Build decent and expansive relationships - Strategy Consultant Jan Mikulin

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It could be argued that Jan’s doing things differently.

He’s not on social media, he’s had long stretches of time out of work, he’s committed to maintaining his work-life balance, and he invests a lot of time into personal development.

It all started with an unpaid work placement when he was almost bankrupt. Now, Jan’s built the kind of flexible freelance business that allows him to live life on his own terms.

And he’s done that, he says, by getting organised and building deeper, more meaningful relationships. This is his story so far.


Steve Folland: Yeah, and thanks so much for doing this. How about we get started, hearing how you got started being freelance?

Jan Mikulin: So, I fell into it, to be honest. It was one of those things. So, I started out in marketing about 15, more than that, years ago, kind of as a byproduct of me wanting to be a superstar international DJ, and I realised I needed to build myself a little brand, so that I could play all around the world, and get paid big bucks, and become famous.

Jan Mikulin: You know, all of which, obviously, came to pass. But I realised quite quickly that I was better at helping other people build their brands and businesses than I was at mine, 'cause, you know, mine was special, and the rules and the laws of marketing and advertising did not apply to me, 'cause I was different.

Jan Mikulin: You know, 'cause that's the way it works. So, spending all of that time and money to learn the information, and then just ignore it all, was really smart. I kind of ... I was almost bankrupt, actually, and then got to a point where I was like, "I actually need to find myself something different."

Jan Mikulin: And a mate of mine was working at a really cool digital agency called Weapon7, and he suggested that I go and speak to the owner and the Chief Strategy Officer, and have a little chat, and I fell into a little, kind of, two week work placement, which then got turned into a six month contract, and kinda the freelance bug, gig, thing, started from there.

Steve Folland: Interesting that you started there with a work placement. So, was that an unpaid ... ?

Jan Mikulin: Yeah. That was two weeks unpaid, because I'd never done anything in marketing before. They recognised that I had a brain, but they didn't want to put themselves in any position where they had to pay me for something that they weren't sure what the output would be, and after the end of two weeks, they were like, "Yeah, we kinda want you to stay, so here's a six month contract."

Jan Mikulin: And that's how it panned out.

Steve Folland: And what happened at the end of that? Like, as it was coming to the end of that first six months, were you going in and out of their office everyday, were you?

Jan Mikulin: Yeah, pretty much, pretty much. I was onsite, so there was no sense of flexible working or remote working at that point. We're going back years, and towards it, I hadn't really thought about it. I just was like, "Oh well, at the end of six months, they'll just give me another contract, right? That's kinda how this is gonna work."

Jan Mikulin: And they actually didn't have the money or the budget to continue that contract, so as soon as that finished I was left without anything, and that's when the reality of freelance really hit, 'cause before that it was just kinda cool. You know? Getting paid directly to me, and all of that kind of stuff was pretty cool, and it's like, "I actually need to find regular work. How does that work?"

Steve Folland: So what did you do?

Jan Mikulin: Panicked first, and then started furiously thinking about places where I could actually work. Interesting places that I'd heard about while I was at Weapon7, asking the people with whom I'd worked at Weapon7 whether they knew any other places, and asking Mark and Steven, who were the head guys at Weapon7, if they knew anywhere, and seeing if I could get a recommendation.

Jan Mikulin: So, the kind of stuff that actually is, when you think about it, is really common sense, and really smart to do, but I was so panicked that I was just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what would fit, and actually, I kinda stumbled into a bit of a routine, which is now, towards the end of a contract, I'll kinda get a sense as whether the contract might be extended, and if they know anyone else that might be looking for the kinds of skills that I can offer in case that contract isn't extended.

Jan Mikulin: So, I started to build a bit of a system and a routine as a result of it.

Steve Folland: So, it has been, like your career going forward from that, for however ... I mean, you always kinda go, "Nah years." But are we talking, like, 10 years?

Jan Mikulin: We're talking 12. Yeah, 12 years.

Steve Folland: Okay. So, about the past 12 years. So, it tends to be a contract type job that you would go for.

Jan Mikulin: Mostly. I think what I like is to have a discrete focus for something that I do so that I know that I've completed it. Sometimes, that's two weeks. Sometimes that's two months, and one that I came out of a couple of years ago was meant to be two weeks, then it turned into four months, and then we ended up working together for four and a half years.

Jan Mikulin: What I call permalance, so I was essentially a consultant for them for four and a half years, which was an interesting experience.

