Measurements for Freelancers - Part 2: Starting With the End

In last week’s article, I made the case that you probably shouldn’t measure too much about your freelancing business. At the very least, you shouldn’t fret too much about measuring your results (you don’t control them), but instead, you should pay attention to your inputs (your efforts, your habits, your mindsets, which you do control).

Reality is, all that stuff you hear people measuring and tracking, most of that stuff doesn’t matter.

As previously shared, these are the inputs that I pay attention to:

  • Am I keeping my commitments? Am I saying no to things I shouldn’t commit to?
  • Have I been writing an article every week?
  • Am I creating work that makes me scared, that triggers what Steven Pressfield in the War of Art calls “The Resistance”?
  • Am I creating value for my clients? Am I doing the hard work of discovering the real value for my clients, at the cost of not working with them if I can’t discover the value?. Am I delivering on my clients’ job-to-be-done?
  • Am I true to my values? Am I working with people that don’t express my counter-values?
  • Am I working for clients that I’d recommend to others?
  • Am I rewriting my thoughts to see things as they really are?

But tracking stuff is time consuming, and re-arranging to measure your inputs like this, that’s an even taller bet!

Maybe There’s a Way to Do Both

  1. track stuff in a way that doesn’t feel like work, and
  2. re-arrange your freelancing practice to put important things at the center.

To achieve this, we’ll use the technique of starting with the end. But first, let’s start from where you’re probably starting, the start.

Starting with the Start

So let’s just say you’d want to start measuring inputs, here’s a todo list for your next week where you add the tracking stuff

  

To-do list for this week: Do [insert task] for client A Finish up for client B Start a system for tracking profits Write an article Think about whether I'm working with clients that share my values

At this point, it feels like a stretch. You’re being honest with yourself, you’re not sure you’ll get there.

So that’s the sort of pinch you get when starting from the start going forward. It’s all a competition for your attention. Your todo-list is more like a wish-for list.

But then it begs these kinds of questions:

  • What will you be doing after having a system that tracks profits? Will you be able to keep it up?
  • What will you change after you do an audit of your clients and the values fit?
  • Will you keep up the habit of writing an article every week?

You believe in starting small, but you’d like to get moving. You want to implement changes that will keep you accountable. You’ve heard about the magic of building habits, but you’re not sure which habit to start with, let alone track.

But one meta-habit I’d like to propose, is to start with the end. Double-whamy, it’ll change your inputs (what you prioritize, what you do), and you won’t need to try hard for tracking stuff (because it’ll be built-in).

Start with the End (What Will You Be Celebrating?)

Suppose you’re at the end of the week, and you’re looking back.

I’m imagining the end of the week and I’m celebrating. It was a different week. For a change, I got stuff done you previously found difficult to get to.

Let’s thinking about the end, and let’s write statements that complete the following heading:

  

Before the end of the week, I'll have: (complete the sentence with statements describing the future)

If it helps, re-write your existing to-do list. This time, use the tense that will go with the sentence (the future-perfect tense, as it happens):

  

Before the end of the week, I’ll have: Advanced on [insert task] for client A Finished up for client B Started a system for tracking profits Written an article Thought about whether I’m working with clients that share my values

Writing statements of the end, using this tense, forces you to notice when things don’t sound true.

Will I really have started a system for tracking profits? What does that even mean?

It seems that just working for client A will be achieving that goal of having thought about whether I’m working with clients that share my values. Client A does not share my values.

With these tensions, it helps to figure out what a great ending feels like.

What will you be celebrating, at the end?

I’ll be celebrating that I’ll have moved on being more intentional with which clients I’m working with.

I’ll be celebrating that I’ll have started attracting better clients by writing articles.

All of a sudden, we see how the measurement of working with the right clients becomes central.

Let’s add these to the list.

  

Before the end of the week, I’ll have: Moved on being more intentional with which clients I'm working with Started attracting better clients Written an article Advanced on [insert task] for client A Finished up for client B Started a system for tracking profits Thought about whether I’m working with clients that share my values

The list still doesn’t feel true. We started indenting some statements under other statements, and we hoisted that whole “being more intentional” statement at the top.

Will I really be celebrating, at the expense of all the other ones, that I’ll have started attracting better clients?

So you end up asking yourself these questions, and this forces you to re-write statements, group them under new, better-worded, will-be-more-true statements.

  

Before the end of the week, I’ll have: Moved on being more intentional with which clients I’m working with Started attracting better clients Written an article Made sure I get some word-of-mouth from my current clients Respected my commitments Advanced on [insert task] for client A Finished up for client B Started a system for tracking profits Thought about whether I’m working with clients that share my values

The last two statements seem to dangle without being connected to anything, but they should fit in this new breakdown we have created above. Let’s see how we can re-write them into statements that will be true at the end of the week.

  

Before the end of the week, I’ll have: Made sure I make a profit Respected my commitments Advanced on [insert task] for client A Finished up for client B Started modelling my minimum revenues and my average expenses Moved on being more intentional with which clients I’m working with Started attracting better clients Written an article Made sure I get some word-of-mouth from my current clients Respected my commitments Started identifying some of my values, counter-values

Here, what we see, is that by the end of the week, at a minimum (the two root statements), you’ll have made sure you made a profit and have moved on being more intentional with which clients you’re working with.

To achieve that, you’ll have respected your commitments (found under both mega-statements).

But maybe you won’t have written an article. Let’s make it more honest, more true.

  

Before the end of the week, I’ll have: Made sure I make a profit Respected my commitments Advanced on [insert task] for client A Finished up for client B Started modelling my minimum revenues and my average expenses Moved on being more intentional with which clients I’m working with Started attracting better clients Made sure I get some word-of-mouth from my current clients Respected my commitments Written a first draft of an article Finished the article Started identifying some of my values, counter-values

Not only is respecting your commitments more central to attracting better clients, you’ve separated the writing of the article into a more modest objective for this week, plus a stretch goal.

Already, the tracking of some of the important stuff is baked-in to your priorities for the next week.

Because of that, the scaffolding of these statements will start to nudge your decisions around the work you take on, the clients you attract, because it’ll start forcing some more intention, some more starting with the end thinking.

  • You’ll have respected your commitments. What other commitments are you making that need to be respected?
  • You’ll have started attracting better clients. Suppose we’re celebrating at the end of the week that you’ll have attracted better clients. What else does that mean having done?

We’ve been using the week time-scale so far, but these are big questions. You can use the same tools on bigger time-scales, for bigger questions.

A Fractal Approach, Applicable on the Small and the Big

This method is fractal – it can be applied to the big as well as the small.

On different-sized questions:

  • Small-scale tasks;
  • Big picture intentions.

And on different time scales:

  • Short time scales (Before the end of the morning, I’ll have);
  • Long time scales (Before the end of the year, I’ll have);
  • Indefinite time scales (Before I can say I’ve mastered that next skill, I’ll have).

Once you’ve created some statements on longer time-scales, you can bring those statements back down to shorter time-scales.

With time, you integrate more intentionality. Each statement, each sub-statement is a mini-contract, building on the previous level up. I don’t need to track how I’m doing with stuff, because these commitments are in my face every day, every week.

On a personal note: I’ve been using this system for the past 10 or more years. It helped me line up the rest of my life to get ready to become a freelancer, and it’s helped me navigate a lot of the subtle decisions about being a freelancer too. Hope it’s as much of a ninja trick for you as it has been for me.


And so there you have it, a way to get the result of tracking what’s important (a change in your practice), while not having to make a big fuss about tracking things explicitly. All that by using “Starting with the end” as a meta habit.

Stay Sharp!



@pascallaliberte

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