As indie professionals, we don’t have the luxury of focusing on either project or non-project based work. Our lives must be a blend of the two.
We need to keep the wheels turning and lay the road to move the business forward.
Balancing both is a struggle.
Sometimes it’s all we can do to get our non-project / base business work completed. With endless emails, calls, social media, tax deadlines, and unplanned glitches clogging up our to-do list, we barely have time to execute what’s already on the list, let alone execute a project to create something new.
Know what your blending!
The first mistake we make that adds to our struggle is not being clear on what is a project and what is base work.
Base work is something that is done ongoing – for as long as you are in business. It includes things like reading and answering emails, reconciling financial transactions, meeting with clients, making and taking important calls, keeping up to date on industry news and events, all the things that keep the lights on and the wheels turning.
Project work has a definite start and end and a specific outcome. It’s usually something that moves your business forward, such as creating a new product or upgrading a process and system to improve efficiency.
If base business keeps the lights on and the wheels moving, projects build the road on which the wheels will roll.
How do I blend base and project work?
An indie business needs project work to keep moving forward and stay competitive. But as an indie, you are a one-person show, and it’s challenging to find the time to do it all.
We want to say yes to everything, to win the bid, to continue to advance our craft, to take on that one last client before year-end.
Before you commit!
Before you commit, it’s essential to understand yourself and your business clearly. Start by asking yourself a few questions:
- How much time do I spend on base work activities?
- What time is available for project work?
- Have I identified my working and productivity preferences?
- Do I accurately estimate the work effort and resources needed for base work?
- Do I carefully assess the work effort and resources required for project work?
- What have I learned from previously executed projects?
- Am I willing to ask for help to uncover what I’m not seeing?
Your answers to these questions hold the seed of your optimal approach to blending your base and project work.
A few ideas to try.
Similar to our attempts to have ‘work-life balance,’ blending base and project work will take on many forms.
Here are a few general approaches (yours will and should be unique to you):
Daily blending: creating a regular structure that includes both base and project work tasks. A daily structure may be as simple as doing project work in the morning and base work in the afternoon.
Weekly blending: this approach reserves specific days of the week for either base or project work. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for base work and Tuesday, Thursday for project work – for example.
Boot-camp approach: with this approach, a block of several days are reserved to focus on a specific project to allow for in-depth and focused work and capitalize on the momentum.
Front-load Base Business: in it’s most extreme, this approach requires the base business to be done in just a few days at the beginning of a month (for example) and then opens up the rest of the month for project work.
Of course, the type of base work and project work you have will influence the blending approach you are able and willing to take.
You’ll most likely benefit from using a mix of these approaches, depending on the project, context, and your mindset.
What approach suits you best?
There is no right answer, which is why I believe in approaching each Indie Workshop with an open mind, ready to design the experience that you need at that moment.