Give Your Freelance Clients A Fair Shot

I recently told someone I work with that I’d give a new situation a fair shot. The same day, I told my daughter that she had to give her new softball team a fair shot.

Now I’m struggling to define that term. I know we’ve all done this as freelancers and employees: taken on a new job, client or situation that doesn’t seem quite right, or that you suspect you won’t like. Your instincts say, “No,” but your rational mind says it’s worth a shot. Maybe you need the money, or you think it will be a boost for your resume. Or your rational mind says, “No,” but your emotion says, “Try it.” You like the people, or something about the work appeals to you personally.

You decide to try it: to take it on as an experiment.

When I’m in that situation, I use the fair shot idea. (If my instincts are prickling about someone’s ethics, I also try to build in safeguards for myself – Elaine wrote about this not long ago). But defining a fair shot is hard.

I’ve done it via calendar. I tell myself: One month from now, I’m going to check in with myself. Time-based fair shots actually don’t work that well, in my experience, though that Steve Jobs used the element of time in the following famous quote.

He had something to say on making a change when you feel you’re on the wrong path, but he doesn’t define the length of time you should give a situation. He says “too many days in a row.”

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something…almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

What works better for some people, myself included, is a trigger. Scientists structure their experiments, deciding at the beginning what the hypothesis is and what result will disprove or prove the hypothesis. (The other difficulty, of course, is committing yourself fully to the experiment, even while you recognize it’s an experiment. If you set your mind against something in the first place, it is likely to fail.)

The hypothesis in the case of a new job: I’m going to find this worthwhile for me. In the case of the softball team: I’m going to enjoy this.

In the case of my daughter, I want her to experience two games before she makes a decision to quit or continue. Now, I’m thinking about how to structure my experiment with a new work situation. I’ll pick some projects with end dates, set some goals and see where I am at the end of that road. I don’t want to keep walking if it’s not the right one for me.

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