So You Want to be a Freelancer: You need to know the 2–2–1–2 Rule

“I feel stuck. We’re just drifting around in circles, and my company’s leadership doesn’t know what the hell they are doing. Because they can’t see us at our desks every day, they keep adding new software to keep track of us. And my team leader has no idea how to lead a remote team. Screw ’em, I’m leaving.”

That is Jane Morgan’s response to my first question over Zoom, “What’s up, Jane?”

Jane is ready to join the millions of people who are part of “the great resignation.” And, like a significant part of that movement, is contemplating doing something on her own — becoming a consultant or a freelancer, willing to give up all the “security” of an established company to find new freedom in an independent career.

“Jane, I know you, but tell me a bit more about your skill-set.”

“As you know, I got my master’s degree in data science five years ago and have since developed some well-accepted solutions for our client companies. In addition, I became a certified project manager and have led several important client projects.

“Have you engaged in any direct sales activities to get new business?” I ask.

“Not directly, but I’ve been out on a few sales call to help describe our approach,” she answers.

“Well, Jane, one of the first things you need to know about operating independently is the 2–2–1–2 rule”

“What’s that, Grant?”

“It’s a simple formula to indicate the balance you need in your business and also gives you an idea of the effort it’s going to take to be independent,” I answer.

“OK. Tell me?”

“It goes like this. 2–2–1–2 means your week should be: two days devoted to sales and marketing, two days devoted to client work, one day of buffer, and two days of finance and administration,” I say.

“Wait a minute, that’s seven days of work!” Jane says.

“Yep, that’s right. And those will be long days. Seamless days, seamless weeks.”

I continue, “Now, I don’t mean that your weekly planning has to be that rigid, but you will need to make sure you spend as much time marketing, promoting, and selling your business as you do actually doing the client work. And, of course, some of the finance and administration work can be subcontracted, for instance to a good bookkeeper or accountant.”

“That also means I have to learn a lot about sales and marketing,” Jane says.

“Yes, you can get some good support by working with advisors or consultants, but it will be up to you to promote yourself and your business.”

“Many years ago, my partner and I were up to our ears in project work. We were busy and thriving. Then the recession hit and we suddenly had no backlog. I got a loan from the bank to tide us over. But, when we stood back to analyze our situation, we found we’d devoted all of our time and energy to project work and neglected sales and marketing. We immediately revised our priorities, set out to get new projects, and paid the loan back in three months. The work was out there, we just had to find it.”

“So remember the 2–2–1–2 rule. Keep in balance and go have fun as an independent worker.”




Grant Tate is an author, thought leader, confidential advisor, and idea explorer in Charlottesville, VA. His latest book, “Hand on the Shoulder” is out soon.

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Grant Tate is an author, thought leader, confidential advisor, and idea explorer in Charlottesville, VA. His latest book, “Hand on the Shoulder” is out soon.

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