Many burgeoning entrepreneurs with drive will at some point develop a superhero complex when viewing their businesses. Every opportunity becomes a life or death decision for their companies, and the fear of missing that dream chance pushes the entrepreneurs to take on more than they can handle. Projects begin stacking upon themselves, late nights turn into early mornings- the entrepreneur runs until empty. And then, it all comes crashing down. Deadlines pass, meetings are missed and, suddenly, the entrepreneur is overwhelmed trying to fix the problems caused by not pacing themselves in the first place.
When you are first following your dream, it is difficult to turn down projects offered to you. The continual fear of failure can often cloud your judgment when deciding what you are capable of doing. This can be especially true if your business follows the feast or famine model- some months you’re overwhelmed with projects, while other months you can barely pay the bills. If you are a project based entrepreneur, you have no set schedule for your business operations. The progression of the digital age makes the typical 9-5 business hours almost obsolete, so projects come in at all hours of the day with varying deadlines. If you find yourself becoming the type of entrepreneur who can’t set limits because of financial constraints or unabridged ambition, there are preemptive actions you can take to empower yourself.
1) Project Timelines- Setting a timeline with a client that allows you flexibility can also help you manage your projects. Before accepting projects, inform clients of the window of time needed for a project. Allow yourself a cushion of time to complete the project. For instance, if a client wants you to complete a project that you know will take two weeks, request that the client give you up to three weeks to complete it. In this way, if any issues arise, you have a 50% more time to complete the project. If you complete it in two weeks, your client is even happier that they received a quality project earlier than expected. This model can be seen often in companies that ship products for their businesses. A quick run through their reviews and you’ll notice client comments like “Product came earlier than expected!” or “Quick delivery!” This is not a happy accident, but a planned method of attack. These companies are highly aware of the amount of time it takes to move their products, but allow themselves a cushion to increase customer satisfaction.
2) Payment Plans– Most new entrepreneurs embrace payment in full when a job is completed. For project based entrepreneurs, the varying flux of income can be difficult to manage. For larger projects, consider putting your client on a payment plan. Many clients will embrace the idea of payment plans as it allows them to budget out the amount they owe over a period of time. From my experience, clients who are put on a payment plan are more willing to contract you for further long-term projects.
There is benefit on your end as well with payment plans. Though you do not receive the balance in full up front, clients with payment plans can secure you income over a period of time- a luxury many project based entrepreneurs don’t have. This secured income allows you to budget somewhat your expenses with the knowledge of the long term income you expect to receive. Knowing that you have the income security will allow you to decide on projects based on your ability to do them rather than your financial need. This can keep you from overwhelming yourself with projects you may not have the ability to complete.
Turning down projects is never easy, but the successful entrepreneur understands the ability of companies to grow too fast, too soon and fail. Accept your limitations and work with them, not against them. At the end of the day, it is better to have your name on a few quality projects than a large quantity of mediocre projects. And since your reputation ensures your success, think of turning down current projects as a method to secure your business’s longevity.