Helping free-lancers be freer. Book says organizing like a big business can do small wonders for performance
Boston — The world of being your own boss isn't the exclusive province of the techno-whizzes and the MBA briefcase-toters. Working for Yourself: A Guide to Success for People Who Work Outside the 9 to 5 World, by Phillip Namanworth and Gene Busnar (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1985, $18.95 hard cover or $10.95 paper), offers tips on ``How to run the most important business on this planet -- yours!''
But the context of this informal and humorous book is the sometimes endearingly fuzzy-at-the-edges world of free-lancers -- in the arts or in allied fields such as advertising and public relations. And even for those with 9-to-5 jobs, this book has some useful ideas on managing time and life better.
``The book is about self-management,'' Mr. Namanworth said in an interview. The key concept, he added, is the ``individual business structure.'' This is in effect a way of looking at your one-person business as if it were a large corporation with decisionmakers to do long-range strategic planning, managers to translate objectives into concrete plans, and workers to get specific things done.
By separating the three functions, wearing different hats at different times, so to speak, you can give yourself fully to one of them at a time and do a better job at all of them.
Planning for example, is best done in a ``quiet moment, not when the phone is ringing off the wall and [you're] running around like a chicken with its head cut off.''
A free-lancer's lack of planning can be ``devastating.'' Said Namanworth, ``People don't know why they want to be in business -- they need to clear up in their head what `success' is for them.''
Mr. Namanworth and Mr. Busnar come down hard on what they call the `` `I Am an Artiste' Attitude,'' which they feel is responsible for a lot of unbusinesslike behavior that keeps free-lancers from realizing their goals. They also push free-lancers into more aggressive marketing of themselves ``in the real world.''
They speak to their audience right where it is. At one point they recommend the purchase of a single manila envelope as a first step toward developing some sort of orderly bookkeeping system.
Namanworth says: ``You take a guy whose desk looks like Hiroshima and tell him he's got to have a computerized file system, and he's going to throw the book out the window. But if you can get him to buy a single manila envelope today, and another one tomorrow, and maybe by the end of the week a box to put them in, you're getting somewhere.''
The book provides a number of fill-in-the-blank opportunities, including a five-question quiz on ``How Do You Feel About Money?'' and other questionnaires intended to make readers evaluate their habits, attitudes, and motivations.
And after quotations from Pearl Bailey (``I've been rich and I've been poor, and honey, there ain't no comparison'') and the Beatles (``Money can't buy me love''), there is some blank space under the notation ``Your remarks here.''
``Working for Yourself'' includes many useful quotations from the authors' interviews with experts in such fields as time management and personal finance, and at the end of the book are several pages of suggestions for further reading.
Here are some more specific tips:
Plan ahead for tax expense. The checks free-lancers get rarely have tax withheld, so they need to do their own withholding to keep from coming up short on April 15.
Learn to be comfortable talking about money.
Namanworth recommends you practice saying, to your friends or to your own reflection in the mirror, ``I'd like to bring up the issue of price,'' until you feel more comfortable saying it. ``Prepare to go ahead and be nervous.'' And if the offered price isn't right, be sure you've practiced saying, ``I'll get back to you on this.''
Have your own financial team, including an accountant who understands your business and is also on your wavelength as far as deductions and so on go.
Get insurance through your union or professional association. Have fire and theft insurance.
Keep in touch. Many free-lancers find themselves isolated in their work lives -- they need to reach out, have lunch with people in their field. ``They need to be with people. Otherwise you constantly end up being the person with both sides of the argument,'' says Namanworth.
Namanworth is a successful musician and also the founder of Mind Your Own Business, a consulting service for free-lancers. Busnar, also a musician by background, is director of the Freelance Network. The authors teach seminars at the New School for Social Research and New York University.
Namanworth and his wife have taken the book's advice, he said. ``We have IRAs now, and savings cushions.''
They also use the simple ``Dave's jar'' saving system. They pay for everything with bills instead of cash and put anything left over into a jar. ``Last year Dave's jar paid for half a fridge, three days' vacation, and a rug,'' he says.