Letting Go of Being Good at Everything

Letting Go of Being Good at Everything

Hey there, Common Sense Marketers!

As you all know, I’ve been self-employed full-time as a writer and affiliate marketer for about a month and a half now.  I’m still incredibly grateful for the opportunity to pursue the things I’m passionate about in this way, and to finally have the opportunity to focus on my businesses in the way I always wanted to.

There’s no doubt about it – running a side business alongside a day job is challenging.  It can be done, and depending on how focused and driven you are, it can be done well.

In my case, not so much…

Yes, I was able to balance several different web projects and a number of freelance writing clients while working a day job full-time.  But I certainly wasn’t doing any of these things as well as I could!

Being home full-time has given me a lot of time to think about my future goals and whether or not the projects I’ve been working on put me on track to meet these goals.  Today, I want to share the results of some of this brainstorming with you.  Hopefully, if you’re struggling with maintaining focus or tackling too many projects at once, you’ll find this information helpful!

As you might have guessed, today’s article is essentially on prioritization.  In a way, it ties into some of the things I’ve talked about here before – including the importance of having a business plan and the dangers of analysis paralysis.  In those cases, I was speaking to new marketers who – overwhelmed with the sheer number of internet business models out there – tend to jump from one model to the next without any level of foresight.

My problem was slightly different.  In the past, I’ve been a big believer in saying “Yes” to whatever new opportunities come my way (cheers to those of you who know which Always Sunny episode I’m thinking of right now!).  Not only has this been a great way for me to learn new skills, it’s helped me to make some great contacts within the industry and earn money along the way.  Without these opportunities, I certainly wouldn’t be self-employed today, so I am and always will be grateful for the projects I’ve had a chance to work on.

The issue – as you’ve probably put together by now – is that saying yes to everything means that nothing (or at least, a very small number of few things) is being done well.

A mentor of mine summed this up quite succinctly for me on a call a few weeks ago, saying:

“You don’t reach oil with 100 one foot deep holes.  You reach it with one hole that’s 100 feet deep.”

I love me some good mental imagery – and this one hit home.  While it’s true that I had a few holes producing a little bit of oil, I couldn’t get the picture of me – standing in the middle of a vast field, holes all around me as I frantically tried to shovel each one a little deeper – out of my head.

It was clear that I needed to make a change!

To figure out where to cut back, I started by making a list of all the different things people had paid me to do over the past few years.  I was shocked to see that the list was nearly 20 items long – no wonder I was having so much trouble being focused and productive!

Here’s the list of items I came up with, just to give you a feel for how vast a range I was working with:

  • Write website articles
  • Write and secure guest post spots
  • Write advertising copy
  • Write SEO-optimized web content
  • Build websites for people
  • Advise people on website marketing strategy
  • Run affiliate marketing websites
  • Run Adsense websites
  • Run CPA websites
  • Run blogs
  • Run email marketing lists
  • Do voice recordings for clients
  • Manage websites
  • Manage ad campaigns
  • Flip and sell websites
  • Run WSOs
  • Run membership sites
  • Do keyword research for clients
  • Do link building for clients

Next, I took this list and created two new lists – one that ranked each item by profitability (including both how much money each model was currently making me, as well as how much money it *could* make if I focused on it exclusively) and one that ranked the items according to how much I enjoyed them.

Ultimately, I used the results of these different lists to cut my priorities down to three different business models – writing website articles, running affiliate marketing websites and running blogs.

For the rest of 2012, I’ll be focusing on these businesses exclusively, which I anticipate will give me more time and energy to improving my skills and results.  I chose these specific business models for a number of reasons, including how established they are relative to other models and how much I enjoy them.  I’m also glad to have a mix of active and passive income models, as I feel this is the best way to build both income and security over time.

Now, was this an easy decision to come to?  Absolutely not.  It was incredibly difficult to part with some of the items on my list, and I’m sure I’ll miss them in the days ahead.

For example, advising small businesses on their web marketing strategies and doing website redesigns for these companies is something I’ve really been enjoying recently.  But the reality is that I don’t have time to build and market that business in the way I’ve done with my writing service.  There are only a certain number of hours in a day and adding two “active” income models to my portfolio would have severely limited how much time I’m able to spend on my chosen passive income models.

Similarly, writing advertising copy is something that appeals to me greatly and that’s potentially much more lucrative than the style of writing I’m doing now.  Believe me, it’s incredibly hard to give up the thought of something that could eventually bring in $30,000+ per project!  While I hope it’s something I can pursue in the future, it’s disappointing to realize that I just don’t have the time to perfect this skill set right now.

But at the same time, it’s been freeing to let go of being good at everything.

With my more focused approach, there’s less scrambling and a lot more productive work on the projects I care about.  For the first time in quite a while, I feel like I’m checking more items off my to-do list than I’m adding – which has gone a long way towards reducing my stress levels and increasing the amount I’m able to accomplish!

I’ve always said that, if you’re a beginning marketer, you should pick one business model and focus on it until you feel you’ve exhausted its potential.  But now I’m extending this advice to more advanced business owners as well.

If you can’t shake that feeling that nothing’s getting done and that you aren’t making measurable progress towards your goals, you might just be right!

I highly recommend spending some time sorting out your goals and activities, and making sure the two are on the same page.  It’s tough, but you might need to let go of a few fantasies in order to hone in on the work you should be doing.  At the end of the day, you’ll ultimately find it more fulfilling to succeed with a few well-chosen projects than to struggle with keeping too many of them going.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?  I’d love to hear more about your experiences and how you resolved this tension in the comments below!

Image: assortedstuff

7 Responses to Letting Go of Being Good at Everything

  1. Ryan Sprout says:

    Hey Sarah,
    Thanks for a great list to keep me busy!

    • Sarah says:

      Haha – go for it! I’ve made good money with each and every one of those methods, but fair warning that trying to do them all at once can be overwhelming 🙂

      Best of luck you to you!

  2. Chas says:

    I am not in a similar situation, but, I find this information to be very beneficial to me in the future, and think it will save me time, expense and heartache down the road. I find this piece to be very well-written and think the advice is golden. 😉

  3. Hi Sarah

    As a freelancer just starting in month 3 of my business, I can see where I need to take a step back and focus.

    With the few posts (9 so far, will focus in April to increase that) I have up, I have been relying heavily on Job boards just to get create some income initially. As you know that sometimes you need to focus on any number of topics simultaneously.

    Unfortunately, I still need to use these boards during my startup. Using your advice, I will definitely focus on a few areas of real interest.

    Thanks again for sharing some great advice.


  4. I read this when you just posted it, but bookmarked it to come back and go through the same process. I did add the element of time into the equation and didn’t rank them in order but in a one through five scale. Time was an important consideration for me, because there are some activities that I might not like but they are lucrative and don’t take much effort on my part.

    In writing the list, I find myself in an even more scattered situation than you have! I have done at least twenty activities in the last couple of years that have made me some money or attempted to make money.

    The sad realization that I found through this simple analysis is that the things that I like to do the most are often, not always, the least profitable for me. I know that other people are making money doing them, but I haven’t cracked the code quite yet.

  5. Cameron says:

    I look forward to your new content and I like the new design- it is still easy on the eyes- and green; how apropo for St. Paddy’s Day coming up! Go maire tu’ an la’!

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