My favorite conference is Craft + Commerce, which the ConvertKit team puts on each year in Boise, Idaho. While at the conference in 2019, I had a life-changing realization about timing.
I’ll skip straight to the punchline before giving you the full backstory of my mindset shift: The timing is always terrible.
The Worst Time to Create a Course for Freelancers
Okay, back to Boise: For years, I’d wanted to create a course to help freelancers and consultants navigate the business side of creativity. Being good at writing, design, or coding requires one set of skills, and making six figures requires another.
However, I couldn’t just ignore my commitment to my business partner and my responsibilities to the branding studio we had cofounded together. Chris and Balernum needed me then more than ever. Our relationship with one anchor client had gotten progressively worse, and when it came time to re-up on the contract, we told them we’d be parting ways. We desperately needed to replace that revenue.
So you can imagine how conflicted I felt as I sat at District Coffee House, stared out the window, and processed everything I’d heard from speakers and what was in my own heart.
What did I really want to do? Outline my course and create the content. Stop thinking about it, and just do it already.
But what about the studio? What about our production queue which wasn’t packed with exciting projects but looked more like a school on a Saturday morning? People were counting on me.
Wait a second… The timing is always terrible!
Maybe it was the coffee or the Cottonwood-scented Idaho hair, but a sizzling bolt of clarity struck.
How long had the course idea tickled the back of my mind? For years.
And when had “the right time” presented itself? Um, never.
The timing is always terrible. Always.
Whether the goal is getting in shape and running a half marathon or writing the book and going hard after the literary career, the timing is never obviously right for a gulp-inducing commitment. The guy at life’s carwash never turns the light from red to green and waves you forward.
Was June 2019 the right time to finally buckle down and create the original Freelance Cake course, piece by piece? Of course not.
However, a freshly sprouted insight replaced the old red light: If the timing had always been bad, and would continue to be bad, then there was no better time than the present.
Thirty minutes a day eventually adds up.
Each day, I “made” thirty minutes to write a lesson, create a supporting resource, or record audio.
These deposits of minimum viable progress I pictured as quarters in a piggy bank. They seemed like nothing at first, and life didn’t slow down to be more accommodating either. Our youngest child had a scary misdiagnosis. Our middle child broke his arm. In September Chris left our studio to get a full-time job.
I had a football team of reasons to quit, but I discovered for myself what Optimize founder Brian Johnson teaches: “You get more done, paradoxically, when you have less time.”
The Unforeseen Benefit of Terrible Timing
Terrible timing forced me to focus:
- I restructured my weekly routine—because I had to.
- I changed my mindset and self-talk—because I had to.
- I spent more time on strategy and planning—because I had to.
- I made decisions faster and asked for help more often too—because I had to.
- I went to bed earlier, got up earlier, and exercised more often—because I had to.
- I right-sized my goals and made minimum viable progress each day—because I had to.
Over time, my different habits and beliefs produced different results. Quarters piled up in the piggy bank. By the end of January 2020, I had somehow “found” the 250 hours required to create, finish, and deliver the course, despite having picked a bad year to build an audience and a product.
Here are two things I learned:
- If you want an excuse, you can always find one.
- The time will never be “right”—at least, not on its own.
Ruthless focus is a pair of pliers that bend terrible timing into the shape of progress.
Accept yourself and your situation, and make minimum viable progress.
What is it you want right now? What idea or dream is ticking the back of your mind?
Here are some of the desires I hear from my coaching clients:
- Scale up into an agency
- Create a coaching program
- Reclaim more time to pursue business ideas
- Create digital products for more leveraged income
- Charge value-based prices for strategy and consulting work
Are you finding thirty minutes each day or telling yourself, “I’m too busy to …”?
A quote from James Clear comes to mind:
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”
Your breakthrough will come through accepting yourself and your situation, getting clear on what you want your life and work to look like, and making “minimum viable progress” each day.
You may be busy. The timing may be bad. In fact, it may always be bad, so the best time to start is right now.
When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:
- Freelance Fixes. This short guide walks you through 6 small but important “fixes” that you can make to raise your income without working longer hours. People really seem to like it.
- Morning Marketing Habit. This course will help you build an “always be marketing” practice, become less dependent on referrals, and proactively build the business you want with the clients you want. My own morning marketing habit has enabled me to consistently make 6 figures as a freelancer.
- Clarity Session. It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle. I've done well over 100 of these 1:1 sessions with founders, solopreneurs, and freelancers who wanted guidance, a second opinion, or help creating a plan.