Sunday, April 3, 2011

You Think You Can....But Can You?

I never thought I'd say this, but language schools, I feel your pain!

Many teachers come up to me asking if they should become an independent freelancer.  The question isn't "Should you?" but "Can you?" This goes for becoming a travailleur independent AND/OR an Auto-entrepreneur.  Do you have what it takes to strike out on your own?  Sure being your own boss sounds cool, but before you take the leap, I strongly recommend you take a good hard look at what language schools go through - because that's exactly what awaits you once you write that letter to UR$$AF or sign on to be an auto-entrepreneur.

Are you ready for: 
  • Finding clients (in France, this means, are you good enough so that your trainees talk about you and recommend you. In France it's all about word of mouth, so put down that phone before you make one very chilly cold call).  
  • Comfortable with communicating the price of your services to prospective clients.
  • Writing up contracts in French (and understanding their company's jargon if they are the ones drawing up the contract). 
  • Maintaining clients (e.g. follow up, assessments; quality control of your own services).
  • Monthly billing (and keeping up with it).
  • Chasing after payments (are you willing to get tough? If you're subcontracting other teachers, do you have enough in the bank to pay those teachers in the event the client "forgets" to pay your invoices?).
  • Keeping track of your earnings and business expenses (a.k.a. keeping track of itty bitty pieces of paper and filing them in chronological order). 
  • Understanding the frequent love notes from government agencies such as UR$$AF, CIPAV, RSI et al.
  • Setting aside money you earn during the good months for the bad months (in France this means one thing:  July, August and much of September).
  • Setting aside money for when UR$$AF and CIPAV and RSI bills appear in your postbox every 4 months or so. 
  • Getting to know your accountant and double checking any dirty work he side-dishes to his interns.
  • Keeping a close eye on your own sanity and professionalism.
All of these slippery round orbs one must keep in the air are important and necessary.  I've said it before: it's not for everyone. But it's also an adventure and a never-ending learning experience.