One of the challenges for a freelancer is what happens when you fall ill. Productivity can drop off and the energy to win new clients or meet the needs of existing ones falls away. With no employer to provide health benefits or ensure wages are paid, stress can mount and a prolonged illness can easily wipe out savings.
A recent bout of my chronic sinus condition that lasted over a month brought this home to me. Although I was able to work and bring in some income, my earning potential was way off. I was left feeling exposed and vulnerable. Billing for my time, I realised, was not a sustainable way of living.
When I reflected on this further I realised there are other reasons time based billing isn’t going to work for me long term. Once I’ve moved permanently to Japan I will need flexibility to take time away from my desk to visit friends and family back in the UK. When I’m not at my desk the money has to continue rolling in.
There’s also my legacy. I’m 20-something years away from retirement and my pension funds are growing, but I want something that could outlive me. At some point I will want to retire and a business that relies purely on my time has no or little value. I need something that will be attractive to a potential buyer, something that has more value than what I alone can provide.
In short I need to create a business that scales beyond hours and has a real lasting value.
My mind has turned to digital products. I’ve considered building a cloud based tool to fix some problem I have in my work. I’ve also considered going back to the original idea for my business – to create market reports that would be sold. I thought about growing a “digital agency” with a specialist focus on Asian-European business flows.
None of these have sat well.
Fortunately I have some time to find the right mix of passion and talent. The move to Japan has gone back to January 2019, so I have some scope to experiment and find out what works there, what works elsewhere. I’m turning my attention away from UX, coding and freelancing towards branding, product management and ecommerce. The skills I’m seeking to rediscover and develop are more the ones I need for running a business at scale than advising one.
I’ve been talking about breaking the link between the hours in the day and my earning potential for some time. The message I’ve taken from the past few months is I need to stop talking and start acting.
I'm a freelance designer and writer. My clients have included Fintech startups, publishers and digital agencies. You can read more about my work here.