There seem to be two different ways to ring the bell in this business.

Two different paths to glory and riches for us solo practitioners.

The choice depends entirely on how you’re wired, how your brain works, what delights your soul.

And I’m convinced it matters. Get this right, and it can make a huge difference in how happy you are, and how much money you make.

Here’s the idea.

Over several late-night sessions of the Renegade Roundtable, we were swapping stories of the most enviably successful freelancers we knew. Including the ones we hated. The ones who made good money, had plenty of work, had their acts together.

After a while, it dawned on us. All of these A-list players seemed to do it one of two ways:

They were brilliant at understanding clients, tuning into their likes and needs, delivering what they wanted.

Or . . .

They were brilliant at their craft, raising it to high art, becoming the best in the hemisphere in their particular niche.

They were pleasers. Or artistes.

They were 80/20 about clients.

Or, they were 80/20 about the work.

Oddly enough, it seems that the more sharply they leaned one way or the other, the better they did. Artistes did remarkably well. Pleasers did remarkably well. Middlers, trying to play both roles, not so much.

I’m not sure this is a conscious choice. The difference, I think, is built into your DNA. It determines where your satisfactions come from, how your instincts tug at your sleeve. You just can’t help it.

When you sit down to work, what are you thinking?

“What would Katharine like here? What does she want?”

Or, “What would be really good? What’s the best solution?”

For years, came down on the side of ‘doing what clients like.’ Because, well, it seemed well the ‘right’ answer. (Even if it made me miserable. And got me fired anyway.)

But I’ve changed my mind. There is no ‘right’. There is only who you are.

And you will do much better by going with your inborn tendencies and reflexes.

Where is your joy? Where is your satisfaction?

Is it in the work? The art? The craft?

Or is it in your clients, your relationships, the teamwork?

There is no right answer.

You can make a mint either way.

But you have to pick one.