Lesson 4: When to suck it up

Luke Mysse Sometimes you have to suck it up.

That’s the fourth (but certainly not final) lesson learned from going large. (Here are the rest if you missed them: Lesson 1, Lesson 2 and Lesson 3.)

Taking my year-end large project was a contradiction of sorts. I’ve spoken numerous times about only working with clients who are a good fit and how you should work with clients with whom you can do your best work.

Generally, I still believe that. But I also believe that sometimes you have to suck it up.

The simple truth is that my numbers were off in 2010 and my “big project” allowed me to meet my family’s needs. Sure, it’s a little embarrassing for me to admit to my fellow freelancers that I took on a “less than ideal” client who wasn’t a fit, but sometimes business gets messy. And in the end, it’s hard to feel shame about doing what’s needed to provide room and board for my kids.

Around about the second week of what turned out to be a solid six weeks of working, I found myself trying to grasp for something to pull me through. So, here’s how I made it to the finish line:

Reminding myself what I was working for.
Step one for me was continually reminding myself why I took the project in the first place. I remember a conversation with Peleg Top when he asked, “For the sake of what?” In this case, it was for the sake of my family. Their needs trump any of my ideal working conditions, always.

Visualizing the reward at the end.
Designers like visual things. For me, it’s helpful to visualize things in detail. It seems silly now, but during this project, I visualized the reward of taking my older son on a fishing trip. I could have paid for that trip without that project, but somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that it would take this project’s financial gain to make it happen. Once that semi-fictional scenario was in my head, I embraced it and ran towards the finish.

If you’ve been following this series of blog posts on my lessons learned from going large, you know that I also learned to make time for process, insist on one point of contact and know my resets.

But what was my biggest lesson learned from six weeks of stress?
Sometimes you have to just suck it up for the sake of a bigger cause. I knew the project would end at some point. I knew a check would finally come and things would go back to normal and I would rework some of my processes to ensure history wouldn’t repeat itself.

If anything, this whole experience has given me new resolve for
my 2011 marketing to make this year rock!

What are some rules you’ve broken for the sake of something else? Was it worth it to you when you made it to the finish line?

BTW: For more from Luke, sign up for his webinar on March 16 for the Freelancers Union.