Work is coming in - too much, in fact - and it's time to face the facts: you need help

Eighteen months ago you were wondering when your first commission would arrive, you now find yourself with work virtually coming out of your ears. Your decision to bone up on the RICS New Rules of Measurement and give a freebie half day presentations to contractors proved to be a good introduction to new clients. Your work load over the past 12 months has included a steady flow of work from contractors tendering for design and build work, who require quantities preparing. This has provided regular work, but the down side is that contractors are past masters at squeezing the fees. Still it is early days and beggars cannot afford to be choosers.

Your old firm has provided you with sub-consultancy work, which has kept you in touch with your old colleagues. The most interesting work has resulted from a contact you made with an architect, who specialises in church restoration work. The amount of this type of work being undertaken is surprising and refreshing in that the clients are not wedded to framework agreements, a no entry sign for a one man band with ambitions. By far the best idea you had for securing repeat work is to ensure you always complete a task a few days early; this picks you out from all the competition. It is all now coming together, along with a glow of satisfaction, or could a touch or smugness be creeping in.

All this comes at a cost. Your work schedule would leave a shire horse exhausted. Long hours and weekend working is starting to take its toll. The better half has transformed from loving and supportive to hardly speaking and frigid. You are not available to attend parent teachers meetings; the night out in mid week has gone for a Burton; dinner parties with friends at the weekends are often subject to a late cry off and as for the garden - well least said about this the better. Something has to be done; turning work away however is not an option. The only other alternative is to secure help.

You have a choice; take on an assistant, or use a freelancer. Employing an assistant seemed attractive. How much could you afford to pay in salary? How much profit would you generate? This would depend on the likely income the assistant would attract. Try working out the figures by comparing estimated cost with likely fee income. Likely cost is not too difficult to calculate, taking into account salary, national insurance, car allowance, lap top and mobile phone. Your main problem is to estimate the likely income. You have work in hand with completion dates on the horizon, but no guarantees thereafter.

The idea of a freelancer starts to become more attractive. It should not be too difficult in times of recession to find a good experienced operator. You only pay when the freelancer is fee earning. It seems a cast iron certainty that you will make a profit. There are a few drawbacks. The freelancer may become too involved with your clients, one or two of whom may easily see the financial advantage of a direct appointment, cutting out the middleman and reducing cost.

There is also the cash flow to consider. Clients are taking 45 days on average to pay despite the 14 days allowed in your conditions of appointment. You may talk the freelancer into accepting a 28 day payment period but no more. There is also HM Revenue and Customs to consider who may come knocking at your door asking awkward questions as to whether you are the freelancer's only source of work. If this is the case, the freelancer, in keeping with HM Revenue and Customs IRS 35, will be treated as an employee with income tax and National Insurance implications.

There is no perfect solution, but in the interests of your own sanity and the need to restore good domestic harmony, you have to do something.

You go for the freelance option.