Prioritizing Your Passion: How To Transition Into Work You Love

by Dan Johnston

What’s a higher priority right now: Your projects or your client’s?

Ask this to a Freelancer who wants to “do their own thing”. Their answer will tell you everything you need to know. It becomes pretty easy to predict how much progress they will really make on their passion projects.

If you’re anything like me, your “work life” is a collection of priorities. For me these priorities include books I am writing, content for this site, my coaching clients, and my copywriting and marketing consulting clients.

Truthfully, it can be a lot to juggle and yet, over the past 6 months I’ve made tremendous progress on “my” projects.

I originally thought up Dreams Around The World last fall. Back then I was spending 90%+ of my time on copywriting projects for clients. I knew I wanted to transition into spending my time writing (for myself) and coaching.

If you’d tried, or are trying to make a similar transition you know it isn’t as easy as it sounds…heck, it doesn’t even sound that easy.

There were a lot of challenges I went up against.

  • I didn’t have a cash reserve so I needed to be actively earning income. Since I wanted to build this site slowly and authentically (and not spam you with garbage or get rich quick offers :)) that meant continuing an active roster of copywriting clients.
  • Even though a client’s project would in theory only take say 20 hours, I found they would always drag out or spill over and at the end of the week I wouldn’t have much time for my projects.
  • At one point I decided to go “all in” and stop taking on any projects for clients. I put 100% of my focus on the work I wanted to do. This felt right emotionally but quickly lead to an empty bank account and too much stress to build my passion business the way I wanted to.

Ultimately I found both extremes unbearable. On one hand I was too stressed to really enjoy life and “slow build” my passion business like I’d like. On the other I found I was progressing way too slow and that month over month I wasn’t really accomplishing anything in my own business.

The Approach That Worked (For Me)

I’m happy to report that today, after finding the right approach and a whole lot of hard work, over 80% of my time is spent on creating my own content and coaching clients I love. Since April of this year I’ve published 3 books, built a following on this blog, and have shifted much of my focus to coaching a handful of inspiring clients. 

What Changed?

I started putting my own projects first. This was a mental shift, as well as a practical one.

I decided to treat myself as my most important client and put my passion projects first. This didn’t mean I neglected my clients, delivered work late, or dropped the quality. It meant that I made dedicated time to work on the projects most important to me first.

Being my own VIP client also meant clearing my head and focusing while I worked on my own projects. This means learning to “not care” about other projects while I am focused on the one in front of me and ignoring client emails for 12-24 hours.

Note: I was tempted to add “non-urgent” here, but honestly, no client emails should really be “urgent”. If you’re working with people who have a meltdown over a 24 hour email response time you need to change your clientele. 

This mental shift was huge but it’s still not always smooth sailing. While I love what I do I often find my productivity dipping and simple projects dragging on for far too long.

Last week I realized why this was happening and I wanted to share my insights with you.

When I wasn’t under pressure and the only items on my to-do list were “for me” or passion projects, I completely neglected all the productivity systems I’ve spent years creating.

In The Video:

  • Why do our passion projects fall to the wayside or drag out far too long? Because we don’t make them a priority, set deadlines, or hold ourselves accountable.
  • Just because you love what you do doesn’t mean you don’t need to be disciplined or follow a productivity system. Without a plan, “Fun Days” can easily turn into “Nothing Done Days”.
  • Whether you’re location independent and working from an island or simply working from home, our lack of structure means we all face very similar productivity struggles
  • Travel can actually boost productivity because it provides more stimulus and more to do in your free time. When we have something exciting to do after work we’re suddenly able to get a lot more done during work.
  • Using a simple kitchen timer to force yourself into 30 – 90 minute focus blocks can have a very positive impact on your productivity. More on this in next week’s article.

Further Thoughts

I really hate excuses and so should you. Ultimately people do what they really want, or feel they have, to do.

We manage to consistently eat, drink, use the washroom and (most of the time) pay the rent. We get work done for clients or bosses as we say we will.

If you’re not making the kind of progress you say you’d like then something is holding you back.

This could be something “bigger” like a lack of clarity, not knowing your next steps, or even some kind of fear. If you know that’s the case, look for a coach or mentor to help out. 

But don’t over-complicate things. There is a good chance your lack of progress may just be a lack of focus. If we want results we need to put the time in and this requires us to prioritize the projects we care about and be disciplined about putting time into them.

Takeaways

  1. If you’re “passion project” is stalled at the start line you may be lacking clarity or direction. You will need to find this before you can get rolling, but that isn’t an excuse to put it off. Schedule dedicated time to go for a walk or sit in the park and think on this. You could also talk to a friend or mentor about it; often an outside perspective will speed up the answers.
  2. If you are clear on what you want be doing but the progress is slow, step back and look at your real productivity. How many hours per day of FOCUSED time are you spending on your passion project? If it’s less than 3 you should be ashamed! If it’s more than 6, congrats and keep it up. Anywhere in between you’re doing alright in my books.

Next week I’ll walk you through some of the systems I’ve created for being exceptionally productive while working from anywhere, including the most difficult spot: Home.

If you enjoyed this article please take a moment to share it with your friends and leave a comment below. 

Comments 2

  1. I am currently working on releasing a small course and for this month I have just postponed ANY client work. This allows me to focus on my own stuff and be ready to release. It’s not an easy decision to be made, but it’s impossible to respect my launch date and also work for my clients.

  2. Thank you your advice is exactly what I need to be hearing! I have been trying to move from a business I’m unhappy in into something I love but I never spend enough time on it. First it was guilt, at least I think, but now it is definitely focus, and a little lack of clarity on the direction I want to take. I’m an ENFP and I don’t like to use that as an excuse but, I do find it hard to focus on just one thing, sometimes it’s because I feel I’m missing out on the other things, and sometimes because I can’t make decisions and I want everything now.

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