Masters don’t practice 12,000 skills. They practice one skill 12,000 times. Is it time for you to focus on mastering your craft?
When I started freelancing, I not only wanted to hone my skills, but I also wanted to be everything for everyone. I consented to work with all the clients who showed interest in my services, because I wasn’t sure when the next one would come knocking, and I thought more experience would allow me to develop a diverse set of skills. The more skills you have, the better, right?
Well, not exactly. As I added more clients and made more money, I became exponentially less enthusiastic about my work, because I was doing work for the money rather than refining an income based around projects I truly enjoyed. I ended up burning out, losing all but one of my clients and sinking into deep depression.
On a high-speed chase for more clients and more money, I realized being everything for everyone isn’t the path to success. Instead, I found that true achievement dwells in the intersection of your strengths and passions.
Conduct a Self-Awareness Inventory
Contrary to what many people think, the most important skill for any freelancer is not the services they provide; it’s the willingness and ability to be self-aware and mold your services accordingly.
Consider a self-awareness inventory: Outline your passions, pains, strengths and weaknesses. Although it can be difficult to look yourself in the mirror and admit you’re struggling, the key to self-awareness is the ability to be completely honest with yourself. The more honest you are, the happier and more successful you’ll ultimately be.
Once you’ve done a self-awareness inventory, double down on your strengths and passions, and create a symbiotic relationship between these two elements. In other words, set your pains and weaknesses aside for a moment. Instead of improving on or coping with them, just put them aside, and don’t offer services that require you to complete tasks you don’t enjoy or aren’t good at — even if it means saying no to clients.
In my case, I decided to exclusively offer high-level digital marketing strategy and consulting, while ridding my service offerings of social media management and content creation. Because I struggle with managing people, this strategy relieved me of headaches, allowing me to focus on the tasks that really matter to me.
Fill in the Gaps
Naturally, as you weed out service offerings that include your pains and weaknesses, you’ll have clients who request certain services you don’t offer. In these cases, there are two options: First, surround yourself with other professionals who offer high-level services complementary to yours, and create a mutually binding agreement that pays you the industry standard of a 12-percent referral fee every time you refer them a client, and vice versa.
The second option is to outsource any work that doesn’t exemplify the intersection of your strengths and passions to people in your professional network. Consider acting as the project manager between your clients and the professional you might choose to outsource those tasks to, and add a percentage on top of their rates for yourself. For example, if I ask a graphic designer in my network to design a logo for one of my clients, and the graphic designer proposes $250, I mark up this amount by 30 percent and bill the client a total of $325. Then, I pocket $75 for the time I put into managing the project.
By focusing on the intersection of your strengths and passions, and parsing out other client requests to complementary service providers, mastering your craft can become a reality. Plus, you’ll be more motivated by your work, which will enable you to advance your core skills and abilities much faster than if you try doing everything yourself.
As a result, you’ll become great at a few select skills, instead of being mediocre at many. Plus, those who are great at a few things can charge significantly more than the market rates in their field.