Mr. Fabio

Designer of marvels
Manchester, UK

How to fill your day

Working from home (for yourself or an employer), you usually have freedom of your daily habits (to some extent, it’s hard to make a living playing all day on your PS5).

I talk to many freelancers and business owners, and what seems common is that many people want to start a business but don’t consider how they want to fill their days.

They figure they want to design or write code all day but need to consider the work involved in doing those things.

It’s easy to focus on the result–the revenue and accolades, the result of success. Seeing folks doing well (see all those posts on social media?), we want to emulate their success. But in doing so, we forget to consider the processes involved.

I have talked with many successful designers, developers, writers, and YouTubers complaining about their daily tasks. Designers getting paid well to design landing pages for a boring business. Or developers coding mind-numbing software for an enterprise. Or YouTubers dreading speaking in front of a camera. Or those who want to become freelancers but despise communicating with clients.

In each of those cases, the outcome of success is their focus, not the process or daily habits required to get there. But the process is what fills our days. The daily habits involved help achieve success. If you don’t like writing, then it’s probably a good idea to practice a lot before thinking of becoming a successful writer. The same goes for writing software–if you aren’t keen on providing support or doing marketing to push sales up, your effort might be better suited elsewhere. Your attention is what dictates what your daily habits become.

I always suggest identifying what you’d enjoy doing daily and working backwards into what that ideal job would be. In the case of my articles, it is researching > learning > writing using my new knowledge to tell stories. I am happy to write after a long day of designing or coding. It’s my space to relax and free my mind. I follow the same flow for my designs.

There are many actions I could take professionally to make the business more profitable, but everything has to pass through that filter. How will my day be filled if I take more business on? Having more retainers will increase my revenue, but more of my time will be spent on calls, ongoing support and processes, taking valuable time away from what I really want to do.

I want to optimise the life I know and for how I want to spend my days. If I don’t enjoy what I am doing, then I want to quit.

Take the things you love doing, then work backwards to devise a business model. Say no to more revenue so you can say yes to how you want to spend your day.

This is a good reason why many freelancers don’t need to become an agency. Having gone through this process myself (three times), I know that my days would be filled with managing others, worrying about cash flow, and generally spending time on the complexity of running a larger business.

On the surface, the outcome of growth is all rainbows and riches. That’s just the outcome. It’s the byproduct of successful growth. It doesn’t speak of the processes involved, nor does it speak to the reduction of freedom that comes with being responsible for others. Can you imagine having your days filled with admin tasks? To me, that doesn’t sound like a good trade.

Next time you dream of a business life that looks sexy in terms of the outcomes it could provide, consider what the average day would be like to create, maintain and grow it. And what those daily habits would need to become. If the actual work doesn’t sound like how you want to spend your day, then maybe it’s time to focus on something else.

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