When Not Enough Work Isn’t Your Problem

Sep 26, 2022

Can you have TOO much work?
Can you have too much of a good thing?

If you’re a freelancer, you’ve probably been conditioned to believe there’s no such thing as too much work. We’ve been taught to adopt a scarcity mindset and believe we’d better take it while it’s coming, because who knows when the next client or job will come along. More is better, right?

So, you say “yes” to it all. The good, the bad, and the meh. Before you know it, you’re underwater working for clients you don’t like, on projects that bore you, and for rates determined by someone else.

It’s a cycle that’s easy to fall into and hard to get out of. You know you need to do something, but you’re so darn busy you don’t have time to get out of the weeds and figure out what.

Ughhh! I’m betting this is not why you decided to become a creative freelancer.

But I have good news. You can change this dynamic and design your ideal client, project type, workload, and team (yes, team!). It’s going to involve some intentional and courageous choices, but I’ve got your back!

If you’re ready to break the unsustainable cycle and grow your creative business, here are 3 ways you can shift from an overworked freelancer to a large and in charge business owner.

Step One: Decide Who and What Needs to Go

Entrepreneurs are an optimistic bunch and our magical thinking doesn’t end at capacity and time. We tell ourselves we’ll take a good, hard look at our business “when things calm down.” From personal experience, I can tell you that an extended period of free time is never going to magically appear. You’re going to have to create it.

Action Step:

Go through ALL your clients and projects for the last year or two and grade them using criteria that matter to you. An example of those criteria might be:
Type of project (one-off, ongoing, retainer etc.)

  • How enjoyable was the project?
  • How easy was the client to work with?
  • How organized was the process?
  • Did they pay well and on time?

Capture your insights in a simple Google sheet or doc and look for patterns. It will likely be clear who you can let go of (coincidentally, they’re usually the ones who pay the least, have the most boring work, and are most time-consuming/annoying.)

Step Two: Identify the Role You Want to Have In Your Business

I love this step because the default role is “all the roles.” It’s why you feel like the chief creative, operations person, and bottle washer at any given time.

Action Step:

Review the key roles graphic below and list ALL the activities that fall within those roles. This can totally be a down-and-dirty exercise – literally draw the circles on a large piece of paper and scribble all the activities you do (or need to do) for each.


Next, circle the ones that you are excellent at doing and want to do. You’re going to want to check your ego here because you’re going to think only YOU can do it right! Challenge that assumption.

Step Three: Create a Job Description (Even if You’re Not Even Close to Hiring/Outsourcing Yet)

You probably have a much clearer idea of your zone of genius work and what someone else could absolutely be doing for you. Remember, the stuff you hate/aren’t great at is someone else’s zone of genius. Write a job description for that person and role.

Are you ready to shift from an overworked freelancer to an empowered business owner?  If you’re feeling the urge to grow, these are some great first steps. I’m rooting for you!

Justine Clay

Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Sign up for her free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth, above.