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Refocusing Your Business With an "I Am No Good At" List
By Samuel Ryan     Online Business     Comments

Living in a world of instant information is a two-edged sword. On one hand, you can find help on nearly any subject, from learning HTML 5 to setting up an LLC. On the other hand, a little knowledge can be dangerous, convincing people that they know more than they actually do about a certain subject. We've all heard someone or other refer to the necessity of "meta tags" for search engines or try to confidently explain that they need more "RAM" so that their computer can hold more photos. 


This self-sufficiency is common among freelancers and entrepreneurs, driving them to do too many things themselves. Granted, an entrepreneur often has no choice but to do many things himself, and as helpful as this may be at times starting out, it is more likely that the "do-everything" attitude will hurt the growth of your business. Many freelancers, entrepreneurs, and even small firms never reach their full potential because they continue to fill roles in which they are either inexperienced or unskilled.

So in creating a business that functions in the best way possible, I find it helpful to constantly keep a list that reminds me of things "I am terrible at." I call the list a "No Good At" list because I want to be harsh and avoid the trap of convincing myself that I could do certain things that I shouldn't be doing. More often than not, you'll be weeding out the stuff you're "just okay" at so you can focus on the things that you are (or can be) a rockstar at. Part of my current list looks something like this:

I Am No Good At:

  • Illustration
  • Accounting/Finances
  • Project Planning
  • Business Organization
  • Careful Proofreading
  • PHP/Java
  • Social Marketing

So what do you do with such a list? Your answer may vary according to your business. Some people would outsource anything outside their expertise. Others would spend hours and outside consultation to be up to speed in as many subjects as possible. Here's a more logical process for dealing with your "No Good At" list.


1. Determine what you must be good at no matter what.

 Certain aspects like email and time management will always be a part of your business. Do your best to improve on these and use whatever tactics necessary. You just can't get away without mastering specific business skills.


2. Find an expert and trust them.

 Just because I use Facebook and Twitter doesn't mean I really know social marketing. Or just because I've had my share of college math classes and have read The Intelligent Investor doesn't mean that I should be taking care of my company finances. Although it seems logical to do many things on your own (it's called bootstrapping, right?), relying on the expertise of others (and paying them when necessary) is usually a better choice. Experts often enjoy answering your questions or at least putting you in contact with those who can help.


3. Drop it altogether.

This is the toughest step to take, especially when it feels like you're leaving money on the table. But if a potential client comes to me with a job that requires high usage of illustration, PHP/Java, or OO design, I will typically let them know that I don't do that type of work. Sure, I could track down contractors to take care of such things. But if I can grow my business focusing on the things I am good at, why fill my time with work that is unrelated to my strengths? Great companies are built by focusing on a few things they do very, very well.


Whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of believing you have to do everything. Learn to rely on others or turn down certain opportunities. A focused business is a good one, and it begins with realizing what you are not good at.

Community Comments
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I think your three advices really sum it up quite well. For me personally, esp. "1. Determine what you must be good at no matter what."


Nobody can do everything,work with some one else is also a good advice.

Mathew Liles
First off great site and good advice.

For me I struggled with "3. Drop it altogether." If someone approached me with a potential project I would bend over backwards trying to accommodate them.

I have since learnt that this is not the best use of my time. I have since come to terms with pointing them in the direction of a friend that is good at what they want - I find this is the best all round. The client gets the best advice/work and I build up a working relationship with other designers.

That’s not to say that I’m not open to learning new things.

Demetrius Pinder
I see more and more print/graphic/web designers/developers working together. That's how I run my business. Jack of all trades, master of none.

I am mainly a CF dev.

On that note, why aren't more of you using CF 8 over PHP?

I kid, I kid. No need to start that fight!

Wonderful article. I think I may just have to make that list but tweak it just a little bit to split it into two groups: the good group and the bad group. IE: The bad group having the things I'm bad at coupled with a list for the things I don't -enjoy- doing. The good group would then of course have the things I'm good at and the things I enjoy.

I think it would give a better view of what you should and shouldn't work on. May as well push to excel at things you enjoy and increase your happiness at the same time.

Another good article.

