November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when eager authors commit to write a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. It’s an insane combination of sprint and marathon, designed to push writers past excuses and force them to just write. It’s a way authors can embrace limitations and go farther, something you can apply to your freelance business.
Rather than restricting creativity, introducing limitations or constraints can actually encourage creativity. Look at the strict format of the haiku or sonnet. Or for a more current example, Vine hooked 40 million users in 2013 with its 6-second videos.
Those limitations boost creativity, giving us a format to follow, limiting options, and helping us to channel ideas and funnel inspiration. When we embrace limitations, we can get more done.
How Businesses Embrace Limitations
National Novel Writing Month is just one example. We can also see how businesses win when they embrace limitations. Southwest Airlines avoided bankruptcy by finding a way to survive with three planes instead of four, embracing a time-saving, frugal mindset that has made them the most profitable airline in the country. Audi won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2006 with a more fuel efficient diesel engine that required fewer pit stops.
Other examples include the Ignite Minneapolis conference, where speakers are limited to 5 minutes and a strict “new slide every 15 seconds” format. Or look at the social media creativity challenges, like photographers taking a picture every day.
How Freelancers Can Embrace Limitations
So how can this help freelancers?
Get Creative With Clients
When you embrace limitations, you can come up with more creative options for clients:
- What if we built a site in a week?
- What if we built a site for only $300?
- What if we limit a site to a single page?
Some of these limitations might create a way for you to work with a client when otherwise it wouldn’t happen. Some of these limitations might also be a way to silence the excuses or critics and move a project forward.
Push Your Projects Forward
You can also find ways to get your own work done when you embrace limitations. Updating your website always gets put off, but what if you tried giving yourself a limit? You only have 20 minutes to update your website: Go!
Or maybe you have a side project you’ve always wanted to tackle, but you never have the time. Set some serious limitations and force yourself to create a minimum viable product in just 30 days. National Plugin Coding Month (NaPluCoMo), anyone?
Whether you’re trying to code a new project, redesign your site or create an ebook to serve as an email newsletter incentive, embracing limitations can help you get it done.
Perfect Isn’t Always Perfect
Too often we insist on perfection. The result takes so long that it’s not worth it. Often it’s better to ship something than keeping tweaking it forever.
Yes, many of these limitations are arbitrary. There’s nothing magical about finishing a novel in 30 days instead of 40. But when you enforce limitations—even completely arbitrary ones—you’re able to focus, block out distractions, pull up the resources and make it happen.