Steve Folland: Like, working in that way, did you find a pattern as to when to start marketing yourself, or get that work? You know, like, put the feelers out. Were there big gaps in between contracts? How did you get on?

Jan Mikulin: That's a good question. So, I had got into a good rhythm before I took on this permalance thing, and I think after about eight months of being in the same place, I stopped doing the things that work, which is essentially just keep talking to people in your network, and keep an eye on what's happening, and remind people that you're available.

Jan Mikulin: That's kind of it. You know, you talk about your five key things, and one of them being how you network. After about five months, I was less and less telling my network, because we all assumed that I was there and, you know, nothing was really changing.

Jan Mikulin: After eight months, I just stopped talking to people about other work, 'cause I was so focused on doing the work for the client that I had, and so at the end of four and a half years I had to essentially start again. About three years ago now? Two years ago? Three years ago? Something like that, I had to start from scratch, essentially, and remind myself, "Oh yeah, I actually freelance. Just 'cause I've had a client for four and a half years does not stop me being freelance. Where the hell do I get work from?"

Jan Mikulin: So, that was the ... kinda started the process all over again.

Steve Folland: And what would be the biggest gap in between jobs that you had?

Jan Mikulin: 10 months.

Steve Folland: Really?

Jan Mikulin: Yeah, yeah.

Steve Folland: What starts to happen, as the gap gets bigger and bigger?

Jan Mikulin: All sorts. It's interesting. So, I did quite a lot of ... I'm gonna sound like a new age hippie, but I do quite a lot of personal development work. So, looking at emotional states, and psychological states, and keeping yourself in peak state, and state, state, state. And I always maintain a level of positivity and awareness that it will always work out. Not necessarily in the time frame that I would like, and it will always work out.

Jan Mikulin: So, I'm pretty good at making sure that I save money every month from the contracts that I have. I learned that lesson pretty early on. It's like, "Oh, all of this money, then we spent it. I need more money. Where do I get it from?" So, I generally tend to have, unless I'm at the end of a 10 month break, I generally tend to have somewhere between six and 12 months worth of money to pay bills and rent and stuff saved, so that I can weather any of those storms.

Steve Folland: I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking, "But what did you do in that 10 months?" Like, other than personal development, like ... ?

Jan Mikulin: It depends. Right? So, I've had two big breaks. One around nine months, and one around, yeah, 10 months. Nine and 10 months.

Steve Folland: You could've had a baby. What did you do?

Jan Mikulin: I could've. I could've, I could've, I could've done all sorts. I could've gone around the world. The first time I did it, the first nine month period, I was so focused on just getting work I basically took those nine months as a permanent job for me to get work.

Jan Mikulin: And that was really quite stressful, and actually counterproductive, because I was coming across as desperate and needy, calling the same people in my list over, and over, and over again, hoping that they, in the three hours that I hadn't spoken to them, that maybe they had a gig. So, I was basically harassing freelance recruiters for most of that time, and looking on LinkedIn and on the web for potential gigs, and just treating getting work like my job.

Jan Mikulin: And then, the most recent time where I had the 10 months, I decided I was going to do that differently. So, I would spend half an hour each day in the morning, essentially, either sending emails or calling people whom I had some connection with, or building out a broader base. So, in the nine month period before, I was calling the same people over and over again. This time around, I did it differently.

Jan Mikulin: Or, the most recent time around, I did it differently. It was expanding my network each time so that I wasn't calling the same people over and over again, and I also built out a tracking system. So, like, a spreadsheet that told me who I'd spoken to, when I'd spoken to them, when they got back to me, in a little spreadsheet, and that was it.

Jan Mikulin: So, the first half hour to an hour of every day, Monday to Friday, I spent doing that, and the rest of the time I actually spent either reading or working on different projects of my own. 'Cause the whole point of me working freelance and project based is so that I can actually work on my own little side projects and ideas and gigs, and so that's what I did, which was actually a really smart way of doing it, 'cause it made me feel less desperate, and also more interesting when you're talking to potential clients.

Jan Mikulin: Like, "What are you up to?" "Oh, I'm working on this thing, and my, da, da, da, da, da." So, it makes you sound a lot more interesting, and a lot more hire-able.

Steve Folland: And in those two gaps, were there moments when something came along that wasn't perhaps quite what you were looking for and you attempted to take it?

Jan Mikulin: Many a time. Many of my friends would say, "Well, it's cash in hand." And my mum, oh my god. I've learned never to tell my mum what's really going on in my business. She means really well, and she loves me, and I love her, and I understand where she's coming from, but her frame of the world is so different to mine, and she's so risk averse.

