How I Dropped the Freelance Ball, and What You Can Learn from It
I’m not very good…
…at toss–the-balls-up-in-the-air-and-catch-them juggling.
Ok, I’m worse than “not very good”; I can’t do it.
Before you can-do-ologists jump in with encouragement, sure, I know that with enough practice I’d develop the hand-eye coordination, focus, and discipline required for basic juggling. But I’m talking about my “right-now skills”, the marketable ones. Theoretically, I could learn to juggle, but practically, you do not want to hire me to entertain at your next party by juggling GeeMa’s china.
It’s ok. I suck at actual juggling. You can say it.
I’m rather bad at metaphorical juggling, too. You know, the kind that has to do with balancing various life tasks, skills and projects? The kind of juggling that is *crucial* for a successful freelancer?
Yeah. I suck at that, too.
To illustrate my suckage, here’s a look at what happened this past month.
I had a number of ongoing client projects rolling; two were behind schedule on, but still do-able. Ok. Manageable month. That’s like 4 balls up in the air.
So then I had the not-so-bright idea of taking on the 28 Day CustomerLove challenge, and developing a product to launch with it. That’s like trying to twirl a hoop on one foot, while still keeping those 4 balls up in the air.
And just after I’d paid for the associated CustomerLove e-Course, Jennifer Lee asked if I’d join the Right Brainers in Business Summit, and OMG, that was so cool!
Exciting. Opportunity. Exposure for my own stuff. And how perfect that it would happen just as I would have finished the product/promotion for #CustomerLove. Amazeballs! (as Michelle Ward would say). Guest posts! Freebies! Affiliate links! Community! Yes! This is what I live for! (and oh yeah did I mention it was a live video summit when my only previous attempt at video did not work well? Um. Never mind that.)
Now I had 4 balls up in the air, a hoop on one foot, and I’ve grabbed a flaming baton. “Yes! We can DO this! We are Super-RingMaster-Juggler!” *cough cough sputter*
I could have managed all of this…
…if everything had gone right.
For a month.
And as YOU are no doubt wise enough to know, everything NEVER goes right for a whole month. I’m apparently not that wise. Because it didn’t all go right, of course. Things went wrong. Lots of things. Things that were on fire with their neediness.
Things like, well… a web client’s site got hacked. Much support and fixing needed, like, yesterday! So. Ok. Everything was no longer doable.
So I rearranged. I dropped personal stuff. I dropped Circus stuff. I shuffled deadlines. I delegated. I made judgment calls about priority, based on what I knew about hard vs soft deadlines, cost to me vs cost to clients, and the impact on the rest of their stuff.
I thought I had it back under control.
Until I found out that I didn’t have all of the information, that one of my client deadlines that I’d thought was arbitrary had morphed into a hard-omg-have-to-have-it-YESTERDAY deadline.
I’d misjudged priorities. Ouch. Flaming hoops and balls were flying all over the place, and I was ducking and running for cover.
There was no way it could all be done. So instead of preparing for the summit that night, I stayed up until 3am. I dropped the rest of my promotional plans, and spent that night, and the entire next week including weekends staying up until 3am, hoping to minimize the loss to one client, while hoping the web client didn’t get hacked again while I was busy.
It’s done now. Almost.
I don’t think I burnt down anyone’s house, but I’ll let you know if I wind up chief suspect in an arson investigation.
Now, I know this stuff happens. It happens to other freelancers all the time. It happens at Mr.Spouse’s Fortune 500 company. Getting multiple projects out at the same time means juggling, prioritizing according to client need, and, sometimes? We just don’t have all the info, things go wrong, stuff is late and it costs other people money.
It sucks. And it’s part of doing business.
I know this. But me? I don’t have the stomach for it.
Now, I’m not a big fan of “Lessons Learned” posts, but this whole thing illustrated some key points for me:
- I’ve finally realized how many balls and hoops and juggling clubs are up in the air at any given time.
- I suck at juggling, whether actual or metaphorical. Yes, I can get better, but no amount of practice will get me a slot on Ed Sullivan.
- I feel insanely, torturously guilty if I drop the ball, as if I’d singlehandedly cost Mr. Sullivan his only shot at a place in Television History or something.
- For me, freelancing as much a pull on energy and time as a cubicle job, and maybe more so. I mean, I can’t leave it at the office, my reputation is always on the line, there are no sick days, no one I can delegate tasks to, no one to kick it upstairs to, for approval and an opinion.
- As much as I love working with freelance clients (and I do love you, clients! Each and every hair pulling moment we share is worth it, when I see the final result), and as much as I want to keep a creative toe in each little pool of income that pays this or that bill? I have to stop.
I’m not a freelancer.
It’s not the business I need to be in.
For me? Doing art, writing, design, code for someone else requires giving up my personal creative work. It means no more Emmit. No more Circus, Quirkipreneurs, or Habit Habitats. No more <sekrit-project-I-can’t-tell-you-about-yet> and no more brain training stuff. In fact, now that I think about it? Freelancing is what killed my last blog and business.
And as much as some of you might like my help with WordPress and graphics and illustrations and writing? You’ll be better off hiring someone else.
Someone better at juggling.
So what can you learn from this?
We’re all different.
Some of us are great jugglers.
Some of us aren’t.
Some of us need space to work on our own stuff.
Some of us are brilliant working in support of other people’s stuff.
So here’s my question for you, today:
What business do YOU need to get out of, in order to do your very best work?
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