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Is Shiny Object Syndrome Hurting Your Freelancing Career?

Juggling different clients, deadlines, and projects is the reality of every freelancer's career. Over time, as you get more established, it only gets more overwhelming. You're doing all the calls, onboarding all the clients, and working on the projects.

Once that's done, you're cross-referencing data to make sure you're sending the right invoice to the right client with the correct date on top. Everything is your responsibility and you always have the next thing on your to-do list in the back of your mind. 

And then, as you're relaxing and scrolling through social media, a project management system ad pops up. It promises to revolutionize your workflow, get some of the weight off your back, and let you focus on working on your projects.

You sign up, transfer some of your sticky notes in, and there it is: a prompt to integrate your CRM. You're currently not using a CRM, but you start thinking to yourself that it might not be such a bad idea.

So, you go and look at CRM systems, pick the one you like most and sign up for that as well. Now, in addition to finishing transferring your notes into the project management system, you also have to populate the CRM with client data.

Before you know it, the day is gone

Between getting used to the interface, figuring out how the system works, and transferring all the data in, you haven't even noticed how much time has passed. You've spent an entire working day tinkering with the tools, and you still have projects waiting for you.

A few weeks later, you realize you haven't really made use of either of the systems. You still use sticky notes and invoice templates that already have your clients' info on them.

So, why did you feel you needed the systems in the first place? It's shiny object syndrome at its finest.

How shiny object syndrome works

With the overwhelming amount of tools and software on the market, it's easy to become the victim of shiny object syndrome. Systems promising to improve your workflow, save you time, and reduce your workload are everywhere.

And since you have limited time to complete your freelance projects, you figure you could use all the help you can get. Combine your hope for more free time with the promises of workflow revolution, and soon you find yourself hopping from one tool to another.

What starts as curiosity quickly spirals into a cycle of wasting time and resources on new systems without fully committing to any. As a result, you're feeling (and often being) more unproductive than before.

Shiny object syndrome kills productivity

Relying on tools and software to magically solve all your productivity struggles is the trap of shiny object syndrome. While jumping from one system to antoher in search of  a quick fix is tempting, in reality it wreaks havoc on your productivity levels.

When you keep switching between different systems without giving time for them to actually work, you end up wasting hours trying to get used to new interfaces and learn functionalities. Instead of focusing on getting things done, you're stuck in a loop of exploration and adjustment.

In addition to that, switching between systems leads to fragmented workflows and scattered data. This inconsistency then puts a dent in your efficiency and creates issues when trying to track progress or access important data quickly.

You don't need all the tools

What you do need are the tools that fit into your business and your way of working. The key is to start by identifying your specific needs. Before getting a system, consider whether you really need it.

You identify your clients' pain points all the time, and now it's time to identify yours. Start by evaluating your daily tasks and pinpointing what you spend the most time on.

Do you struggle with managing multiple projects? Are client communications becoming overwhelming? What areas of your workflow could benefit from more structure or automation?

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Understanding your own pain points helps you narrow down the type of software that can address them. Next, do thorough research on different options available. Read reviews, ask for recommendations from fellow freelancers, and take advantage of free trials. You want to make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and doesn't lead you to switching systems two months down the line.
Once you've narrowed down your options, stay focused on how each tool can genuinely improve your productivity. Don't allow yourself to get distracted with shiny ads and flashy features. Remember that the goal here is not to have a fancy tool - it's to support your existing processes and improve efficiency.

Things to look out for while deciding on systems

Besides making sure the system you go with aligns with your specific needs, there are also other factors to consider. Think about how a system aligns with your long-term goals and whether it can adapt as your freelance business grows and evolves. Otherwise, one day you'll end up back in the same software evaluation place you're in now.

Another thing to factor in is your own personal level of comfort with using software. This will be the determining factor in whether you go with software that's easy to use or something a bit more complex.

Whatever the case may be, make sure the customer support level that comes with your plan also works for you. The last thing you want to do is sign up for software, get stuck with something at the last minute, and have nobody to help you out.

Systems should complement your workflow, not complicate it

Implementing systems in your freelance business is crucial for efficiency and growth. However, without a clear understanding of what it is that you want those systems to help with, you'll find them doing the opposite.

When deciding on a new system, stay focused on its intended purpose. Don't allow yourself to get sidetracked by flashy features that don't contribute to improving your workflow. If you do, you might just end up with a more complex workflow than you started with.

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Patricija Šobak's profile image
Patricija Šobak puts her talent in spotting questionable grammar and shady syntax to good use by writing about various business-related topics. Besides advocating the use of the Oxford comma, she also likes coffee, dogs, and video games. People find her ability to name classic rock songs only from the intro both shocking and impressive.