2017: The year of designing agile freelance practices

Since I started freelancing coaching, there's a few common patterns I see regularly. But none of them so common as freelancers who make the mistake of trying to run like a business. A big part of my 2017 is going to focus on removing this pattern in my own practice and in those of my coaching clients.

Freelancers have to run parts of their practice like businesses would. They have many of the same things to do: invoicing, working with clients, and selling – lots of selling. But freelancers don't have to do those things the same way that larger businesses do them. And there's lots of things freelancers can do that businesses can't. When we try to mimic larger structures, we adopt the same weaknesses that they do, but get almost none of the strengths. As a freelancer, that means fewer opportunities to put cash in our pocket.

We're smaller. Faster. More agile. That agility matters. We can experiment much more freely and quickly than larger companies. We can iterate and improve faster than any other kind of business out there. Yet so few of our practices take advantage of that trait.

I like giving you real tips you can use in my posts, so here's three things you can start doing in 2017 to improve your agility.

  • Shorten your timeframes for measuring results. And I mean you should shorten them dramatically. A month should be the shortest increment of time you measure results in. Work towards reviewing progress every week.
  • Work on shorter projects. Start breaking down your projects into shorter phases. Deliver smaller units of work. Do it faster. The big jobs might feel like they offer more stability and security, but the more long-term work you do, the more you rely on it and start to let the other parts of your practice wane. Smaller projects will let you do niche work better, which is more resistant to price competition.
  • Ship early. Ship often. Knowledge work is uncertain, vague, and can be prone to error. Often getting the product out the door is the best way to see how effective it is. Communicate with your client about providing value as early in the process as possible, and change your processes to allow for iterative work.

I'm just in the formative stages with this, so I'd love your feedback about whether you see this in your practice or not. Have you fixed this in your practice? I'd love to hear your story on how you did that? Leave a reply on Facebook or Twitter, and I'll get back to you!