In a recent interview with Chris Lema, we asked what freelancers need to be doing differently today, and Chris brought up this idea of marinating in the problem space.

problem space

“Most WordPress freelancers jump into the solution space too quickly.” -Chris Lema

Chris says freelancers need to focus on the problem and listen to their clients, not immediately start thinking of potential solutions.

“I call it marinating in the problem space,” Chris says.

He goes into more depth on this concept in a couple of podcasts, but let’s give a quick overview.

“Most of us spend a very tiny amount of time in the problem space and an enlarged amount of time in the solution space,” says Chris Lema in the Hack the Entrepreneur podcast. “The reality is when you connect to the right people and pull the right narrative out, you don’t just get the problem, you get the seeds—or often more than the seeds, the solution—by listening to people.”

How It Works

So how do you marinate in the problem space?

1. Listen

You need to listen to your clients. Your clients have been working with the problem every day. They understand it so much deeper than you ever will. You need to tap into that expertise, and you do it by listening.

2. Don’t Jump to Solutions

Too often we’re tempted to jump to solutions. A client mentions a problem, and gears start turning about how we can solve it. We stop listening. We start focusing on solutions. But we don’t truly understand the problem and our solutions aren’t going to cut it.

3. Ask Questions

As you’ll listen, you’ll be able to ask better and more probing questions. That’s when you know you’re getting deeper. Sometimes clients will mention a problem, but that’s not the real issue.

Maybe they say the interface is too complicated so they never update their site, but the reality is they don’t have a strategy so they get frustrated and it gets blamed on the interface. Fixing the interface will likely help some, but they’ll still be struggling with no strategy.

If you marinate in the problem space, you’ll start to see what’s really happening and your solution will change dramatically from a programming solution to a marketing solution.

“You just don’t get the depth of the problem if you’re sitting outside of it coming up with this new cool idea.” -Chris Lema

Marinate With the Problem

So let clients talk while you truly listen. Don’t jump to solutions. And ask questions to better understand the problem.

The more you can soak up the problem and get your head around it, the more likely your solution will actually address the entirety of the problem and not just one small aspect.

Check out the Improving Freelance Process interview with Chris Lema.

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