The Lab Report: My Monthly Freelance Biz Breakdown – Apr 2014
Welcome to the inaugural Never North Labs Business Breakdown.
Never North Labs is my design studio and every month I’ll write a detailed report about my freelance business and the journey I’m going on to CRUSH IT! I’ll go over the direction I’m taking my business, lessons learned, mistakes I made, and other important happenings.
I do this because I believe in transparency and authenticity online and you should know who I am and what I’m doing in my own business (the good, the bad, and the ugly). I’m just an ordinary person like you, with my own baggage and life problems, yet I’m working hard to build the life and business I’ve been dreaming of.
I want to take you along for the ride so you can not only see that it’s possible, but that we all struggle in our own ways. At Never North we go to battle together as doers and by participating here you’ll see your own journey expand.
This is not all about me, please post your own monthly update in the comments section. Let’s follow each other’s journey and grow together as a community that wants to design a better tomorrow.
So let’s get into it!
The past year everything that could go wrong did. With some health struggles and all this stuff stealing my time and energy away I couldn’t keep up. Projects started compounding each other and the hole just got deeper. My project planning became a huge failure when I moved from having an office to working from the road.
I disappointed some people. It felt terrible because to them it looked like I did nothing when in reality I was fighting with everything I had and it just wasn’t enough. Life handed me a shit sandwich for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I needed to have another serious evaluation of my business!
This process never ends actually. You need to constantly reevaluate things and make sure your business is working for you. Sometimes, you find things that worked before, no longer do. Circumstances change and so do we.
I had to de-risk the business, it couldn’t be dependent on me!
This is what I asked myself:
- Who is draining me?
- Who do I love working with?
- What kind of projects can I handle and love doing?
- What kind of tasks do I hate doing and could give to someone else?
- Knowing what I know now, what does my ideal day look like?
Once I had those answers, I asked myself, “How can I make that financially viable?”
I realized that I had too many projects for the time to do them in the way I wanted to. I can’t half-ass a project. So I decided I needed to drop most of my projects. Doing this would mean that I would have to double the rates for the three projects I choose to keep and drop the security of my waiting list. To drop all of this so suddenly, I will need to create a new stream of income doing consulting in place of my design work in the next 30-days. All clients had to accept the hiked rates for this plan to work and thankfully, they did.
It’s time to pump up the volume over here and make some big changes.
My Ideal day!
Now, my ideal day is not going to happen overnight. It’s a process and each day I will get one step closer to it. Every day is a No Zero Day for this goal meaning I have to take one small baby step at minimum each day to move this goal forward.
My dream life is to have a house that I build to my exact desires. Everything I ever wanted, the most perfect creative space, a treehouse getaway, and right on the ocean. Somewhere in South East Asia. I love everything about the region. The food. The people. The culture. The land. The price!
I would like to live there for 3 months out of the year and any time I need to work on a creatively draining project. On the road you have to compromise a lot on workspaces so having the perfect creative space to retreat to would be a dream come true. After three years on the road I miss having a place to call my own.
I would then live in cities around the world for 1 to 6 months. We would use our rental as a base to explore further for shorter 1-5 day trips in nearby areas.
We would reduce our workload to just 4 hours per day with no major projects away from base, so that we would have more freedom to see more of the places we visit. Striking a good work/life/travel balance is particularly difficult, but I want to succeed in this.
I want to set-up my business in a way so that I mostly focus on the things I love… Travel. Adventure. The Creative Practice. Doing great work. Things like that.
This blog will chronicle my journey to attain this, however long it takes.
Remember every day is a No Zero Day. And we always keep moving forward.
I’m not superwoman.
This is where my current transition lies. Phasing out most client work and moving into a consulting role. Never North progress will be slow during this time as many pieces are moving in the back-end to prepare for what comes next.
Left up to my own devices I can get lost in creative rabbit holes and I suck at project planning. I need someone to help keep me in line and make sense of my creativeness. I have a good foundation, but since I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to work on my business and get my systems working FOR me. Right now, they’re a little against me.
A hit worth taking
It takes money to hire people. I’m making a pretty big financial investment to hire the people I need to help me move my business forward in the best way possible. It’s a hit, but a hit worth taking.
The Creative Practice
I have not been very balanced lately. I’m happy, but my creative balance is off. It’s normal. We all fall off the path sometimes. It’s getting back on ‘The Creative Practice’ that matters.
