Since I attended my first Creative Freelancer Conference in 2008, my business has come a long way. I’ve come to treat it – and my professional self! — with more respect each passing year. But as the business grows and evolves each year, a logical question needs to be asked: what’s next?
Over time, I’ve learned to work faster, smarter and better, meaning that I can charge the same market prices for my work, but do it in less time. Fewer hours = more profits. Cha-ching!
But of course, there are limits to how fast I can work. That project that the client expects to take 20 hours that I can do in 12? Maybe in a year or two I’ll be able to do it in 10. Maybe. But I’ll never be able to do it in 7, or 5. The profitability curve is slowing. And if I’m going to be doing the work at the same level of profitability in one year, or three years or 10 years… where’s the growth for me?
This is the part where most people say, “Outsource!” Hire subcontractors. Hire employees. Hire project managers. But the fact is that I don’t want to do any of that. If I wanted to manage other people, I could have stayed in corporate. Sure, growth may help my profit margins, but it doesn’t help me to develop and learn.
So, what next? I don’t know yet. Fellow contributor and CFC speaker Luke Mysse prompted me to take the Strengths Finder 2.0 test, which was more than a little bit of a startling revelation for me. If you’ve never done it, get the book and the test code. But before you start answering the 30-minute quiz, look through and choose the five strengths that you think you have. If you’re anything like me or like Luke, the answers that come back may stun you.
Will those strengths change your life? No. Learning that I have the skills that would make me good at teaching, counseling, mentoring or sales really just reinforces the fact that I have the right skill sets for being a consultant or strategic business partner to help my clients. But maybe it’s telling me that instead of writing for hire, maybe I should be teaching my clients how to communicate, or better yet, teaching something completely unrelated. Why not?
The beauty of being independent is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing like it would be with a corporate job. I don’t have to quit my writing work while I explore new opportunities. I already blog for fun over at WhatWouldBettyDo.com. Could I turn that into something more? There’s no reason why I can’t try, or even test the waters with something else entirely.
Stay tuned. You never know what the next year will bring.
My five strengths are Individualization, Strategic, Learner, Relator and Developer. What are yours?