Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Thinking along the lines of the last Dear Danielle question, I was reflecting on how often I hear colleagues talk about all the project work they do, but never getting ahead.

When I say project work, I’m talking about the one-off transactions done for transient clients on a one-time, sporadic or occasional basis as opposed to ongoing administrative support provided within the framework of continuous monthly relationship with clients.

The complaints I hear so often involving project work generally fall into the category of profitability and lifestyle.

For example, a colleague will come to me explaining she’s been advised that project work “pays the bills” when you gotta keep the lights on, feed the kids, pay the rent, etc.

The problem with that strategy is that it’s not a strategy at all. It’s more like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

It’s simply reacting to the immediate circumstances—the need for cash—rather than proactively planning, setting foundations and working in a way that’s going to build long-term sustainability and profitability and create a business that meets both your long-term financial AND emotional/happiness needs.

What does that mean?

Well, when a colleague comes to me with this kind of question, the first thing I ask her to think about is what she wants for her life and what kind of business would support that vision?

The answer is generally something to the effect of “I want to be self-employed; my business is as much about making an excellent living doing work I enjoy as it is affording me the time and freedom to live the way I want.”

Most are not interested in “creating an empire.”

When that’s the case, the next thing I get them to think about is how to go about their business so that they can achieve those things.

The answer lies being smart about the kind of work you take on, the kind of clients you work with, and the platform from which you deliver your services. It’s going to involve charging profitably and setting the kind of standards, boundaries, policies and procedures that allow you to work effectively, earn well and live well.

Profitability and being intentional in your business model are the two things that are going to give you choices in your business.

So, if you are on a constant treadmill of project work, with constant turnaround of consultations, proposals, contracts and deadlines to manage, when are you going to have time to do the things you enjoy?

How much harder do you have to work and market to keep those projects coming in?

When will you find time to work ON your business?

If you are working at the beck and call of clients, how much freedom does that give you to call the shots in your business?

How much more freedom and flexibility would you have if you started working with clients as an administrative expert and focused exclusively on that work instead of thinking of yourself and working with them as an assistant?

If you aren’t charging profitably, how is that going to help you build long-term financial gain?

If you decided to work in ongoing collaboration with clients (which is the definition of administrative support) instead of sporadic project work, how would your own administrative chores and processes decrease in your business?

Would your cashflow be improved?

How much better would your service be to clients because you are growing a meaningful shared body of knowledge of their business that in turn allows you to serve them better and improve their business?

How more value would they find in that?

Would that higher value allow you to charge more for your expertise?

And if you were making more money, can you imagine how that would enable you to work with fewer clients and thereby have more freedom in your business and your life?

What could you do with that increased time and freedom? Create new products for your clients that held passive income opportunities for you? Work in a more relaxed, less stressful manner? Take on choice projects as you see fit instead of having no choice about the projects you take on because you “need the money?” Take a vacation when you felt like it?!

Food for thought. 😉

One Response

  1. Yes, these are excellent points, Danielle! Great post!

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