One of my aims for 2013 is to grow the business into a proper agency. For our first year, it was largely about me being a freelancer, but we’ve grown to the point where we need to take the next step. That’s great news, but it’s not without it’s challenges.
This is the first of a few posts about those challenges and what I’ve been finding out about them.
Our biggest challenge isn’t getting the work in, it’s cashflow. Up until now, it’s just been me – and I’ve realised we’ve been adopting a pretty lax approach to our invoicing. When it’s just me and some freelancers, that’s fine. I know the money’s coming in sometime, and I’ve got enough to live off for a few months, but when we hire people, they need paying every month. For the most part, we currently invoice at the end of the project, with a 30 day window. With the world’s finances being what they are, everyone then waits until the 30th day to pay their invoice. So what that means for us is if we do some work today, it’s usually 6-8 weeks before we see the money.
When I started, we went down this route because, well, that’s how things were done at my last company. But that was a massive multinational company, with enough cash reserves and clients to do that. I’d just assumed that was how everyone does business. Legally, you have to give clients 30 days before you can charge them a late fee, so it’s best to work with this mind anyway. In fact we’ve budgeted with this in mind, as it seems like the most sensible thing to do.
But in my chats with people who have successfully built their business from a freelancer to a small agency, this is the one consistent piece of advice I’ve been given – build up a stockpile, and reduce the payment time by asking for a deposit that’s paid before work starts, and reduce invoice terms as much as possible.
Failing to sort out the cashflow, not lack of work, causes the most headaches and is the biggest reason for new businesses failing.
So here’s what we’ve done to tighten up cashflow so far:
Some useful posts and resources on Cashflow
I’m not really one for writing posts like this, but this year was quite notable for various reasons. This will probably read like one massive status update, so if that’s not your thing, go read something else.
In 2012 lots of things I’d been planning and aiming for over the last few years finally came to fruition – Leaving my job and starting up on my own meant I could finally sort my finances out and even get engaged. Here’s my 2012:
Despite a 4,30am start, I made it to New Adventures Conf. It was the only web design conference I attended – I usually only do a couple a year, though in 2013 I really should go to more meet up type things. I did the London – Nottingham – London trip in a day. Must book a hotel for the 2013 conference.
My last week at e-Dialog was pretty cool – we had one last jolly with the London 2012 team, with a trip to one of the test events, and we won gold for best use of email at the Econsultancy awards. It did mean, however, I started my last day at work with a colossal hangover. Leaving my old job was bittersweet – we had cool clients and did good work, but money and the direction of the business were getting more concerning. I had an amazing time though.
On 27th February I started my own gig at Action Rocket. It’s been an awesome ride so far, and probably a blog post in it’s own right. I don’t regret it.
I asked Hayley to marry me on a rickety old rowing boat on Central Park lake.
She said yes.
I had a few clients to see in New York and Boston, so we had a bit of a last minute trip to the States. I think New York comes a close runner up to London, as my favourite place to be. I’d move to NY in a second.
I have a weekend to myself in New York at the end of Feb 2013, can’t wait.
A bit of a personal journey as we’d worked on campaigns for London 2012 for so long – in fact that was the only reason I’d have stayed at my old job, but at the end of the day it wasn’t worth it. The actual Olympics, on the other hand, were amazing.
Our “proper” holiday of 2012. Cornwall was good to us, although it did rain for almost the whole week we were there. We fell in love with Port Isaac though, especially Gino the dog and the Bay Hotel.
The thing I learnt here was that you can get 100 of your closest friends in one room, and still feel like you didn’t see any of them for more than 2 minutes. I’ve been told that weddings are the same, but I really want to find a way for it not to be.
I lost my old A3 in a moderately underwhelming accident, so in a moment of thinking ‘it’s either now or in 20 years’, I bought a superfast sports car. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t.
After a colossal christmas rush, I’ve managed to actually take a proper break over Christmas. In fact it’s almost been too quiet, but at least I’ve managed to catch up on a huge sleep backlog.
I have a few aims for 2013, the main one is to get the business to stand on its own two feet, so I can take a break without the job stopping (or get on with the next step). Apart from that, it’s the usual – go to the gym more and quit Facebook.
If there’s one perpetual twitter discussion that always winds me up, it’s the one about well known “celebrity” web designers*. It usually stems from someone complaining about “seeing the same old faces at conferences” and then some of the more well known designers sometimes reply by saying they’re just trying to do a job well, and being known for that is a by product. Every few weeks it flares up, as regular as clockwork. You could set your watch by it, if your watch had a every-few-weeks hand.
We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.
I made a thing that went a bit viral today (with a bit of a nudge from the nice people at the Guardian). It’s a tongue in cheek version of the ‘Life in the UK’ test that you have to take to become a UK citizen. There’s a version of that test on the Guardian site, which is a bit difficult and prompted a Twitter trend of spoof questions. I took some of the best ones from there, nabbed a domain, and put a new test together over my lunch break.
I’ve been trying to sort out a decent archive of my tweets for a while – there’s always that thought at the back of your mind that if Twitter goes down then you lose everything. Having looked at a bunch of solutions I settled on Tweet Nest – which is a nifty self-hosted app that connects to Twitter’s API, grabs all of your tweets and presents them in a nice, blog style interface.
Take a look at http://twitter.elliot-ross.co.uk/
So in a previous life (actually every day after 6pm) I work as a dj in UK clubs and on radio, playing hip hop, rnb and reggae/dancehall. Most of the stuff is current and sometimes commercial, but occasionally I get a spare hour to mix up some old school classic hip hop and upload it online. Here’ s a few recent mixes, featuring the likes of GangStarr, Mos Def, Wu Tang and a bunch of 90s Hip Hop – enjoy! (more…)