Breaking the rules

Breaking the rules

When extra effort is required

I’m taking things easy this week. The truth is, for the last month or so I’ve been breaking all my rules. I’ve been working more hours than I should, I’ve been working late at night and I’ve been working at weekends. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t do that sort of thing. Overwork does no-one any good and I have rules to keep my work within reasonable limits, ensuring my sanity and giving me time with my family.

But one of the best things about being a freelance rather than an employee is that we are free to break the rules from time to time. The critical point is deciding when and why you do it. Because if I was to keep up the working rhythm of the past few weeks for much longer I would soon collapse from exhaustion. I’m convinced my wife would also have something to say about it. So having a “when” – a deadline when I could say “After this I’m going back to normal” – has been very important.

Opportunities

The “why” is easy: I’ve been working on a wonderful, interesting project in one of my specialist areas at a very good rate for a new customer I believe is likely to give me more worthwhile work in the future. All those elements are very important: it’s a project I’ve enjoyed; I’ve been getting well paid for it, and I have good reason to believe it will offer future opportunities.

The problem has been that it was a big project with a tight deadline and at the same time I’ve also been trying to keep some of my regular customers happy. But in future, if my new customer becomes a regular one, I’m sure I will be able to plan future projects to avoid the pile-up of work.

Warning

The most important thing about breaking your rules is to do it for good reasons and for those reasons to be your own, rather than being imposed from outside. It must never become something you do every day or every week as a matter of course. It must never become something you have to do to make ends meet. And it must never be done because you simply haven’t the courage to say “no” to a customer when necessary. That’s when the warning bells should ring and you should start looking at the way you’re working or the rates you charge.

But having a little flexibility – being ready to make that extra effort – is sometimes what wins you a great project, a good customer or a fabulous opportunity. And, unlike many larger organisations, we freelances are not hemmed in by rules, regulations and procedures. It would be crazy not to make the most of that advantage.

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