New Year, New Start: Optimize, Not Maximize

As you know last year I decided to take the leap and become a full-time freelancer. It was a major decision for me, and a very difficult one at that. I was offered a high-paying contract gig, one that paid nearly six figures. I know. It was the most money I’ve ever been offered for a job. As a writer and proofreader who has only worked in non-profit and publishing, I never thought I would be ever be offered that much money for a gig. I waffled over it like crazy, and didn’t sleep for days.

And although adjusting hasn’t been life on Easy Street, I know that it was the right choice for me. I have decided to commit to at least a year to freelancing, until the end of this October. Ideally I would love to live this way for as long as possible, but I figure a year would help me get a feel for the ebb and flow of this sort of work and learn to roll with the punches.

As we kick off a new year, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to spend the next year as a freelancer. The toughest thing is achieving a balance between all the things I want to work on, I find that my passion projects and freelance business are oftentimes at odds with one another. Instead of trying to maximize my work, I want to try to optimize.

What does this mean, exactly? Maximizing and optimizing are terms used in the investing and business world. Maximizing means to gain as much as possible, no matter what the cost. Optimizing, on the other hand, is finding an approach with the most cost-effective or highest achievable outcome given the constraints. Okay, so I may be tweaking the meaning slightly, but to me this means figuring out what’s the important to me, what gives me the most joy, and putting more time and resources into the things that matter more.

The big questions for me are:

How much freelance should I take on? How much money should I try to make?
How much time should I devote to passion projects?
What can I do to best support these priorities?

Income-wise, December was an amazing month for me. I made more than twice as much as I did working my old full-time job. But I worked like crazy and had little time for anything else. My family and I took some weekend trips over the holidays and I remember getting up at 4 am to work. I worked in the lobby of a hotel while my family was out and about. It sucked. And I am going to be  honest: I don’t ever want to work in that fashion again. So instead of taking on as many clients as possible, working crazy hours and making as much money as possible, moving forward I can be a little more picky with clients, work less and make enough to survive. I can then make more time for my personal projects, which are my fiction (I am working on a graphic novel and collection of short stories), and this blog.

While trying to grow and develop my freelance business, I will continue to carve out some time each morning to work on my projects. I have not been successful at this, to say the least. My goal is to start super small. I will start with 10 minutes every morning and see how that goes. Of course, you can’t get too much done in 10 minutes, but as my good friend Alan Steinborn of Real Money has told me, consistency is key. You must do it every day, no matter how long.

To support my goals, I am going to commit to working my own projects every day, no matter the looming deadlines. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. I am going to be careful with taking on more freelance work. If I find myself having any downtime or a slower period, I will be sure to have a game plan in place to take advantage of this time.

So I ask you: What’s important to you? What steps will you take to optimize your life? What will you do to support these goals? 


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