Jan Mikulin: It's like, "Well, they've offered you work." "Yeah, but it's essentially tuppence ha'penny a day, mum." "Yeah, but it's it's tuppence ha'penny. It's better than nothing." "Well, what about the opportunity loss of me taking that job?" You know, it's all of these kind of additional things that I'm factoring in every time. How does that position me? What does that do to my reputation? And also, I need to make sure that I am valued. Right?

Jan Mikulin: I have a lot of experience and skill that adds value to a client. If I'm going in and saying, "Alright, well, I'll do the stuff that I used to do 15 years ago, just because you're offering money and I need the money," that doesn't fit with the sense of integrity about the money that I can add, and also, actually, even though they're only paying me, say, 200 quid a day to do a social media manager job, there are better social media managers out there.

Jan Mikulin: So, it's better for them, better for the social media managers, and better for me, for me to say, "Thank you, but no thank you."

Steve Folland: That takes some doing, but yeah. I totally get it. But no, but it's right.

Jan Mikulin: Oh trust me, there have been evenings where I've just thought, "Oh, Jesus, why did I say no to that? I could really do with the money right now."

Steve Folland: And actually, within that sort of thing, what we've just been talking about, is the fact that over the years, in that 15 year window, you have gone from being somebody going in for two weeks for free, to being described on this podcast as a freelance strategy consultant. And, clearly, that's kind of what you're getting at, is the fact that you don't wanna devalue what you've built up.

Steve Folland: How did you start to become the Freelance Strategy Consultant? At what point did you become a consultant? Like ... yeah, you know what I'm saying.

Jan Mikulin: Yeah, I hear you.

Steve Folland: When did you spin around, and the cape was suddenly on?

Jan Mikulin: Oh, that's an image. I'm gonna have to buy myself a cape, now.

Steve Folland: We all need one, yeah.

Jan Mikulin: We do, we do. Although, I don't wanna put the pants on the outside of my trousers. Anyway, so, I think it was around, about ... it was when I finished my permalance gig, 'cause I had essentially moved up the echelons in that agency. I had started as a Super Senior Planner, moved to Planning Director, Global Planning Director, and then Global Head of Digital Marketing.

Jan Mikulin: And kind of put in all of those things together, in terms of a reputational perspective, and also an experience perspective, and the kinds of conversations I wanted to have. So, to use a little bit of industry jargon, I wanted to have more upstream conversations. So, conversations with more senior people, like, earlier in the whole process between ... rather than having a conversation, "This is the brand, this is the campaign, and I'd like you to execute it like this."

Jan Mikulin: I wanted to be having more conversations around, "Well, why are we having a campaign? And how does that map to the brand? And is the brand actually telling the right story?" I wanted to be having more of those interesting conversations, 'cause those are the kinds of conversations I was having when I was permalance. So, I looked around the space to find the kind of positioning language that people were using, and what really fit for me, that gave me both the stature and the positioning, but also a bit more of scope, was Strategy Consultant.

Steve Folland: When we were figuring out, like before we started chatting, before what everybody else heard, backstage, as it were, we were discussing what to call you. And it was interesting, because you said, "Well, actually, it kinda depends who I'm talking to."

Jan Mikulin: This is true. So, I think while there is this kind of umbrella term of Strategy Consultant, I think, dependent on the kinds of people with whom you speak, that means different things to different people, and the word consultant actually means different things to different people. So, in certain parts of the US, consultant means a super loady person, whereas, in other parts of the US, or the UK, or most of Europe, you say consultant, and dependent on how you frame that, they will see the years of experience that you've done, and they'll see you as a super high-end person.

Jan Mikulin: Similarly, like the word executive can mean, like, a junior person, or it can mean in the boardroom. So, it has to be really kept one. God, I went very high calibre there. I have to be really careful, and others in this industry have to be really careful, about the language that they use to describe themselves.

Jan Mikulin: And it's like I would say to any brand or business with whom I was working, your positioning is really important. How you talk about yourself, how you frame yourself, in comparison to your competition, but also in terms of putting the message across of who or what you are is really important.

Steve Folland: So that's kinda the same for all of us.

Jan Mikulin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It's exactly the same for all of us. It's really freaking important.

Steve Folland: Now, you came out of the permalance thing, and that was like three years ago or so, and suddenly, you're the freelance ... well, not suddenly, but you're now the Freelance Strategy Consultant. How do you continue to market yourself? 'Cause everything seems to be relationships, fanning people up, talking to people, like, is that all you do? And all in quotation marks, but as in, there's no blogging, or YouTube videos, or speaking. Or, like, "I wrote a book." Or, you know, the million things that I've heard before.

