Managing a pipeline
I wonder if there is a particular size of pipeline that’s the hardest to manage? Obviously having the stress of paying peoples wages is tough. That’s probably the main reason I don’t have ambitions to grow Joy. I have seen people sit with that stress and it’s not fun.
It has to be said though, managing a pipeline for one person is a tricky business. The main thing is the margin between being really busy and really quiet is small, super small.
This is not a challenge I anticipated. I knew getting work in the first place would be tough but the juggling act of managing when to say yes, when to say no and the consequences of those decisions didn’t cross my mind.
Last week I lost two pieces of work. One was a pitch I had been written into by an agency. The other was just something on the horizon I was hoping to get an opportunity to pitch for but they decided to pivot their approach. Neither of these pieces of work were sure things, they were maybes. But the difficult thing is knowing how many maybes you can hedge your bets on.
There is an extra layer of difficulty when you factor in agencies writing you into bids. If it’s just me pitching for work and I over commit, I can choose to find someone to collaborate with to deliver it or take the reputation hit and turn it down. If it’s an agency, I’m then letting them down, burning a bridge and damaging their reputation on top of my own.
Another aspect I find tricky is knowing how to judge how likely it is something will land. There is obviously no science to this, it’s a gut feeling that will develop over time through experience. The only thing that seems certain in this space is that repeat work from exisiting clients is a safer bet. Beyond that it seems like a dark art to me if I’m honest.
So two things I’m learning I need to get better at. The first is actually documenting my pipeline in something other than my head! I actually forgot a piece of work I’d been written into when I was speaking to another potential future client the other week and had to backtrack my availability over email.
The second is building a network of collaborators. This is not because I want to grow Joy in any formal way but I don’t want to be in the position where I have too much work, all of which I want to do, that I can’t service.
The obvious place for me to start here is user research. A lot of the work I’m asked to do, especially direct client commissions, involves both research and design. If it’s small I can do both myself but I’d rather have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from experienced researchers. I recently put a call out and had a few people reach out which was lovely. It’s nice to know I now have some contacts in place for if and when the time comes.
The last thing I’m becoming more and more aware of is how much I’m tempted to over work. This is something I was conscious of keeping an eye on when I started. Because of tax thresholds and wanting to have a buffer in my business, working more doesn’t equate to more money for me at the moment. So I want to try and train my brain to remember that, in summer especially, it’s ok to only work on one project and do 3 days/week for a while.
It’s ok to take Friday off to just sit in the garden and read a book.
Every week if I want.
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