now on, just in case I can help return the favour!


OP’s posts: |
freelancenewbie Tue 28-Jan-14 18:01:23

Ohhhh exciting ... well done for being proactive about it - I bet you feel better already for taking action! This topic on MN (freelance) has been a great source of support since I went freelance 13 months ago (& I still feel very very new & inexperienced in the world of freelancing!)

Hope you get a positive response back to your email.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 28-Jan-14 22:15:43

Sounds like a good way forward. Fingers crossed they go for it. Well done for making a decision and taking charge.

CommsWhizz Wed 29-Jan-14 10:03:33

Hi all,

Newbie and Margot, you're right, it felt so much better taking charge and being proactive. It's all about getting into the right mindset and not being a minion grateful for the work, but a highly skilled, experienced profession whose services they value and want to buy.

He came back and agreed to all my terms around ways of working - in short, other than one day a week where the team meets to plan ahead and catch up, I can work where, how and when I like as long as the team can contact me when necessary.

Financially, he's suggested a lower fee than the one I requested, which I knew he would. The daily rate has increased to a level I'd be Ok with, but I know now is the time to negotiate and strike a deal as they're not going to revise it midway through the contract, so any suggestions for a 'let's meet in the middle' conversation?


OP’s posts: |
freelancenewbie Wed 29-Jan-14 17:40:06

Wow! Excellent news! No advice re negotiating the fee really - probably just meet him half-way? Likely to be what he's expecting.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Wed 29-Jan-14 20:39:41

Sounds positive.

I agree, now is the time to agree the best price.

Have you worked out the % of the drop he is suggesting? I ask as when somebody asked to knock £xx of my day rate it looked reasonable as a figure but I worked out it was 20% off which is not reasonable.

I also wanted to respond with lots of reasoning etc. However my business advisor DH suggested keep it brief. So I said "A 20% reduction to my rate would be difficult, could we meet half way at 10%"? And they went for it. Could that work?

CommsWhizz Mon 03-Feb-14 09:09:13

Hello all,

Thanks again for your input last week. Just writing it all down helped me to clarify a few things, then your helpful questions made me drill down a little more.

In short, he and I had a really good conversation where I reiterated the need to increase the rate and gave him the reasons why, and he agreed to increase it. I didn't get the slightly outlandish figure I'd named, but thanks to Margot's super helpful comments about looking at the percentages, I managed to negotiate from his opening gambit of 72% of my standard day rate to 88% so I'm more than happy. Not signed, sealed or delivered as yet, but likely to be confirmed this week.

Thanks again, I know how time is incredibly precious for all of us self-employed folks, so I really appreciate you taking the time to offer some advice or just a bit of support.


OP’s posts: |
freelancenewbie Mon 03-Feb-14 12:28:54

Hi Comms - really pleased for you, super result!

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 04-Feb-14 09:14:00

Great stuff!!

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