Well, yes and no.
Take two fictitious characters, Focused Fred and Pleasing Polly. They’ve both decided to start up their own businesses making tailored clothes. (I have no experience tailoring clothes so I may be rusty with some of the terminology – but should still work)
They offer stylish tailor made clothes for office wear and are very good at what they do. Both begin to get a steady stream of customers and life is good. Occasionally they get together and drink piña coladas and talk tailor talk about buttons and sewing up pockets on suit jackets really tight so people struggle to un pick them without damaging the lining…(just me on that one?)
Then one day, Focused Fred has a customer who asks him if he could make a specialised type of suit for his pet dog. Fred politely declines because it’s not really his thing and he doesn’t get excited about dressing dogs.
Being the other talented tailor in town, the customer tries Pleasing Polly, and she jumps at the chance because Polly knows as someone who works for herself you just never know when the next job is going to come in. Sure it will be a little extra work and research, but she’s confident that she can do it, and because she can do it, and it’s work, she should do it…right?
So she researches, she works hard, and she makes a suit for the little dog. It’s not her best work however, as she’s had a to learn a lot as she’s gone on, and it’s been a hard slog as she’s not used to it, and she hasn’t been able to do as much work on her stylish range which she loves.
But it’s a job.
She delivers the doggy suit and the customer is pleased, especially as she got a significant discount from Polly as there were a few mistakes with it being Polly’s first dog suit attempt. So the customer raves about this tailor in town who’ll do any kind of work at a dirt cheap price and Polly finds herself inundated with suits for cats, for children, for fancy dress, and with each job she has to learn from the beginning and work twice as hard to produce unfamiliar attire, but she’s stacked up with orders for the next 4 months.
Polly stops meeting Fred for Piña Coladas. She’s just too damn busy.
Meanwhile, Fred is focusing on the jobs he loves: stylish office wear. When a big client moves into the town of the two talented tailors with a large contract for office wear, they pass by Pleasing Polly’s shop first. It is an explosion of ribbons, frills, dog suits, cat suits and Polly is mumbling to herself and beginning to rock and pull at her hair. The big client moves swiftly on as it’s not clear what Polly actually does any more.
Then they pass Focused Fred’s business. Fred is working away at his latest range of tip top sleek suits, and his craftsmanship has become better as he’s had more practice working on the jobs he loves. He’s fast become an expert in his field.
Cue handshakes, contracts and celebratory Piña coladas.
The example might be extreme, but just like the jam jar that shows me a picture of beautiful plump berries and fruit, a picnic hamper and beautiful scones lathered with lashings of the fruity goodness…when I know I’m just going to slather it on a bit of bread, this story is for “illustrative purposes only”.
However, there are lessons to be learned from this modern fable:
What do we learn from Pleasing Polly?
- Accepting any job can dilute your expertise
- Accepting a job far outside your expertise can reduce the value you bring to a project.
- Reducing the value you bring to a project can see you working longer for less
- Neglecting the jobs you are good at can make you rusty where you were once a leader in your field
- It’s confusing to new customers if you can’t define what it is exactly that you do any more.
- You miss out on lots of Piña coladas
Remember what game you’re in and why you’re in it. Most of us set up our own businesses out of a passion to follow our dreams and spend more time working on projects we love.
It might be hard to convince ourselves to down down work we don’t want to really do because at the end of the day it’s a job
But isn’t that why we left our jobs?
It doesn’t have to feel like work anymore, find the work you love to do and do it the best that you can.