Way back in January, when Utah was basically one large ice cube, I was busy indoors trying to plan out a smooth transition between full-time employment and full-time freelancing. The plan included three steps, which went something like this:
- Step #1
Search out credible books on freelancing and use them to get an overall picture of the freelance writer’s life
- Step #2
Make a list of basic things I need to do to establish my freelance business, then transfer the items to post-it notes (easy to put up, take down, and replace if the cat eats them) and display them in a prominent place
- Step #3
Take the next 5 months to complete the items on my list
Steps 1 and 2 were a breeze—I soon had a collage of post-it notes lining the wall of my office—but Step 3 sneaked up on me. After delving into just one item, I realized how much time and planning everything was going to take, and I was petrified. I tried focusing first on the items I had experience with—namely, business branding—but the more I worked, the more I found myself going in circles.
May came, and I was now jobless and in Ohio. I wanted so badly to do well at this new freelance thing, so I threw myself into another section of my list: legal entities, business names, and business licenses. The subjects were intriguing, but I was still wasting hours running in circles and wondering what would be best for me.
After I had been at this for about a week, I was miserable. I was frustrated. I felt utterly useless. What was I doing wrong?
Then my husband came home from work and offered me a generous helping of perspective. I had dreamed about freelance writing for years, and now that I had it, I wasn’t even writing. No wonder I wasn’t happy! I sat and pondered that thought for awhile, and realized where I had gone wrong.
- First, I had convinced myself that I needed to do everything the perfect way for my business to succeed—and that I had only one shot to make it right. As a result, I clung to my list, because those were the suggestions that seasoned freelancers had offered. I saw gold in those suggestions. What I didn’t realize is that these writers had developed this advice after many years and many mistakes. I had been trying to skip steps in the learning process, and now I knew it wasn’t working.
- Second, I thought I had asked myself all the right questions, such as why I wanted to do freelancing, but I hadn’t looked deep enough yet. I still didn’t have a clear picture of where I was headed or what I hoped to gain.
- And third, I had been focusing way too much on theory, without actually applying anything I’d learned. I’d read a ton of books, made a ton of lists, talked to a lot of people, but I hadn’t actually put any of it to the test. Yes, taking action was scary, but I couldn’t move forward if I didn’t do it.
Once I realized these things, it was fairly easy for me to see my situation clearly and sort out the things that were absolutely essential right now from those that could wait awhile. Through this little lesson (and hundreds of others over the past several months) I’m finally learning to give myself time to get my bearings and just enjoy the journey. Now I understand that it’s okay to take it a step at a time, enjoy the process, laugh when I make stupid mistakes or fall short on something, and appreciate the progress I’m making.
So there’s freelance lesson #1 (or maybe #1, #2, and #3). Now it’s your turn. How have you come to know what’s important to you? How do you keep your focus and remain positive, despite setbacks?photo by Cayusa, under a creative commons license