Team building was something I hadn’t really tried before. I’d worked in someone else’s team, in my first job. (Which probably taught me what not to do…) I’d worked in partnership with my university friends, creating what became Asgard Publishing Services. But building a team from scratch…?
Looking at the copywriters in my growing business network, I realised that they – like me – were battling a common set of problems.
It was difficult to find – or retain – regular work. (Most of my clients were occasional users rather than regular customers.) As a result, cashflow was, to put it mildly, unpredictable; ‘feast or famine’, in fact. And awkward or argumentative customers could them both time and income (not to mention sleepless nights and massive distraction from making a living). And then, of course, there were the slow payers (or those who never paid at all…)
Thinking back to my earliest days as a freelance I remembered the reassurance of having at least one regular source of income – thanks to my father. He was a regular contributor to the Philatelic Magazine, and noticed a need for someone to collate the catalogue of new stamp issues the magazine published every month. I got the job. In a time before computers it involved cutting and pasting dozens of bits of paper in order, then typing up the details in a predetermined format. It didn’t pay a lot, but that didn’t matter. It was something I could depend on.
So how would it be if I could promise my team members a small but regular income? I’d pay them on time, every time, at the end of each month. And if a client proved difficult, I would deal with it myself. There would be deadlines, but as long as they were met they could do the work when and where they pleased. If they needed to discuss their ideas I would give them the time to do so. And if there was one assignment they couldn’t manage – perhaps because of sickness or another commitment – I’d get cover for them or do the job myself.
It was the sort of offer I’d have jumped at as a young freelance – provided, of course, that I trusted the person making the offer.
Networking pays off
As the concept that would become my new business took shape, it realised that I’d need to outsource several key elements. Specifically:
- accounts and bookkeeping
- telephone answering
- some, at least of the writing,
- the editing (of other people’s scripts), and
- ideally, some of the coding and design
If the business was going to be scalable I couldn’t do everything, and I certainly couldn’t write (or edit), design and code every single newsletter. But the design and coding side was pretty specialist. So I decided to focus on the first three elements.
And, as it happened, I knew precisely who to ask. Because by that time I’d been networking in Suffolk for several years.
With some trepidation I emailed all the copywriters in my network – and one trusted virtual assistant. I knew she could (and would) take care of the business admin for me. I didn’t know how many of my copywriting colleagues would be interested. Or, indeed, willing to work with me. But I’d set up the meeting. I knew what I wanted to say – and to do. And when the day came I felt more excitement than anything else.
It was a good concept. It would work. And I could help new writers to avoid some of the perils I’d had to deal with when I started out as a freelance.
When I stood up to talk to the (surprisingly large) number of people in the room I honestly felt I had a great offer for them. I explained that each of them could choose one or more newsletters to write, on a regular basis. (Clients were offered monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly newsletters). They would be paid a standard fee, promptly and predictably, on the 28th of each month. If there were any disagreements or problems with the client, I would deal with them on their behalf and fight their corner. If they needed to miss an assignment, I would cover for them. And they could do the work when and where they liked, on their own equipment, as long as they met the deadline.
A few minutes later, I had my team. And my new company – Newsletter Genie Ltd – was up and running.