My little business of one is on the come up. It’s exhilarating and sometimes terrifying! But, I *LOVE* what I do. And I’m glad I took the long way here. When people ask me how I became a writer, they expect me to say that I was an English major or profess my undying love for classic literature. But it’s way less sexy than that.
My path to self-employment began with identifying what I did not like about working for corporate America (lack of creative control FYI), and by working in areas I thought I would enjoy until I found something that might stick.
For me it also meant going back to school, doing a shit ton of low paid (or unpaid) assignments, and inserting myself into any situation where some very kind professional would take pity on me and let me tag along. Here are some of the things I learned while freelancing my way to my business:
- Never underestimate the power of your words. If you say you are going to deliver something on Tuesday, make it happen. Build yourself in a couple of days for the unexpected. A formalized onboarding process helps establish workflow and scheduling.To this day, this still remains as one of my biggest challenges with juggling multiple clients. When you are at the mercy of their schedule changes that can easily derail your whole week!
- You are only as good as your previous work. Why? Some would say that it is because your reputation will proceed you. Which is true, but I think it’s more nuanced than that… I think you carry the baggage of letting someone down to your next project, especially if you did not do everything in your power to fix it or own up to it. Baggage impacts your self-esteem and threatens to sabotage your next project. Clear it up and move along.
- Be careful with whom you associate. Bringing someone on to help you means that they are part of your reputation. If they are late, get sloshed at an event, act snarky or show up dressed inappropriately, guess what? So are you.
- Take control of your work. If you decide to release a draft to your client early be sure that it is read-only or set up to track changes! If someone starts to modify your work you lose control over the final result and lose track of which version is the newest version.
- Don’t be afraid to work “in the mailroom” or for free. If you are switching careers, volunteering or bartering provides an amazing 360-degree view of the organization, the industry and whether it is work you want to pursue. But there needs to be a cut-off point. I can’t stress this enough: If you are letting clients chop your rates when you know you provide value, you hurt the earning potential for everyone else in your industry.
- Educate yourself, relentlessly. Read books, subscribe to online content and trade journals, go to school. The beautiful thing about continuing education is that you can find so many sources FOR FREE! I like Coursera and edX.
- Find your backbone and speak your truth. Identify your core values and stand up for what you believe in <– this is your highest expression of your true self.
- Find your sense of humor and humility. If you make a mistake own it, learn from it and move along.
- DO NOT work for someone who does not respect you or your work. If they do not respect your work up front, they will not respect you during the life of the project.
- Maintain and work your network; keep up with colleagues from previous jobs. It’s always great to have people in your network that can help teach you things, or that you can refer to clients looking for a service you don’t provide.
- Know what is going on in your area by attending city council meetings. Civic engagement enriches your life simply by participating in the democratic process. The dual benefit? If you are working with a startup business, think about the benefit you provide to your client by knowing what is going on in your city.
- Learn the difference between work that you cannot do because of your current skill set and work that you can do but it scares the bejesus out of you.
*Bonus: Do the work that scares the bejesus out of you. THIS is your growth moment.
Know someone ready to make a move in their career? Please share this 🙂