Jan Mikulin: Yeah. That's really fascinating for me. So, when I left my permalance gig, I had about six months between that and a gig. Part of that was around me taking some time off and refreshing my mind. So, I took three months off just to be like, "Okay, now what do I do?" And went on a couple holidays, blah blah blah, and started reading this book called Deep Work, by Cal Newport.

Jan Mikulin: And something in that book really resonated with me. I've been doing quite a lot of social strategies, and digital integrated strategies, and talking about how to use social media to build your brand, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And this book was really counter that. This idea of, "Yes, there is value in it, but how much value for how much energy and input?" So, after reading that book, I came off all social media other than LinkedIn, which I decided was business media, rather than social media.

Jan Mikulin: And that kind of removed any of those types of opportunities, essentially. It was a calculated decision, because I wanted to get into more, as he would call it, deep work. So, the work that actually creates more value. And I know that's a very charged term, considering the fact that you and I are on a podcast that's gonna be shared on the interwebs, via socials, and ting.

Steve Folland: Yep, but not by you, apparently.

Jan Mikulin: No, not by me. I'm not gonna help in any promotion, god no. Not on social. I will talk to my friends, and network around the fact that I've been interviewed for this awesome podcast by this awesome dude, but for me, and it's spent on my personality as well, I decided that I wanted to create deeper, more meaningful relationships, and at that time, social felt so far away from that. It was very broadcasty, not really much in the way of a value exchange, and while there was a scale opportunity, I felt a little bit inauthentic in that space.

Jan Mikulin: And it was more about the highlights of one's life, rather than the reality of life, and you can't really get into a really deep, awesome conversation on Facebook, for instance. That being said, now that I've spent a few years kind of as this Strategy Consultant, and I'm re-positioning myself in that way, I've actually recently come up with an idea that I want to launch. It's totally separate to the business that I do, and that's gonna include writing a book, and setting up a YouTube channel to support that.

Jan Mikulin: So, I'm now, not that I've come full circle, I think I just need to be smart around how I do that.

Steve Folland: So, you came off Twitter, or Instagram, or whatever, but you focused-

Jan Mikulin: I was on all of them. I was on all of them.

Steve Folland: Snapchat?

Jan Mikulin: Yep, I was on Snap, I was on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitch. I was on basically all of them so that I could understand them and talk about them with clients.

Steve Folland: Ah, of course. So, you then strip it down to LinkedIn. Does that mean that you, then, focused a lot of activity on LinkedIn?

Jan Mikulin: I focus, and this is the thing that I've learned over the last few years. So, I just recently, over Christmas, read this great book called Fanatical Prospecting, by Jeb Blunt. Jeb Blount? Yeah, Jeb Blount. And although it's very American, and very sales oriented, there's a really good kind of three key things in there, and the primary one is around consistency.

Jan Mikulin: And I think what I've noticed about myself over the last 18 months or so is that I do a furious amount of work for a little bit, and then I take my foot off the gas, and then I do a furious amount of work for a little bit, and then I take my foot off the gas. And I need to be reminded of that 10 months period where I spent half an hour a day, or an hour a day, doing one thing, and then did the rest of my day in a different way.

Jan Mikulin: So, it's, I think, I have a tendency to dip into LinkedIn, throw something out, and expect an immediate result, whereas, actually, where I've got the best value and most value is by building relationships through LinkedIn over time. You know, sending LinkedIn mails, and then moving onto email, and then having a conversation, and then meeting in real life, and actually building a proper relationship.

Jan Mikulin: So, I think that kind of the constant conflict that I have is around, "How do I get scale and depth?" And I think that's the real challenge.

Steve Folland: And so, you're building a relationship online. At some point, then, you're saying you would reach out to somebody and say, "Hey, blah blah blah, how about we meet up?"

Jan Mikulin: Absolutely. For me, it's all about face to face, hand-shakey stuff. While quite a lot of my business is conducted internationally, and we do conversations via digital means, you know, like G Meets, or Skypes, or Zooms, or FaceTimes, or WhatsApp videos, or, you know, all of the kind of the plethora of tools that are out there to support that.

Jan Mikulin: My personality, I really get more value out of in person, face to face.

Steve Folland: Now, we met in person, face to face, the first time, and I remember sitting down and you telling me that you were from the Hoxby Collective.

