Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thoughts from far down the food chain

There always comes a time in the year when I get a little worried. It's when the phone's not ringing and the workload looks a little thin. I'm there at the moment. I shouldn't be worried. A new piece of work starts tomorrow, and one of my regular magazines will start grinding its wheels in the next week or so.

Yet, for the last three days I've been treading water - and I'm no good whatsoever at the froggy stroke.

I operate fairly far down the decision-making food chain, and am suffering at the moment from slow decision making higher up that chain. In one instance, a project has been far slower to get off the blocks that I'd hoped - my meeting tomorrow morning should move it on, but the decision's not in my hands. What had been budgeted as a medium sized piece of work seems to have shrunk - and even the piece I originally did back in February remains billed but not paid.

I've also been in pitching mood recently. A few slightly bigger fish have called on me to reinforce their bidding teams and we've put some good, inventive and cost effective proposals together. But the clients - or in one case, the clients' clients are still circling. Now at the top of the chain, a month's delay on internal comms activity is pretty unimportant - in fact they probably don't even see it as a delay. For their consultancy, it's an inconvenience, but there are other pressing projects they can redeploy their consultants on. For their agency, it's a bit of a nightmare. The goalposts keep moving, they keep revisiting a shifting brief; a lot of time is spent meeting the new goals....and then those posts shift again. For me, in this case right at the tactical end of the project, it's sheer frustration. Do I start chasing new work and abandon a potentially attractive project, or hold on in the hope that the clients will finally land on action.

For me it's the above scenario times three at the moment, plus a couple of smaller projects I've pitched directly where I'm still waiting on any response.

It's at times like this that I wish I had the support system of an employer around me. But for the last seven years, when I've reached this point before, something McCawber-like has happened: something's turned up. It's never through luck, and most often has come from a few phone calls, emails and good connections. I hope Mr. McCawber's still on my side.

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