First off, as a disclaimer, this is not a post about pricing. That’s still one area of running my own business I’m trying to figure out, and if I had a brilliant equation or a suite of secrets to share with you, trust me, I would. I have written about the importance of time tracking and how I use it to help price my offerings in the past, however, so that’s a good place to start if that's a topic you're interested in.
This is more about learning how to choose the projects you decide to work on. Because if you’re anything like me, your time is valuable, and it’s important to be smart about what projects you take on.
The truth of the matter is, a lot of the work I do and the projects I take on don’t pay. Take the blog, for example. It's always been more of a passion project, and though the styling, photography and writing that goes into any given blog post can take hours, it’s always been more of a “creativity for the sake of creativity” type of thing. I do it because I love it.
Of course there’s a whole argument for the brand building and establishing yourself as an expert side of blogging, which is a legitimate reason and definitely an important aspect of it. But that’s a story for another day, and truthfully not at the core of why I do it.
How Do You Choose Your Projects?
I recently started thinking about how I decide what projects to take on. What’s my rationale for saying yes to one opportunity and no to another? Why are there certain projects I’ll decide to do regardless of how bootstrapped for time I am?
Now maybe it’s important to note here that I’m not doing what I do for the sake of money. Sure, it’s essential that I run a profitable business and yes, I’m trying to grow my brand and there are financial goals that I’m striving for. But the reality is, there are other paths I could have taken if money was the sole objective. I’m guessing many of you who are doing what you love in a creative field can probably relate to that.
It is, however, important that I am inspired and challenged by the work that I do. That it forces me to grow as a creative and that each project pushes me outside of my comfort zone just a little bit. Because that’s where the magic happens.
The Dream Project Equation
I was on set for a creative shoot awhile ago (you guessed it — total passion project!), and I overhead our two models, both of whom are professional dancers, talking to the makeup artist about how they prioritize the projects they say yes to.
They described how they think of each opportunity within the context of either being for passion, people or profit, and it struck me that this was a brilliant yet simple way to break it down for those of us in a creative field.
If you think of it in the context of what your “dream project” or who your “dream client” is, isn’t it true that it would include a mix of these three elements — passion, people and profit? For me, passion speaks to the loving what you do, people speaks to working with your dream team, and profit speaks to being able to do what you do without worrying about time or money.
So the question is, if your “dream project” includes a mix of passion, people and profit, does that mean you should be saying no to any opportunity that is missing one (or two) of these pieces?
Probably not. If you’re at a place where there are enough of these elusive dream projects waiting for you, consider yourself lucky. The reality for most of us is, that’s not usually the case.
But what if you reframe your thinking, and look at the overall big picture? Instead of waiting for projects that have this perfect mix, reframe it like this: what if you have a project that might be missing the creative element (passion), but has a good team (people) behind it, and a substantial budget (profit), maybe you could balance that with a separate or side project that really lets your creativity shine (passion)? Or maybe you can hustle with some freelance work that will pay your bills so you can work with that dream team you’ve been dying to collaborate with.
Try holding this as a general guiding blueprint for crafting your life, and assessing opportunities as they arise with these questions: What is the mix of passion, people, and profit represented in the current opportunity? And does it align with my goals and values?
By taking a step back now and looking at the overall big picture, you have a better chance of crafting the life you want and doing your best work. And that is what it’s all about.
This post first appeared as one of Studio B's Weekly Letters. Interested in being on the list? You'll get a peek behind the sequin curtain and first access to the free resources! Right this way.