Jan Mikulin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Folland: Now, you're still freelance. So, tell me what the Hoxby Collective is.

Jan Mikulin: Look at you. You should do podcasting and interviews and stuff for a living.

Steve Folland: It's like Parky, isn't it?

Jan Mikulin: Yeah. I love it. You really are like Parky, actually. This is brilliant. So, the Hoxby Collective is essentially a network, a community, of freelance associates dispersed across the world. So, we're just short of 500 people, now, across 29 countries, and we come together in a swarm methodology. That's the technology parlance, which basically means you just bring some people together to deliver the work that needs to be done based on their skillset, their availability, and their work style. One of the big things that we at Hoxby talk about is work style.

Jan Mikulin: Making sure that work fits around your life, not the other way around, and we've been going for about three years now, and I've been a partner for two. We essentially want to create the opportunity for people to work anywhere in the world without any kind of bias. So, you don't have to be present in the office from 8:00 a.m. til 8:00 p.m. to make sure that you keep your job.

Jan Mikulin: It doesn't matter whether you have kids or not, or you know, whether you're single or not. None of that really matters, as long as you can deliver the output required by the time needed, within budget. That's it.

Steve Folland: Just to make sure I'm understanding it right, it's kind of like an agency ... it's like the A Team. Like, you put together a team of people, of freelancers, for specific jobs, kind of like an agency would, but there is no agency.

Jan Mikulin: Yeah, more or less. More or less. So, I think people struggle ... so, there's a massive shift in the way that organizations are looking to leverage outsourced talent, right now. And what I mean by that is a lot of big business, and a lot of small business, look at the agency model and realise that it's broken. You're paying for swanky offices, and you know, beer at 4:00 pm.m., and awesome pool tables, and away days, and all of that kind of stuff. That's all baked into the price that you pay, and most of the time, you'll be told in a pitch that you'll have the senior support, and the big guns will go into the pitch.

Jan Mikulin: And then, when they leave the pitch, the people that have been in the business for about six months that have got another 15 clients already get given this other client, and you're paying top dollar for low end output, and just to make the business model of the agency work. Whereas, where we come from is very much along the lines of, well, we don't have a base of operations, a physical space. So, you're not paying for our rent, and you're not paying for a swanky office.

Jan Mikulin: You pay for the skills and the time that you need to deliver what you're after, and we will build a bespoke team to deliver that. So, if you need half a day of someone superseding you, to come in and help you set your objectives, and KPIs, and general strategic focus, but then you need 100 days of people on the ground to make it come to life, that's what we'll build and that's what we'll charge you for.

Steve Folland: And so, who is pitching for the work?

Jan Mikulin: We all take group responsibility for that. So, we don't have any business function. We don't have a sales team. We don't have a marketing team, per se. We set up incentives within the collective, so that there is group responsibility for everything, and what that means, you know, one of our big plays and key values is give-get, and better together. Those are our two kind of primary values, I would say. What that means is that we all work together to create something for each other, like a proper community would.

Steve Folland: But you described yourself, picked up on the word, somewhere in there, as a partner.

Jan Mikulin: Yes, I am a partner. So, I have bought into the business. There are 12 partners out of the 500 people in the organization, community, and the other 488-ish are part of the community. They just have not bought into a given cache for a financial stake in the business. The partners act as a means of really bringing the culture and values of the community to life in everything that we do.

Jan Mikulin: And we're still the same as everyone else, in as much as we work the same way, we share the work the same way, we drive the business the same way. It's just that we've bought into the business. That's it.

Steve Folland: Yeah. So, it's like, with that kind of scenario, of a collective, you'd need somebody or a group of people to make sure it's moving forward, and everything's working. Someone has to kind of lead that.

Jan Mikulin: Well, ultimately, the two people that make kind of the primary business decisions are Al and Lizzie, the two co-founders. But what we want to create is a self-sustaining and kind of self-driving model, whereby we don't need two people, or 10 people, or 20 people to make the decisions. We're very much around the concept of ask for forgiveness, not permission. If you think it's gonna add value, and we trust you to understand what the community is about, because we've gone through a rigorous five phase process to bring you into the community, we trust you.

Jan Mikulin: So, if you wanna do something, do it.

Steve Folland: Yeah. We'll put links, of course, as everything, I would guess we're up to ever, at, so you can find out more about it. One thing that you mentioned, though, was work style being important, and you said, earlier, about well-being and things. So, yeah. What does your week look like? What is work style to you?

