Tom: The following is a guest post by Gina Horkey, an excellent freelance writer and past ‘student’ of mine. If you find this post inspiring (and you may well), she offers coaching services too! Enjoy 🙂
Freelancing is tough.
Like really tough. But it can also be really great. Look at Tom – he works a few hours per day doing something that he enjoys and gets to spend the rest of his time as he pleases. While he doesn’t do much freelancing these days, ask him and he’ll tell you that he owes everything to his freelancing roots.
Although I work more than a few hours a day, I recently got the opportunity to take my freelance writing business full-time. My last day of work at my day job was on December 23rd, 2014. I actually probably put in more hours now than I did last year (not including when I was working on my side hustle), but at least now I’m building my business, not someone else’s.
Although freelancing is tough, it’s not impossible. I’m proof of that. I started looking into freelance writing in April of last year and was able to build my business up enough to quit my job a mere eight months later – not too shabby. I even earned more than $5,000 in January for the first time (full disclosure: this includes some consulting with my former office).
Here are five key steps I took that can help you too.
1. Choose a Mantra
Many of my friends picked a word for 2015, rather than setting a New Year’s resolution. The goal is that they can focus on a single word throughout the year to bring about positive change in their lives. Examples include faith, trust, empathy and determination.
Instead of choosing a word of the year, I chose a mantra:
Why not me, why not now?
I try to reflect on this often when I get discouraged as I’m working hard (sometimes seemingly without result) to build my business. Discouragement and setbacks happen to all of us. But it’s not about how many times you get knocked down – it’s about how many times you get back up. (That could totally be your mantra if you want it!)
Once you find a mantra that works for you, scribble it on a Post-it note, save it as your screensaver or place it in another highly trafficked place. The intention is that by displaying it somewhere you can see it over and over, the message will eventually become subliminal – subconsciously, you’ll focus on it, believe in it and ultimately bring it to fruition.
Action step: Pick a mantra.
2. Create a Support Network
In addition to giving yourself positive affirmation, it’s helpful to surround yourself with a support network of people that can also come to your aid when you’re feeling blue. Pick a few friends, join or start a mastermind group and/or recruit your spouse or significant other to join your team.
Friends, family and mastermind peeps can do more than pick you up when you’re down. They can cheer you on, help you brainstorm through problems or new business directions and be a sounding board when you need it. They are also great for practicing on, and ideally will champion your new business.
I’ve always said that my husband’s support (or lack thereof) in my freelance business was a deal-breaker – for my business, not my marriage. Being an entrepreneur is hard; I need him on my team and to believe in what I’m trying to do. Did I mention that he’s a stay at home dad, and when I quit my job to do this, it was kind of a big deal?
In addition to Wade, I’m a part of two mastermind groups, have a supportive group of girlfriends that always cheer me on and share my work, and I also work with my mentor Carrie on a regular basis. I went big and secured all of the support that I could!
Action step: Join a mastermind group, recruit your spouse or significant other and/or a group of friends to join your team and champion your business.
3. Put Yourself Out There
It’s important to keep yourself accountable by knowing what the important tasks are to your business and tracking your progress towards them. For my business, it’s making sure I write so many pieces, pitch so many jobs and connect with so many people per week.
I have the goal of writing 10 pieces (paid, for my own blog, or guest posts), pitching five jobs and commenting on 10 blogs per week. Even though there might not be an immediate or direct pay-off with some or all of the above, every step that you take represents an incremental increase in exposure – the cumulative effect of which can be massive over time!
Action step: Define the important metrics of your business and then set goals around what you need to accomplish week in and week out.
4. Start Collecting Rejections
We’ve all heard of Stephen King, but what you may not have heard is that that when he was first trying to get published, he started the habit of collecting his rejection letters and nailing them – one on top of the other – to the wall above his desk. That’s a powerful visual, and just think where he is now because he used it as motivation to succeed, rather than an excuse to give up.
So have your main goal become “how many rejections can I rack up per month?” by putting yourself out there, pitching as many jobs as you can, asking for referrals from your satisfied clients and connecting with as many influencers as possible.
Don’t let fear get the best of you. Instead, chase rejection. See how many you can nail to your own proverbial wall.
Action step: Make it your goal to get rejected as many times as possible this next week. Consider each No a success and a step closer to a subsequent Yes.
5. Track Your Results
What’s not measured can’t be improved.
I had heard this quote before, but never knew who it was by. I guess the interwebs don’t either, as there are variations on who to attribute it to.
Regardless, it’s a great point. You won’t know if what you’re doing is working if you don’t measure your results. Going back to my earlier example in putting yourself out there, I try to measure a few things on a regular basis.
The main metrics that I try to measure are things under my control. That includes the number of articles/posts I write, the number of jobs that I pitch and the number of connections I make.
I also track things like traffic and social media metrics as well as my income (via my income reports), but those are more reactive things that aren’t in my control. I can only focus on the things that are in my control, and that includes my activities and how I’m allocating my time. I would suggest the same for you.
Action step: Consider the 2-3 metrics that are most important to your business (and in your control), then set goals around them and track your results on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.
Freelancing is hard, but not impossible. To a great extent, success comes down to adopting the right mentality. You can do this by selecting your own mantra (or focus word), securing a support network, putting yourself out there, collecting rejections and tracking your results.
Focus on what’s in your control – your own activities – and then wake up and do what needs to get done, day in and day out.
It’s not about working yourself to death, being perfect or any of those other lies. Rather, it’s about figuring out what’s important to you, the means of getting there and then taking the first step. Then the nextstep and the next. Eventually you’ll make some real progress. Maybe by next year at this time, you’ll have quit your day job or taken your freelance business to the next level.
Why not you, why not now?