If you aren't careful, you can fall into the trap of forgetting about the most important client of all: yourself.
Even though working on your own projects doesn't pay the bills, it is essential to long-term career growth and personal fulfillment.
What it means to become your own clientWhen you make the decision to take yourself on as a client, you are making a proactive choice in your career.
You are taking a bold risk to focus on unpaid work for yourself instead of simply playing it safe by working on paid client projects.
Being your own client can be anything from learning a new skill to taking time for a passion project to marketing yourself.
While none of these actions result in income in the short term, they are all essential to long-term success in your career.
Why most freelancers fail at working on their own projectsIt's easy to shove aside your own projects when paid work comes along.
A client schedules a meeting in the middle of your planned personal time, so you just accept the meeting and push aside your personal work.
A deadline is rapidly approaching, so instead of working on marketing yourself, you focus on the deadline.
This is a dangerous trap to get into. Once you put off your side projects in the face of paid work once or twice, it becomes something you do all of the time. Soon your personal projects get no attention and you find yourself in a rut, lacking fulfillment and any growth in your career.
How to treat yourself like your best clientIn order to make this work you have to treat yourself like a real client. You can do this in a few ways:
- Schedule time on your calendar, and make that time non-negotiable. You wouldn't bail on one of your clients, so don't bail on yourself.
- Work on your projects first thing in the morning. In his book Daily Rituals, Mason Currey observed that 70.2% of the creatives he studied started their work in the morning. The first few hours after you wake up in the morning are your most productive and effective hours. Don't give those hours away to your paid clients, hold onto those hours for yourself. Work on your projects first thing in the morning before ever opening an email or touching a single client project.
- Set deadlines and stick with them. Clients have deadlines to ship new products or features. When they have a deadline, you always figure out a way to meet it. So why not set a deadline for yourself? Choose a deadline to ship your new product or launch your next website. Set it on your calendar and make it non-negotiable. You would hit this deadline for a client, so you better hit it for yourself.
The bottom lineThe key to this process is simple.
You are your most important client.
You must always remember that. Paid clients will come and go throughout your career, but you will always remain constant.
You are your own client for life, so start treating yourself like one.