When I decided to work as a freelance, I clearly remember a talk with a dear friend who was working in the same field, but with more years of experience.
It was the end of September, and even when this friend did not live in Milan, she was in town for a client meeting, and I got a chance to share a slice of cake with her.
I first met her at an event dedicated to innovation several years ago. After hours of extremely interesting talks and live tweets of hottest quotes, we were both in a desperate need of a cup of coffee and a phone charger.
How she manages her work and clients has always been a real benchmark to me.
She used to define herself as a creative consultant, not “just” a social media manager, because she effectively works as an artist, studying all the shoots in all possible details.
Moreover, she has also been shooting for all the digital publications of her clients.
The fact that she manages everything from within her town, not with the help of an agency and other professionals, makes her a powerful performer.
A couple of year ago, we were both full-time professionals with some established consultancy.
She taught me about escape plans.
The most difficult task of a freelance is planning, and I mean to know what your professional future will look like in 6 months, 3 years, or in a decade.
If you count on a few clients, you cannot plan more than for a month.
If all your efforts are summed up on one single project, the risk of losing it is higher, and the consequences may be serious.
She explained me that I needed to have more than one escape plan, that I needed at least five plans ready.
A freelance usually does not earn a final bonus when the client does not need his or her consultancy anymore. Maybe, if it is a commercial role, the freelance might receive an extra bonus because of the future income of his clients, but that does not really happen in all cases.
This lesson on risk management made me think about the concept of differentiation.
The famous portfolio differentiation I studied during my finance courses was finally useful as a productivity hack for my brand-new freelance career.
The challenge was: “Find a balance of several clients for the present, have a clear idea of possible prospect clients for the future.”
My portfolio was enough diversified and I was perfectly balancing my time between them, with some fixed meetings every week and others more variably.
I was able to balance my time and knowledge between them, without allowing my time and efforts to be watered down.
I realized that it was not exactly the same theory that I applied during my academics. I found it very challenging to divide my time into an infinite number of clients in order to reduce the risk of failure.
The differentiation theory is not applicable to humans because of time constraints; we have limitations that calculators have not.
In the end, my approach to managing existing and prospective clients has been to stress the differentiation between them to make sure that my clients are independent and not connected with each other.
A portfolio consisting of unrelated clients is the best solution to avoid the domino effect when the collaboration is over.
Working as a freelance does not mean living in anxiety of losing clients, but it is about exploring ways to build a solid basis.
When you are an employee, you do not manage your time and resources better; you receive tasks that needed to be accomplished, with different degrees of responsibilities and freedom to act.
In contrast, as a freelance, clients rule the game, they are as important to you like a boss, but they do not have 100% decision-making power; they share their will with the consultant.
Perfect timing is everything; that’s why you need so many plans ready to take off. You cannot miss a chance to send a proposal, but never be shocked or surprised if the answer might be like “Thanks but not now, this is not the right moment.”
Having more plans means accepting a “No thanks” with a prepositive mood; never stop at the first door your knocked.
My way has always been more than knocking with my hands — I knock with my head. It makes more noise and shows I am determined.
Originally published at medium.com