Don’t build something new on a foundation of old assumptions, beliefs, and perspectives
You are building a freelance career, making the shift from working for someone else, to working for yourself. You are doing something completely new, and that requires a new way of looking at things!
Soccer games are not won based on the speed with which the players run the length of the field. Applying the scoring system used in swimming to soccer doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t translate.
Well, it’s no different here. Holding a position in a company and receiving a salary (or hourly wages) is a whole different playing field from being 100% dependent upon yourself to create paying opportunities and to keep them coming. The same mindsets don’t translate.
And until you recognize the need for new mindsets, you will forever be feeling about for solid ground beneath your feet only to find it isn’t there – at least, not the way you once knew it.
Building solid ground
It’s difficult – if not impossible – to be your most productive creative self when you feel insecure and unsettled about your circumstances (which is where a lot of freelancers are when they start out).
And while it’s true that we can be fired from salaried positions, and businesses can fail, (in other words, security is not guaranteed anywhere), we have a perception of safety that affects how we feel, and therefore how we perform.
As a freelancer, you have to create the solid ground beneath your feet. That means redefining security. Unless you identify what this new version of security is going to look like, and how you’re going to get there, you will forever be wading in quicksand.
I recommend starting by defining for yourself what it would take for you to feel secure in your circumstances and not just holding your breath and hoping that you won’t get a flat tire, or get sick, or your pet gets sick, or about a billion other things that could potentially go wrong. This is life! Something is always going to go wrong – so plan on it!
Now, I don’t mean define your ultimate dream for success where you have everything you have ever needed or wanted. (By all means, do that for fun.) I mean, define what it is going to take for you to feel ok, secure, to cover your needs with enough set aside in case Fluffy suddenly gets an ear infection.
This could look vastly different for different people. If you are single, without dependents, and live a pretty simple life in an affordable location, this could be as basic as the equivalent of six months of salary.
On the other hand, if you are like me with a partner, children, 3 large dogs, and about a billion unexpected expenses, it’s going to be a lot more than that.
You might be feeling that you are a REALLY long way from achieving that goal. Rather than being daunted and overwhelmed by that feeling, start taking steps to get there. And the only way to get there is in increments.
Create a series of targets – reachable targets, because we are motivated by successes and the feeling that we are making progress.
And clear goals give us direction and motivation.
A common obstacle
I’m not going to say that it’s not scary to translate your dreams into bullet points and action items. It certainly can be. The dream career you are building has to shift out of that amorphous, comfortable, gray cloud of hope and move into solid, transparent, definable reality. And truthfully, sometimes we avoid this exercise, because we suspect that our dreams won’t hold up under closer scrutiny.
But consider… the surest way to fail at this dream is to stay in the comfortable gray cloud of hope.
If you don’t identify markers, you won’t know where you’ve been. You won’t know where you’re going, and you won’t know if you get there.
The more specific your goals become, the more directed your actions become. And therefore, the more likely you are to make tangible progress.
A new perspective on time
Your time might belong to you now (which is mighty nice), but that also means that now, you ONLY get paid for the work that happens. And if you are new to freelancing, then likely you are also doing quite a lot of work that you don’t get paid for at all.
You don’t get sick days, or paid vacations. You aren’t “making money” while you sit and chat with co-workers.
Those errands you sometimes used to run during your work day? Sure you’ve got even more freedom to do that now – you just won’t get paid for it.
One of the most surprising realizations for me when I made this transition was how much time I previously got paid for (and paid well) when I was doing nothing – chatting, socializing, eating lunch…
Know how you use time
Especially if you are transitioning from a salaried position, where it’s likely you didn’t think a whole lot about the hours and minutes of your day, you need to begin placing a new emphasis on time.
You need to be aware of how you use it, and how you squander it.
You need to start to be aware of how long it takes to do tasks. If you haven’t had to calculate the time it takes to do things in the past, it will take a little while to get used to this.
I recommend starting by estimating the time you THINK it will take to do tasks and recording the time it actually DOES take. You may find that there is quite a discrepancy between these two numbers.
If you are creating a time management schedule for yourself, remember to build in transition time between activities and tasks, allowing for human needs breaks like bathroom, eating, stretching, etc, as well as the time it takes to mentally transition from one project to another.
You are building something new, which is AWESOME! Give yourself the best possible chance of success for getting where it is you want to go by adjusting your mindsets to align with your new goals.
Your new dreams deserve a new foundation.