What I love about freelancing is that I can run my little business however I want. There are a jillion options and possibilities open to me.

What sucks about freelancing is that I can run my little business however I want. There are a jillion options and possibilities open to me.

When I have too many choices and too many options, nothing happens. Or I just flail around. Or I keep doing what I did last year.

The universe is way too vast for my brain.

When I have a blog on freelancing, where I can write whatever I want, on any topic, in whatever length, it takes me two years to get a new post up.

But when I limit myself to posts of just 500 words, on just three core themes, I can write again. (And, incidentally, the posts are not 500 words, and they stray from the themes. But things are unstuck.)

Here’s the paradox. When you are forced to work with severe constraints, when you have to think inside a tiny little box, it frees your up imagination. It clarifies and simplifies everything.

That’s important for us independents, because we have no one telling us what to do and what not to do.

It’s not the same as focus, which everyone talks about. Although maybe I’m hair-splitting.

Constraints work a bit differently. The constraints show you something.

You’ve been futzing forever with your freelance website? Or it’s just been laying there for a year?

Try this: Today after dinner, you build a ONE PAGE site. You’re allowed just 250 words, and just one graphic. (If you’re a writer, NO pictures.) If you’re a designer, you get 150 words, and just three images. Do it all within those constraints.

Seems stupid, seems impossible. But you’ll either come up with a ingeniously clever one-page site. Which is a good thing. Or you’ll get a fresh take on what your site should be doing.

When you try to use all social media to market yourself, you’ll flounder around. Limit yourself to ONE, and go at it hard. You’ll learn something.

Or promote yourself ONLY by sending hand-written notes for a month. It won’t kill you. It will open your brain.

Artist Phil Hansen tells the story of finally having enough money to buy a studio full of art supplies. But with all the abundance, he couldn’t produce a thing. Until he limited himself to works he could create with $1 in supplies. Then he turned out work like crazy.

All those services you list on your site? Delete them all except one. Maybe two. The simple act of doing that will embolden you. That’s why we specialize.

A friend, reading this over said, “Haha! With so many possible constraints to choose from, how do I decide?”

I don’t know. Maybe pick the ones you lean toward anyway. Or the constraints that scare you the most.

And this makes 487 words so I’m done.


Illustration: Veremaya from NounProject