In the first of 5 interviews with web designers and developers who are self employed I chat with Craig Grannell. I first met Craig whilst working at Designation way back in 1999. Craig’s business (Snub Communications) provides web design and copywriting services.
Nathan: So what was it that made you decide to ‘go it alone’?
Craig: Two things, really. The first was being able to rely on myself rather than others. I got hit by the fallout of “dot bomb” and then ended up at another agency in financial strife, thereby reducing both potential workload and salary. During this time, I’d got a number of contacts in the industry and figured I’d be better off just having to look after myself and my clients rather than a company as well. And then I moved to Iceland â€¹ seeing as I’m not fluent in Icelandic, I’d have only been able to get menial work there until such a time as I could speak the language. Having a solid freelance client list meant I could work for myself, despite living overseas.
Ch ch ch ch changes
Nathan: How did you prepare for the change in employment, did you ‘do it proper like’ and write a formal business plan before you started?
Craig: Nope. I just gradually went into freelance, reducing the amount of “non freelance” work, until such a point that I was only working for myself.
Nathan: On your first day did you do a shed load of work or just play PlayStation?
Craig: I didn’t have a “first day” in the typical sense, as I’ve just said. However, anyone who spends their freelance work time messing around simply won’t make it â€¹ you have to be committed and have plenty of will-power.
Nathan: If you charge by the hour, how did you decide on your hourly rate? Did you pluck a figure from the air or work out a rate based on the salary you required?
Craig: I decided on a suitable salary and used something along the lines of this Payroll Calculator to figure out an hourly rate for a typical working week, based on the annual salary, and then doubled it (because, generally speaking, you only actually work creatively for half your working day). This was then “reality checked” against other companies, and was deemed competitive.
Nathan: What about marketing then… do you advertise your services in local rags, wear a short skirt and tout yourself on street corners or just rely on word of mouth?
Craig: Word of mouth, primarily, but I also get business via my journalism and book work.
Nathan: How does your average work day pan out? For example do you have specific times during which you respond to prospects and clients, read blogs and eat biscuits, or do you just go with the flow?
Craig: Each day is different, so I find that creating plans to try and stick to is just a waste of time. However, I generally try to do “menial”/non-creative work (reading emails and forums, and so on) while eating, leaving the rest of the time for more important stuff.
Work and play
Nathan: Does working freelance ‘actually’ give you more free time for yourself and/or your family? Or in reality and do you actually spend every waking hour sat at the computer trying to make sure that you can pay the bills each month?
Craig: It means there’s no commute, potentially providing more time during the day. The reality of freelancing, however, is that you never entirely know where your next job is coming from, so most have a tendency to get in too much work and therefore end up working longer hours than is perhaps necessary “to pay the bills” â€¹ at least for periods of time.
When disaster strikes
Nathan: What’s the one single biggest disaster that you’ve had to face, and how did you deal with it?
Craig: My main works hard drive, which had been working fine for months, suddenly failed. Although I had back-ups of most things, I didn’t have everything, and so I had to spend three days trying to retrieve data. I now have a slightly more bullet-proof back-up system in place, which involves a mirrored h/d and regular back-ups to DVDR.
The future (is bright hopefully)
Nathan: Being self employed you must have some ambition… where do you want your business to be in ten years time?
Craig: Ideally, I’d like to be in the position where I only have to “work” a few days each week, thereby providing me with the time to spend concentrating on music and family.
Nathan: And finally, what single tip would you give to someone who is considering going freelance to help make the leap into the unknown that little less daunting?
Craig: Some tips:
- Don’t fuck up. If you state a deadline to a client, stick to it. Always do your best work, and don’t think you can get away with cutting corners.
- Be realistic. If a client says they want something by a certain date that’s simply not achievable, either try to convince them to shift the deadline or don’t take the job.
- Be honest. If you screw up, say so â€¹ don’t try to fool a client. If you’re going to miss a deadline, for whatever reason, tell the client with as much advance warning as possible.
- Get an accountant. Keep all your receipts, log all of your jobs (and when/if you’re paid) and get an accountant to do your tax returns.
- Back-up. You need a minimum of two levels of back-up â€¹ get a one-touch external firewire drive to back-up your work to at least once every week (or daily, if possible) and also regularly back-up to DVDR.