One of the biggest dangers of not being able to identify weak areas, or at least areas of non-expertise, is that you neglect the areas in which you're genuinely strong. Because you know "a little bit" of something you try to pursue it and that leads to a lack of focus.

Keeshia > How would you categorise something that you're good at but don't enjoy, or vice versa?

I'd put the item in both categories and because I'm an avid fan of highlighting, mark them with a certain color.

Just because you don't enjoy doing something you're good at doesn't mean you shouldn't do it if it's a valuable asset. I'd simply make the conscious choice of doing less of it when it isn't absolutely necessary. :)

Sonali Agrawal
Wonderful article yet again.

This is the biggest problem for me. I am so confused at times that what am I good at what am I not good at. I just keep thinking about it in my mind, and end up nowhere. Maybe this article would help me remove my confusion.

Chocolate Log
Love the site and great article.

Hmmm,I see you are not good at illustration, well we would be more than happy to help you in that area ;)

You can have a look at some of our work at www.chocolate-log.com

Shareen Webb
Good start into a topic, and good advice. I agree with robin's comment about neglecting or forgetting what you are genuinely strong in becasue you are trying improve or learn the rest.

I have a "Not efficient" list of things I'm not good at or qiuck at, even if I enjoy them. I try to keep them in mind.
Where I could use some more advice or tools is how and when to decide the tipping point of "bootsrapping" vs delegating.

Judd Exley
I love it!
I've taken to having prospective clients fill out a questionnaire, mostly about their business and online marketing efforts (if any), but what it really tells me is what they're good at, and most importantly, what they're not.

I have yet to give them the "I'm No Good At" list, but for the guy who has already paid and loves my work but STILL hasn't finished his questionnaire, I already know that he sucks at email correspondence.

I really like this concept though, as I believe in almost total transparency, and am going to start actually calling it the "I'm No Good At".

Thanks for that, I'll totally credit you.

Elizabeth Baur
I think it's important to make priorities among the things you are good at, too. I've always struggled between writing and design, because in the end, I'm no better at one than I am at the other. But life can be short, and instead of being a master of none, I chose design. Maybe I'll write that novel when I'm older, and have something to say to the world. :]

Maybe one of the best things we can do. I also have weaknesses and strong points and want to do it all. Well, it's impossible. The best thing I can do now is really know what my possibilities are and how to manage them. And try to delegate or just renounce the things that are out of my reach.

MrPositioning.com (Stanley Bronstein)
I have seen so many startup businesses fail, just because they tried to be everything. You're right on the money with this article.

It is important, FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, to put systems in place where you can focus on building your business and getting your business done. Unless you are a "jack of all trades", you need to let someone else take care of things such as bookkeeping, etc.

For example, my pool guy does an excellent job of cleaning and maintaining my pool. He does it better than anyone I've ever seen. His billing system on the other hand leaves something to be desired. He often lets 2 or 3 months go by without billing and then, instead of getting 3 small bills, you wind up getting 1 large one. That only serves to irritate the very customers he has been making happy ...

Stanley F. Bronstein
Mr. Positioning
Attorney, CPA, Author & Professional Motivational Speaker

Chris Steel
This is a pretty logical way of going about things. However I'm not so sure about point 2. "Find an expert and trust them".

I'm all for outsourcing the mundane/repetitive tasks (see 4-hour work week by Tim Ferriss). However if you are running a business and you do not know about every aspect of that business you are doomed to failure.

If you hire an expert you can easily fall into the trap of running a business through abdication (giving all tasks to expert) rather than delegation (knowing what needs to be done and then giving certain tasks to expert) for more info on this I would recommend reading E-myth Revisited by Michael Gerber .

In summary, hiring an expert is good so long as you understand what needs to be done and you communicate and delegate the tasks accordingly.

Do you agree?

Jon Blakemore

Excellent article. I'm tempted to make a wisecrack about adding blogging to your list, but that would be unnecessarily mean and false. The former I'm OK with, but the latter is beyond my limits (well, if I were to be prodded...).

But really, I absolutely need to make a list and, here's the kicker, actually apply it. One can waste a lot of time achieving very little if they don't heed your advice.

