Staying in business.
When you first start freelancing, you have this drive and this rush to prove yourself. Any assignment feels like a magical lick from a hamburger unicorn. (In fact, I remember almost crying in joy to receive an assignment that paid $35 an hour… which is great for a PT job, but DEATH for a freelancer!). But when you get a little into it — a little more skilled, a little more confident, a little more cynical about what’s “worth your time” you have to do something just as hard:
Run an actual business.
I just started Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid book, and the first part of the book is already forcing me to answer some hard questions.
I’ve played the field, I’ve seen what I can do and for whom. And now I have to figure out what I WANT to do and who I WANT to do it for. It’s hard to “pick something…” and in fact, it’s almost as hard (and feels as risky) as when I first started freelancing. My first impulse is to serve everyone. But the book outlines some practical, effective points about the dangers of doing that. It includes burnout (which I am totally experiencing), dissatisfaction with my business (which is dangerous, because the whole point of freelancing is to feel more free!), and straight-up not succeeding because no one understands what you can do for them (would you hire a guy who practices medicine on the side?).
But in reality, making the choice — looking at how I “feel” about my business — is really, really hard. For so long, I only had eyes on the $$. I still eye the $$. But I’d love to be excited to pick up my phone every day. I’d love to work with people where I’m mostly just thinking I get paid to do this?!? And when I’m honest with myself, I only feel that way about half my work.
Of course, as fate would have it, more of my income comes from the other half ;-).
So therein lies the risk. But you know what they say: no risk, no glory. I’d like to add to that with a few of these:
No discomfort, no change.
No change, stagnation.
The morbid part of my brain wants to remind you that we’re all going to die (sorry!). So what are we doing with our time, knowing that’s what will happen? Pursuing security (in many different forms)? Getting out of one cage and into another? Avoiding change and pain for fear of what might happen?
Let’s focus on the positives. What COULD happen if we change? What COULD happen to my business if I mostly worked with people I like? What COULD happen to my income if I feel inspired and excited most days? And how can I continue to remind myself of those possibilities when I’m tempted to think about the risk?