Monday, March 21, 2011

'A list' clients

Whether directly, or via the excellent ArtHaus , I've got the most amazing list of clients for current projects. At the moment, I have work on for Lafarge, Unilever, ITV, IHG, Adecco and Diageo. I just have to put in a 'blue chip' performance now.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

There's a long way between a great meeting and a done deal

Every time I think I've crested the worst waves of the economic downturn and ridden out the financial storm, I get a little reminder that running a microbusiness is far from plain sailing quite yet. There are two brooding enemies on the horizon as I write, cashflow, and the gap between the great first meeting and actually landing the work.

My cashflow has taken a buffeting recently through two causes: large companies pushing out their payment terms ever further, and a small company going under before I could bill them. I'm pig sick about the latter as I incurred cost on the company's behalf - and then naively held off billing them as more work was supposed to be coming my way. It never did, and when I called to find out what was happening, the phone just rang and rang. A few days later I found the company had gone into liquidation.

With the larger companies, long payment terms are now the norm. It's an area where Government could and should act to protect the smallest businesses where even a couple of payment delays can break that business. The effect that I'm actually seeing is that small businesses are charging more to offset the impact of a long payment wait and are less willing to cut prices when the client can clearly afford to pay an 'honest' rate.

As I write this, I'm sitting waiting for a client telecon that should have started half an hour ago. For the client, keeping me waiting half an hour for a call or an extra few days for feedback or a couple of weeks between meeting me and getting going on a job, may mean very little. All I see in client companies now is fewer people asked to do more with less resource. However, in trying to structure my day, my week and my projects so that I can try and regularise my income, those delays are a major hassle. Sometimes I don't think the penny has dropped with some clients: whatever they do, if they're in-house, they'll get a salary payment at the end of the month. On the other hand, if i don't generate the work, do the work and then bill the work, I don't get paid.

That other potential storm on the horizon is turning great meetings and conversations into billable work. There are more projects out there and even today, I've picked up a website to revamp. But much of my last few weeks has been responding to client calls, meeting them, agreeing a way forward....and then waiting. There's still a great caution to commit on new communication work out there. At the moment it's merely frustrating. Many more months like this and it'll be distinctly financially damaging.

Anyway, 45 minutes now - and still no telecon...