When do you need a manager?

Imagine you and two friends go to a 5-star restaurant. It’s known for amazing food. You all order, excited about dinner. Two of you get your plates half an hour after ordering. Your friend is told theirs will come soon. So you wait to eat. Time goes on. The food gets cold. The waiter comes back and doesn’t seem to even notice that two of you have had food for half an hour and one of you hasn’t. You ask the waiter “how soon until that food comes out?”

The waiter is offended and indignant. You hear things like “we’re a 5-star restaurant,” and “the dish ordered is one of our most popular!” “But when will it be here?” you ask. Again, the waiter says things like “I even went above and beyond to make it have extra sides that are truly legendary!” Okay… but when will it be here? Should the others eat? What if I have to go somewhere else soon?

I think you see the pain here. Here’s a thought that helps me: time is part of value, not just scope. Even over-delivering late can be harm for the client. I work with a fair amount of freelancers and have had to often axe some good ones who do not seem able to grasp how time impacts business and seem to completely ignore slippages. As I’ve lately been a freelancer myself, I’ve been thinking about the standard here.

  • If the question “by when can I expect this?” causes you stress or defensiveness, then you should probably work for an agency or have a project manager help you break down tasks and remind yourself the meaning of “good enough.”
  • If you manage timeline expectations well then, most likely, you’re ready to be a solo, consultative freelancer.

To be clear: there’s nothing at all wrong with having a wibbly-wobbly relationship with time. That’s probably a source of great inspiration and creativity! It just doesn’t work well for professionalism sometimes.

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