Flexibility and control over your work and life are some of the greatest gifts of entrepreneurship. The problem is that many freelancers, consultants, and small business owners have a hard time defining the highest-leverage ways to spend their time in terms of both preference and skill.
When you work for yourself you can frequently redefine your job description to revolve around what you love and what you’re good at, and build your business model around that. Think intentionally about your work in terms of preference and skill, and then prioritize your products and services so that you’re being strategic about how you spend your time.
Stop spinning your wheels on things you aren’t good at and don’t love. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to have to do things you don’t love once in a while – we all have to answer emails – but you can structure your work so your time is spent doing things that make you happy. Think about this on a spectrum of what you’re good at and what you love.
Love / Good at
This is the sweet spot, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the reason people work for themselves in the first place. Find those things that you’re really good at and you love and focus your work there as much as you can. Build your business model around these things so that you can leverage them for the most revenue (and joy) possible. These things will absolutely shift over time as you learn new things and master other skillsets. As that happens your business model should evolve accordingly.
Example: You’re a personal trainer. You love one-on-one training with people who have never worked out before. The challenge of helping someone learn something completely new and see dramatic change is what drives you. So, focus your business model just on people who are brand new to working out. Maybe partner with another trainer who likes working with people who are more advanced and intentionally move clients to that trainer as they become more skilled.
Love / Bad at
What you love and what you’re good at will sometimes be the same. But it’s possible that you are learning new things that you love and aren’t that great at yet. That’s fine, those things will probably just take a bit more time. It is the fact that they are new and challenging that makes you love them. You’ll just need to think about prioritizing these things strategically so you can continue to do them but not let them eat up all of your time. As you get better at them, they can move up into the love/good at category and becoming a more central piece of your business model.
Example: You’re a podcast coordinator. You run all of the logistics of podcasts for your clients but have always outsourced the sound engineering. You really like sound engineering but aren’t that good at it yet. Your clients pay a flat rate per episode for sound engineering. So, once every few episodes you do the sound engineering and have your subcontractor check your work. This takes you a lot more time than it takes the other contractor, so you’re making less per hour/episode but you’re also learning a new skill set that you love. It doesn’t make sense to do this for every episode but you can be strategic about this, and bite the bullet on the lost revenue, while you learn the new skill.
Hate / Good at
This area is tricky. Often, these are things that can bring in real revenue. Depending where you are with your business model and stage of your life/career it might make sense to still have these be a central piece of your work, a stepping stone to where you want to go. On the other hand, if you don’t need to do these things, phase them out strategically or train someone else to do them for you so you can focus on things you love.
Example: You’re a virtual assistant and project coordinator. You love running projects for people but are stuck still doing a lot of the administrative tasks because you are so skilled at it that it takes you a lot less time that anyone else you’ve tried to outsource to. You want to eventually shift to all project management so you’re training a new virtual assistance to work under you. You still do the administrative tasks in the meantime as you plan to shift to your new business model.
Hate / Bad at
Get rid of, or limit, this stuff ASAP. Even if you have clients who are willing to pay you to do some of these things, you won’t be able to deliver quality and it will take time away from the things that you really want to be focusing on. It is ok to pinch hit sometimes if you have a project or client who needs something that falls into this category, but you should try and organize your work and business so that you are limiting this type of work as much as possible.
Example: You’ve developed a series of online courses for a client and their marketing person quit midstream. You’ve stepped in to write marketing content because there is no one else to do it. You don’t know anything about marketing so your client is having to rewrite most of the content anyways and it isn’t driving sales. You weren’t explicit with your client upfront about your expertise in this area and now this is damaging your reputation for quality work.
You didn’t go out on your own so that you could spend endless hours doing things that you hate. You made a conscious decision for your work to serve your life. Leverage your unique skill set to build a life that you love.