Jon Blakemore

small business seo
will echo the others in saying another great post cutting right to the core of it all again. its obviously crucial to know your strengths, but even more businesses go under through not knowing their weaknesses. we've been striving very hard lately to develop business alliances with others who excel in our weakest areas but are themselves useless in our strongest areas.

when we find them we either befriend (or ideally employ) them.

its been paying out dividends because as much work as we pass their way, they also pass back to us in their weaknesses.

strategic alliances is the way forwards,
and if anyone absolutely excels at accounts, prompt email comms and getting up early in the morning and wants a job get in touch :)

yes, we should do focus on our "niche". being the unique one service provider in saturated market.

Excellent post! This is advice many new freelancers and consultants need to pay special attention to, because it's why most fail before they really get started. Trying to be a one-man show may prove to yourself that you're superman, but it makes no difference to your clients. Focus your energies on your core business activities - your passion, the things you excel at doing, and the reason you're in business for yourself. Outsource the rest! Try using a portable employer of record - it can simplify tax management to the point that it's the same as working for an employer, yet you still have complete control over running your own business as you see fit. It's an easy and affordable way to outsource your back-office management tasks. Use the services of other freelancers and consultants to handle other tasks, such as marketing, proofreading, emails, or specialties involved in projects you've bid on that are outside your realm of expertise. You keep your sanity, your clients get the best of you, and you get more business as a result.

great article as well as great site.
it will help full for all.
actually i was looking for web designer/developer and SEO team. so i decided to put my project on elance or any other freelancers sites.
But thankfully one of mine friend advice me not do this. He told me that
“The bigger problem on Elance,is dummy projects. Some buyers post projects simply to get an idea of the cost or to try to find free work.” So, he advised me to hire employees from www.marketraise.com,and i am satisfied with there performances. So, Why not have less expensive than normal virtual employees available to cut down on the constant complaints.


Hey mate, I am using iCal on my MacBook in combination with NextAction! on my BlackBerry. Works pretty well. In case you are interested I could write a review for you on this

I’m still new to all this. My blog is a year old. I’ve watch everything on my site that I know how to watch. Tweaked, tested, changed, etc., as an experiment the first year.

I had PR2 until April 30th. It went up to PR3 and it was like somebody removed a barrier and traffic started flowing significantly.

On my blog anniversary July 15th organic traffic went dead and still is. Is it something I said? (Lol)

This happened in February this year as well. Traffic just disappeared for a few weeks.

Google is playing with fire. Users are ignoring adSense on blogs. Bloggers are ignoring AdSense seeking other sources of revenue. It is really a no win for small traffic blogs.

But no one is going to be controlled that way for long. They are really messing around with Blogger.com’s ability to keep publishers. It’s like watching the fall of Rome.

okey oyna
I personally think PR is not as important as it was. Google seems to be steering down a lexical keywords / page keyword density route (back to the old days of excite! in 96). Link text is still as important as ever, both internal and external. Whatever, Google is doing these days they seem to be purposefully leaving themselves open to increased manipulation by SEO professionals and weakening the index as a whole. I mean bulk cross-linking and lexical keywords stuffing in titles, they should have an algorithm to kick that stuff out, shouldn’t they? but I plead guilty on all counts;)

bedava okey oyunu
Thanks for very interesting article. btw. I really enjoyed reading all of your posts. It’s interesting to read ideas, and observations from someone else’s point of view… makes you think more. So please keep up the great work. Greetings

But thankfully one of mine friend advice me not do this. He told me that
“The bigger problem on Elance,is dummy projects. Some buyers post projects simply to get an idea of the cost or to try to find free work.” So, he advised me to hire employees from www.marketraise.com,and i am satisfied with there performances. So, Why not have less expensive than normal virtual employees available to cut down on the constant complaints.

I have yet to give them the "I'm No Good At" list, but for the guy who has already paid and loves my work but STILL hasn't finished his questionnaire, I already know that he sucks at email correspondence.

güzel sözler
yes, we should do focus on our "niche". being the unique one service provider in saturated market. Good bye

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What is all this?
My name is Samuel Ryan and I make websites. Sometimes, I write about it. I disappeared from this blog for a couple years, but I'm jumping back in now -- even began using my twitter account. If you care to know more, go here.