Now, Michael is probably one of the most successful freelance creators I know personally in real life. He's someone I often look to as a role model in my own business, because he has been consistently killing it for 20 years and making it look easy.
Seeing him in the responses to my question was a surprise, until I read his response.
"Completing projects that aren't client driven."
Michael is so good at serving clients, that one might think he would be automatic at smashing any project that he wants to get done. Not the case. Like a lot of creators (including me), Michael always has great ideas that he is actually passionate about, but that he still never manages to bring into fruition.
So what's the difference? What do clients bring to Michael's life that motivates him to accomplish what they assign to him?
And, can he duplicate that in his service to his own desires?
First, what does the client bring?
The most immediate answer is money. When we dig deeper money is a reward for doing the work well, and on time. Michael can definitely reward himself for the work.
Clients also provide accountability. Can Michael hold himself accountable? Probably, but going out to get someone to help hold him accountable is even better.
So to address his challenge, I gave Michael this plan to complete projects that includes the important ingredients of reward and accountability:
The Ring by Samax Amen Adobe Photoshop + Cintiq 11x14 signed print $40
1) Pick one project that is closest to being completed. The important ingredients here are "one project" and "closest to being completed". FOCUS- Follow One Course Until Success. Most creators (including me) easily fall into shiny object syndrome, bouncing from thing to thing, not completing any. It seems innocent enough, but it's a thief that you don't want in your life. Choosing a project that is almost done just gives you an easy win and helps you build the habit of completing projects. Building success habits is everything!
2) Break it down into ALL the steps it would take to get it done. I mean, get granular. Make teeny, tiny bite-sized steps that take 5-10 minutes each. Take your time to do this step correctly, because if you do, it will make ALL the following steps (and ultimate success) SUPER EASY!
3) Commit to doing one step (just 5-10 minutes) a day, 7 days a week, until it's done. Even if that means staying "on schedule" would make it take 5 years*. Yes, even on vacations and business trips. It's only 5-10 minutes. Why? Because establishing habits is everything. Once something becomes a habit, it's easier to do than to not do. For example, did you check Facebook today? How about over the weekend? Did you plan on it, or did anyone pay you to check Facebook?
4) No zero days until it's done. No exceptions**. Again, we're trying to help you achieve something you have had trouble doing in the past. Let's take your brain's excuse-making powers out of the process. You can do 5 minutes.
5) If (when) you mess up, no feelings allowed***. Having a perfect record is not the point of this. Setting a bar (no zero days) is not about perfection, it's about building a habit. Don't tell yourself an emotional story of epic failure. It doesn't help.
Get back on track with one 5-10 minute step.
6) Find an accountability partner**** who will check in with you everyday to help you stay disciplined. It's important that they know how to encourage you without punishing you when you mess up. No sarcasm or shade. Just someone to remind you of your goals, who helps you stay on task. (HINT-I'll do it if you can't find someone to do it)
7) Once you Complete the Project, celebrate! Involve your friends, accountability partner, significant other, and client/customers (if appropriate). No achievement is too small to celebrate!
8) Return to step one! Remember to be inspired by what you have already accomplished! Use this momentum to your advantage, and keep this habit alive and kicking by moving on to another project!
*I promise it will not take five years. Some days will be super-productive, where you knock out many, many steps in a single day.
**Yes, I know there will be exceptions, but don't plan to make excuses ahead of time. We are planning to succeed right now, not planning to fail. Thanks.
***I'm not asking you to become a sociopath. I just want you to resist the urge to punish yourself every time you drop the ball. Again, I don't want you to be perfect. I want you to use the same integrity you offer to others to serve your goals.
****I don't recommend bilateral accountability partners. It's too easy to fall into a mutual surrender if you both feel like giving up on the same day. If at all possible, you should pay them. Not a lot necessarily, just a token amount to seal the deal. It doesn't have to be money either. Get creative if you have to.
Respond to this message right now with a goal you want to achieve, and I will do whatever I can to help you make it happen!
Aaaand on that note, I gotta get back to work, fam. Thanks again for reading!