Jan Mikulin: Work style, to me, varies depending on what season I'm in, and where I'm at in terms of my energy levels or my focus points. So, that's kind of a flurried way of saying it's flexible. Yeah. I should know. Like, in meetings with clients, I'm very good at being concise and to the point, and then, you know, put me in front of a microphone for this kind of thing. It's like, "How can I say one word in 50?"

Jan Mikulin: Anyway, I'm flexible. How I set it up with Hoxby is, for Hoxby's specific work, I am available Tuesday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. til 8:00 p.m., and outside of that, I may dip in or not, but you can't guarantee me being there. What that that means is that I have to there four days and hours to do what I want to do, whether that be with additional clients, or building up my own ideas, projects, and business, myself.

Steve Folland: Nice. And do you work from home?

Jan Mikulin: I work from home. I also work from co-working spaces, occasionally. You know, from nice bars occasionally, from restaurants occasionally, from wherever is gonna work. So, if I need to hunker down and get something done, I will generally work from home, with the windows closed, the doors closed, music blaring, and just go.

Jan Mikulin: If I want something a little bit more, I don't know, creative or different, I will find somewhere else, and if it's with, I'm building a relationship, or walking through something with a client, then I'll pick somewhere informal that we feel relaxed and we can go through stuff.

Steve Folland: And you mentioned side projects earlier, as well. What do you have on the boil?

Jan Mikulin: Oh, mate, too many things. The big thing, for me, this year, is a project that I'm working on around authentic conscious masculinity.

Steve Folland: Wow. That's quite different from ... oh, yeah. Like your salsa dancing. No, in all seriousness, that feels at least like that's not related to your work. Let's put it that way. That's not like a side project for-

Jan Mikulin: Well.

Steve Folland: Oh, it is?

Jan Mikulin: Yes and no. I think it depends on how you look at it, right? So, I think the work that I've been doing for the last 15, 20 years, from a marketing strategy perspective, gives me an understanding of what I need to do to bring this to the world in the most impactful way. But the concept itself is not necessarily directly linked to the advertising and marketing world, other than the fact that, working in the way that I've worked, across the clients that I've worked, across the countries that I've worked, I see so many quite cliched, almost lazy descriptions of, "Well, this is, basically, the segment we're aiming for is women, so we'll make it pink, and we'll talk about fluffy stuff."

Jan Mikulin: And, "The segment we're aiming for is men, so we'll throw in some sports analogies and we'll be fine." I mean, that's a massive generalisation, but you look at the pictorial stuff that is out there. So, people like American Apparel, sexualizing women to sell their goods. You know, The Suit Company, again, is another company that uses quite risque imagery to sell suits. Right?

Jan Mikulin: So, it's like, what are we doing to ourselves and to society? And as a marketer and advertiser, and someone who is responsible for the strategic direction, which impacts massively on the creative output, how can I set on the sideline and let this continue? What kind of a man would I be if I just ignored it all?

Steve Folland: Crikey. Now, since moving ... so, you know, three years, or two years with Hoxby Collective, has that made a difference to the way you work, and the pattern of your work? You know, where you used to have months, gaps and things. Has that changed?

Jan Mikulin: It has. It's not eradicated, because there is always a level of uncertainty or risk or unknown in freelance work. Well, in life itself, right? And especially in freelance work. So, there's no, not that I found. I haven't found the perfect mix that allows me to work when I want and take time off when I want, and do it exactly the way that I want to, with total security and certainty as to how it's gonna play.

Jan Mikulin: However, given the 15, 12 years we've said. Yeah, 12 years experience I have of freelance work, I am much more comfortable and confident at saying, "You know what? I'm gonna take a month off, and I'm gonna do something totally different, and I'm gonna spend a little bit of time, while I'm off, just reminding people that I'm here."

Jan Mikulin: And what I did really well last year, actually, I took some time off. I let people know that I was off beforehand, and I actually got myself a gig ready for when I got back. So, we're all making it up as we go along, and there are times when I'm really on top of it, and times when I'm not, but you know, this idea of having a nine, 10, 12 month period without work is not necessarily history, but it's certainly something that's gonna be less likely.

Steve Folland: If you could tell your younger self one thing about being freelance, what would that be?

Jan Mikulin: See, I was thinking about this. I don't think it's one thing. It's a sentence, I think, or something along those lines. Or, at least, an adage. So, get organised, build decent and expansive relationships, and buckle in.

Steve Folland: Nice. Again, thank you so much, and all the best Being Freelance.

Jan Mikulin: Thank you very much, mate. It's been my absolute pleasure.