I need to learn how to deal with these health issues and create a life that balances what I’m best at in a way that is healthy and creative for me. I may be traveling around the world, but it is not all rainbows and pots of gold over here. Problems follow you wherever you may be.
By freeing up my time for stuff that other people can do for me, I can give myself more time to focus on creating money out of thin air.
Because I’m a creator like that and I believe that money grows on the little trees in my mind.
Don’t think my butthole doesn’t pucker when I do something ballsy like fire a client with no money in my account though. The little devils that sit on my shoulder are screaming in my ears, “WTF? Are you crazy? DO YOU REALIZE WHAT YOU JUST DID!?!”
But I do it anyways because I have faith that I’ll get what I want. And even if I don’t at the time, looking back it ends up better because of the opportunity saying “NO” freed me up for.
If you’re not saying, “HELL YES” to a project, then the answer is simply, “No, Thanks.” Tweet This
The challenge. The war you fight with yourself.
Plans & Pivots
Hiring a sidekick asskicker to help me be my best self
I created my first job for the Never North Empire and searched the ends of the earth to find my diamond in the rough, Chanelle. Team Jenny. The whip. The hamster wheel that keeps this place running. Chanelle is working on our project management system and other secret project type stuff. Her job is to be the engine behind Never North, helping me plan things out, stay on task, and make sure everyone gets stuff done.
If I want to run a team and I’m not good at project management I definitely have to have someone crack that whip.
I have serious problems and challenges I have to overcome now. Normally, I only work as hard I need to and play with my money and time. But life has made me pay financially in the tens of thousands for medical bills and other random, “this is bullshit” situations. This has kept me in a crappy cycle that has drained my savings over and over again the past few years.
So I had to pivot and upgrade my money mindset.
“It’s only money, I can create more” I kept telling myself as I watch my dreams fade and I had to pay out yet again.
I’m ready to make some big bold changes to get myself out of this cycle of feast or famine, work or play and use my time more wisely to create a more long-standing balance. I need to do it for me. For my health. For my future and the future of Never North.
I am a creator and money grows on the happy little trees in my mind.
The internet gives us infinite possibilities to what we can do these days. We should start using our heads and get creative. The industry is changing and now is a great time to do something different. People buy all sorts of services online and figuring out what I like doing best and packaging that feels awesome.
We design the life we want to live and we create the world we leave behind.
First Consulting Offer Sale
The other day I created a prototype offer and sold my first consulting package for $749. BAM! If you are on our e-mail list you would know that though, because they got the whole breakdown of the process I went through to create it. (I told you we treat our email subscribers the best).
The money trees in my mind made that and I will continue to develop my consulting offer so it can launch at the end of the month and use it to replace the majority of my design/client income. I am very excited about toning down client work to almost nothing so I can focus on building the army here at Never North and get my creative practice back!
I will accomplish the following things by next month:
- Complete my new consulting offer and be ready to launch it by June 1st.
- Get the last two big projects off my plate and start designing Dark Sail live on Never North by the end of May.
- Complete the new project management system with Chanelle.
- Take No Zero Day one step further and add in one of The Creative Practices each day. One baby step at a time.
In this section we’ll highlight the best e-mail we received of the month (with permission). This month we have: Rahsaan Williams
Subject: Just Fired my First Client!!!
… and I have honestly never felt a moment of anxiety like hitting send on that email.
I have been reading the NeverNorth blog and started working out for myself where I felt I had “gotten off track” in both my day/contractual job as well as my evening/freelance work, doing some serious thought as to what items I was allowing to hinder me.
So when a reoccurring client of mine contacted me today asking about for some conceptual branding work on the “friends & family reduced rate plan” (no kidding, that was actually a quote), despite having not completed his current project, I finally sat here at my desk & thought: “See, Jenny would have dropped kicked this guy off the client list months ago.”
So i politely emailed and explained that I was not taking any new projects at this time.
I had to force myself to hit send. I think it caused me some actual physical pain to do so. 20 minutes later I felt better. And unlike what was subconsciously drummed into me in Design School, the world DID…NOT…END.
Crap, maybe I’ll finally have time to finish my own logo now! Or take up scuba diving. Or finally sleep without getting a text message telling me to look at my email.
Jenny, thanks. I’ll keep reading; if for no other reason than that for today, you reminded me to stop putting up with this half-assed crap & clear the lane for the things i really want!
Rock On Rahsaan. Rock On.
Okay. It’s your turn. Share with us:
- What did you learn or struggle with this month?
- What are you excited about?
- What steps will you take to move your business forward this month?
GO! NORTHIES GO!