Whether we’re talking about successful self-employment or wage labor, the difference between healthy work and unhealthy work, is often whether you are undersold, sold-out, or oversold.


Being undersold is stressful. As an employee, you feel underutilized, you fear being seen as dispensable. If you’re self employed, you’re worried about covering your bills, or paying your team. The good news is, you just need to find productive ways to fill that time and use that expertise. While it is stressful, you do have the benefit of extra time to think creativity about how to solve that problem.

Being undersold is stressful, but it’s a temporary state that everyone goes through. Don’t sweat it. Fix it.

Sold out

Being sold out means that you made a certain amount of time and expertise available, and when it’s all been purchased, you stop selling and start filling orders. This includes being paid a salary and working the agreed upon 40 hours with breaks, and it includes setting your own schedule and then sticking to it.

Being sold out is great. It should be the ultimate goal.


Being oversold, means that you sold more time and expertise to your clients or employer than you have available. Now you need to catch up, so what do you do?

  • You work past the end of day.
  • You do more in less time.
  • You need to deliver the work faster than the original estimate.

Being over sold is stressful and exhausting. It should be avoided at all costs.

If we want to do great work

Great work requires that you factor in the creative costs of goods sold. The cost is having the time to do the work properly. Creativity is not a switch you can flick whenever you need it. Like any muscle, you need a rest period for optimal performance.

Therefore, great work requires that you don’t oversell.

The quality of your work will suffer as the quantity of the work exceeds your availability. Beyond the work, your stress increases and your mental health suffers.

  • Sold out is final and has clear boundaries.
  • Oversold is outstanding debt from pushing too far.

Seek to be sold out by avoiding the trap of overselling. Set clear boundaries and stick to them. Say no to projects that don’t serve your goals. When there’s more to do than there is time to do it, that’s a sign that you’ve oversold, not that you need to work harder.

We can fix this, together. It starts by knowing when we’ve got enough, when it’s time to start filling orders, and when it’s time to close up shop for the day.

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