I’m currently having one of my ‘all the buses come at once’ months where several illustration jobs have come in within the space of ten days, and I’m furiously working on several projects in time for a string of nearing deadlines.
Although I’m grateful for paid work coming in, this rush of gold also means that other areas of my life and career can get neglected (don’t worry, I’ve got my personal hygiene covered).
One such area is building your own ‘assets’.
To many, an asset is a boring corporate word that means, well, who knows really. It essentially means an item of value that can generate income over time like a property or an investment, rather than a source of loss or liability like general meaningless busyness, debt or expenses.
In the context of our own careers, assets are anything that adds value to ourselves and our brands. Yes, this is a hugely broad term, but all these things are linked by their power in lifting you up rather than sucking the life out of you.
Books you write, paintings you paint, products you make, apps you design, networks you build, and the knowledge you grow are all examples of assets.
When we work for other people and provided services for others, it can mean that our own assets (real and potential) fail to receive the attention they need.
When I’m busy working on illustrations for several clients at once, sure I’m developing my own skills and experiences a little and adding new client names to my credits, but effectively what I’m doing is exchanging time for short-term money, and I’m not spending effective time on things that would otherwise be building my own assets and creating long-term opportunities – income and otherwise.
My own assets manifest themselves in many ways, from the books and courses I write, to growing my knowledge through reading, through my money savings and the online businesses I’m building.
It can be easy to hit a ceiling when working hard as freelancers or employees without building your own assets.
This is a ceiling through which minimal growth occurs.
And you need to be careful so that years don’t go by and you have not been building on what you have.
I’ve seen many freelancers create similar work for similar clients, and ten years have gone by without creating leverage for themselves through self-investment.
You can’t let this happen. You must invest in yourself before you invest in your clients and your customers.
This does not mean that you stop serving others, but it does mean that you spend valuable time and money on yourself first.
When you receive cash from a hard-earned project, for example, pay yourself 10% in savings or investment money, before spending it all on shoes and concerts or even food.
When you start the day, spend the time you’d normally spend fighting email fires by meditating or creating products for yourself that will in turn interest others.
For those that think investing in yourself is selfish, they are the most selfish of all, and they know it. If you do everything for others first, you will have little value, and be of little worth to the world.
Writing this blog post is contributing to my asset of my own writing skill and the Red Lemon Club blog. I’ve exchanged hours that I could spend finishing client projects for ‘asset-building time’, in order to sit here in this cafe and write this.
But I do it because I can, without losing clients, even if it creates a slight strain on my deadlines. And I do it because by investing in myself first, I’m becoming a more valuable entity, which will in turn contribute to those around me in the long term.
Building assets like writing books or creating an online shop to sell your art prints for sale may only make a trickle of pennies at the start. But over time, if you water those assets like a flower, and keep promoting and adding more, you will start to create a stream of income and attention.
The beauty of most, if not all, assets, are that they are accumulative. Value gets layered into assets, the more attention and care you place on them.
So rather than having only several clients coming in next year, you have several client projects and a stream of money and attention, all because you dedicated time to investing in yourself first.
There are many things that stop us all from growing and building our own assets. We all know what they are in our own lives so I won’t attempt to provide a run-down list of distractions.
This is a reminder to myself just as it is for anyone else this vibrates with. Do what you need to do to ensure you have assets, and that these assets are being grown and built on.
Perhaps this means getting up an hour earlier and writing 300 words of fiction for a new book every day before going to work.
Perhaps this means cancelling your Netflix account and turning off the Internet for a day or two and finishing that watercolour you started.
Perhaps this means setting yourself a target of reading 2 books every week so that your grasp of a specific topic widens and crystallises in your mind, and you become an elite at a topic.
All of these things will help you, but you will also become more useful to the world, and this will lead to happiness.
Happiness, as I always say, is the sensation we have of our own usefulness to the world, and this will come through assets and their continual growth.
When you give away too much of your assets to others through busy work, before you have topped up your own value, you will grow weary and hollow.
Start small. It doesn’t matter if you’re 14 or 70.
What asset can you dedicate 10 minutes every day to planting, watering and growing, so that ‘future you’ will look back and say: thank you?