I’m always on the look out to feature fab parents who give up a high flying corporate career in order to work flexibly around their family.
So I’m equally as keen to ensure we feature dads as well as mums who take that bold leap – after all, flexible working is not just a “mum” issue.
Meet Rob Shelley, father of three and co-founder of Cahoot Creative Graphic Design.
Rob gave up a corporate career to freelance, and then form a graphic design agency with his business partner Mark Kermode.
WYW: Rob, you’ve formed a high-end graphic design agency, (which incidentally, I have used and can highly recommend) with your business partner Mark Kermode. What tips would you give to other Freelancers who may be thinking about forming an agency.
Firstly, it’s crucial to find partner(s) that you work well with, that you trust and that have a skill set that overlaps with your own.
Secondly, Implement robust systems to support the day-to-day. We made a big investment in software to manage our workflow and invoicing and it has really paid off in the long run.
Thirdly, build a good network of reliable, highly skilled freelancers, who you can use when that big project comes in.
And finally, don’t pretend to clients to be something you are not!
WYW: Would you say it’s the key to being able to take on more lucrative projects? Any cons?
I think it is, yes. Bigger companies often worry about using ‘one-man-bands’. Often you could do the work with your eyes closed, however from their point of view it’s risky. They like to have the assurance of back-up, cover if you go sick, and that their all-important-deadline is going to be achieved no matter what.Besides, if you do a good job they’d probably want to place more and more work with you. Will you cope alone?
The cons are that you are accountable to someone else, but actually I think that is a positive!
WYW: What challenges have you, or do you have in running your business?
The obvious challenge is attracting enough new business to keep the momentum and the bills paid. One way we’ve eased this burden has been adding ongoing services that compliment our new websites, which in turn provides monthly income, greater ‘client stickiness’ if you like.
Another challenge is knowing the power of a loss-leader. Sometimes, if you do over and above what you should be doing for the money, it can really pay off in the long run. Some of our best clients have stemmed from a simple business card job – but we obviously made a good impression!
WYW: Was your decision to work yourself influenced by a desire to spend more time with your family? And how do you juggle work around the kids?
Yes. I’d worked in a big corporation for 15 years. When my wife and I started a family I soon realised that my priorities had shifted. I had thought about going it alone many times, but with a young family and good salary to give up, I didn’t feel comfortable taking the leap. As, soon as I was made redundant, and the decision was no longer mine to ponder, I set about creating my business!
My work is generally pretty flexible, if I need to drop the children to school I can. I can shuffle my daily tasks to allow me to attend sports day or early parents evenings. I’m now able to be ‘Daddy-day-care’ one day week, which enables my wife to work, which is something she enjoys.
Sometimes I start work at 5am so I can free up the afternoons – very useful in the school holidays so that I can get quality time with my children!
WYW: What tips would you give to other dads thinking about doing the same?
Try to create a workspace separate from the house, although not essential it makes life much easier, and I think the physical leaving your home to commute to work (however short the journey, mine is only 5 metres!) is very helpful.
Invest in a good fast reliable internet connection.
Set yourself rules… establish working hours for yourself, but YOU are in control, you can and will need to be flexible… but it can help safeguard against just working all the hours because there’s nothing to stop you.
Slow down… enjoy your children whilst they are young, you don’t get that time back and it can’t be bought!
WYW: What special projects are you working at the moment, and what plans for the future?
We’ve just broken into the school website market, we have two on the go at the moment, and hope to attract others. Also as a Google Engage Agency we are enjoying a great opportunity to provide managed Pay Per Click Campaigns to drive potential customers to clients websites. Our plans for the future continue to be to grow our client base, learn new skills and establish a robust business that my children could join!
For more details of Rob’s (and business partner Mark’s) services at Cahoot Creative, please click here to visit his ad in the marketplace.