July 1996

The Happy Freelance

In the latest of LFB's series of "How to be a rich, happy freelance" talks, heavy-hitting personnel consultant Mike Mainwaring of the Alexander Corporation told freelances that they must aim for the top right-hand corner if they want to achieve their goals.

It wasn't that he'd got caught up in the summer obsession with football metaphors -- instead he had a little diagram he wanted to show the meeting. It looked like:

Urgent. . . . Non-urgent
Important A B
Unimportant C D

Mainwaring asked which square should be the focus of a working life and, to the evident surprise of most of the gathering, pointed to Square B, not the more obvious demands of A.

In fact, that was precisely the point. Urgent/important matters are taken care of perforce, but it's "hazardous if they are allowed to dominate." However, said Mainwaring, items which are not urgent, but of real importance, are the ones which constantly lose out to the daily rush, especially under the daily pressures of a freelance life -- neglect which can cause long-term damage.

Stressing the intimate connection between work and personal life, he said the top right square should be occupied by planning, health and leisure. "Spending time in this area is about vision, balance and control." The urgent-unimportant and unurgent-unimportant business can take their due places on the back burner, or in the bin.

"We don't give tips," Mainwaring said. "We believe that people know what they want to do." Then he offered some tips:

  • Plan "gold" time (leisure)
  • Organise around your priorities (children not career, if that's your truth)
  • Mind your language ("There's nothing I can do" bad; "Let's look at alternatives " good)
  • Keep agreements (the white magic of deadlines!)
  • Do, dump or delegate (don't sit caged by piles of paper)
  • Commit to action (don't live as an attractive hypothesis)
  • Take time to pat yourself on the back (and set aside days or half-days off)
  • Take time to talk through with colleagues how to break through a block, be it creative or practical.

In discussion, members emphasised how important self-esteem is when establishing fees and terms (such as copyright) -- several women and black members said that their status multiplied both the difficulty and the significance of developing business and personal confidence.

Phil Sutcliffe

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