September 19, 2012

The reality check....

So inspired by a rather 'uninspiring' email from a client of mine who is refusing to pay, which I will elaborate on later I felt compelled to finally write about my experiences of wanting to develop from being a freelance Interior Designer to building my own business. The reality of this, is it has been a particularly long hard road. I still enjoy many aspects of role as an Interior Designer, I however am not sure whether working from home is working for me.

'Outdoor chairs from Provincial Living'
I started off this year with all the positive naivety of what building a business would be like and didn't think too much as to how I would make this work, hoping as I did in this case that it would sort of naturally fall into place with a couple of mistakes along the way. I didn't have a business plan, as I have been freelancing whilst working part-time for almost ten years and thought it was a just a case of acquiring a few more clients and there would be my regular work that would slot in nicely on my chosen days to work which currently are Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursdays. Sounds simple and ideal doesn't it?

So nine months down the track I am finding out in some ways the possible hardest way how some weeks it works where my designated days are just for that, work. Then the reality check sets in, those weeks, which is what I am coming out of, where everything just feels like your throwing all your responsibilities into the air and you don't juggle you catch the first one that falls fastest towards you.

The distractions of a messy house which at times compels you to have to clean it! A child staying home too sick to attend school/childcare. Spending half a day paying bills, answering emails then walking into the kitchen, where I do most of my drawing from the Dining table and find the kitchen looks like a run down restaurant, uninspiring and not an environment conducive to inspiring creativity. Running out of time as the school/childcare pick up looms. This can be shared with my partner however he works full-time and is studying part-time and no immediate family to help.

As I mentioned before, I have for the first time a client who will not pay me (*said intro to this post) because as they explained to me, they feel.."they have nothing to show for what I have done for them.." Purely for legal reasons I won't upload the 10 concept sketches, the pages of notes from our last 4 meetings and the time taken to research their respected finishes & fittings.

My first client who was absolutely lovely but ended up being short of cash, so I finished the job and didn't ask for further payment for the last two meetings so I could see the project through.

Thrown in this mix of challenging me is a similar scenario as above, yet different client. A massive job that I have under quoted with my time, yet want to see the project completed. Which has seen me rack up over 1200km's traveling as they live on the outskirts of the city. This same client who demands work the next day and yet I am so excited happy about the work we are doing and find myself up to 1:30am in the morning finishing off drawings and then having to function the next day with getting three children to school/childcare.

'Concept drawings from my Dining Room table'.

There are positives and negatives to these scenarios. Yes, my clients can be challenging, demanding, indifferent, grateful and yet for the most part they love the work we have been doing and this is where is balances itself out.

All in all it has been a huge learning curve and the problem is, these scenarios have come up before in places of work, yet I have always had a Director or Senior manager to deflect the problems too and let them resolve it. I am now as one friend described it, finally my own 'Boss' and these are the challanges I have to deal with and can. Included in the mix are my children's needs and they can't help being sick some weeks, its part and a parcel of being a 'working parent'.

The reality check is the lack of flow of work and also wages, waiting for the cheque/payment, haggling over small amounts as the said* client does not value your time and worth as a professional.
(I wont mention this again)

So what does this mean? It's been suggested that I look for a job, even a full-time job.

I could lose faith, like I have many times in the past, given up and just sweep it under the carpet or add it as another notch, as one of my failings?

However I say 'NO'...

I'm not ready to give up...

I've come far enough to know I have learnt a lot, will continue learning about running a 'small business' and persevere..., I'm not ready to give up, I'm not ready to allow clients to walk all over me, however I am ready to feel that the work being executed is 'MY' work and that it is done correctly and with the excitement that has always filled me ever since I chose to study Interior Design...

'Space Furniture' showroom

So watch this space, as I move forward, complete jobs regardless and resolve disputes with my clients...


Kat @ I Saw You Dancing said...

Thank you so much for your bravery in sharing your experiences here. I think it is all too easy for those of us who "work for the man" so glamourise the life of the freelancer!
That said, I am astonished there are people out there who will take your time and expertise then refuse to pay! I am so sorry you are experiencing this. It seriously sucks.
So very glad you're joining our Blogtoberfest12 community, it will be a privilege to have you.

Cas said...

hang in there. i believe the first 12 motnhs of a new business is the worst & often finishes with a financial loss. i have a friend who runs her own business that develops business plans for other businesses & even she ran a loss in her first year(you'd think she should know better!)she had clients who didnt pay & she learnt the hard way also. the good news is that her hard work & determination paid off & all the mistakes she made have improved her business sense & now is doing really well.
i'm an architectural drafter & do the 'odd' contract at home. with small children it's near impossible to get anything done during the day, hence end up working late & then too exhausted to function the following day. there is something to be said about going into a work environment with no distractions. however the flip side is the flexibility that i love & can drop anything if my attention is needed. being a working mother is a tough hat to wear & i wish you luck with the coming future :) cheers (visiting from blogtoberfest)