Freelancers: Even Batman Had The Justice League
Addison is a freelance writer and marketing strategist who believes that even creativity can be mastered as a craft. He and his family live and play in Atlanta, Georgia. When he’s not delivering amazing content marketing, Addison likes to go trail running and lift at the gym. Check out his Facebook page and website for more information.
I Freelanced In A Vacuum
The week after I got my undergraduate degree in writing, I started working in an office as a copywriter.
After realizing that I needed to be more specific about what I wanted from a job, I switched to freelance copywriting. Although I was learning, I failed within two years. I had a few clients, I took in some revenue, but I couldn’t sustain business. I injected my work with even more of my skill, time, and professionalism, but I still ended up back at square one.
I joined the Army. I learned more about marketing, writing, and public relations in my job there, and then became a civilian again.
I started freelancing a second time, five years after the first round, and I’ve been much more successful now. Regardless of where I end up in the future, the last two years of freelancing have been fun and fruitful in a way that my last attempt was not.
Yes, the market was different and my skills have vastly improved. However, now that I’m married with children, the stakes are higher, which psychologically offsets the benefits of personal growth.
So what changed that made up the difference and turned my freelance business into something better than any other job I’ve ever had?
I burst my own bubble and stopped freelancing alone.
Freelancers Aren’t Really Alone
One of the most harmful perceptions about freelancing is that a freelancer is like some rogue vigilante who kicks butt at writing or photography or something but doesn’t work well with others. In fact, I think outsiders might even see our choice to freelance as a direct result of difficulty working in a social setting.
Of course, like most myths, the anti-social freelancer concept is based partially in fact. I do sit alone at my desk most days, chipping away at client projects. That individual time is still a part of my freelancing, and it’s an independence that I actually enjoy. Even when I’ve worked in an office, I’ve found ways to spend a certain amount of time doing things by myself. Freelancing lets me do that a little more often, and it’s great.
But I also reach out to other people daily.
I contact clients and leads regularly and aggressively.
I touch base with other contractors and freelancers every chance I get.
I have a personal support network that I update and listen to routinely.
Be Someone People Want To Work With
I also let these people know that I appreciate them and like them on a personal level. Even if I’m parting ways with a client after a job is finished, I’ll let them know the things I enjoyed about working with them, for example.
When another contractor does an exceptional job on a project, I will specifically let him or her know that they were a pleasure to work with.
I thank my mentors and those who give me advice.
And because these people know that they are liked, they often stay in my life longer. Clients know that I will answer when they call. Other contractors know that I will assist their work when a project is on a tight deadline. My friends and family know that I will be honest about how I’m performing and open with the benefits of my work.
Your Personal Life Is A Part Of Your Business
A freelancer is just as dependent on other people as a member of a corporation. The only difference is that the freelancer has to establish a unique personal network, but every employee in a company shares most of the exact same network.
For example, I need accountability on the growth, stability, and returns on my work. My clients only care about what I deliver to each of them, but none of them will check in to make sure that I am making enough money and reinvesting in my business.
My wife mostly does that for me, but I also have relationships with friends, family, and freelancers who would call attention to a shortcoming. I not only elevate these people in my life, but I rely on them, which takes a little humility and a lot of faith in others.
Be Courageous Enough To Depend On Others
The second time I started freelancing, I almost made the same mistake as the first time.
While selling insurance to make ends meet, I tried collecting clients on the side until the work was enough to break away. Progress was slow.
Because I was embarrassed about my inability to grow a business, I kept family and friends out of the loop. I was scared of seeming lazy or dumb if I didn’t make a lot of money with freelancing. I thought people would judge me as weak or selfish if I failed because I have a family to support.
But because I was holding back, I couldn’t get enough clients paying enough money to make the leap to freelancing, and certainly not without the promise of working myself to death first.
So I made a decision to let go of the barrier between my work life and personal life.
I had to admit to my friends and family that I wanted to freelance. I had to ask that, in a worst case scenario where I messed everything up financially, they could help me until I was in better shape. I had to openly, verbally acknowledge that potential failure would not make me less of a father, husband, or person.
I asked everyone I knew to put the word out that I was looking for business. I asked my friends and family whether I was making the right decisions, and how I could do a better job. I let everyone know that I appreciated them, and I started setting aside time, kind words, and small tokens of gratitude for the people who were willing to invest in me. I stopped worrying about whether I had tons of free time and started working as hard as I could with people I liked and without fear of failing.
I’m lucky to have these people in my life because not everyone has support like this, and I certainly didn’t earn them.
Granted, things might change down the road. I might be drawn into different work, the economy could tank, or I could lose every client I have. But I’m not judging my current success and happiness by any end state. I’m happy and successful now, and that’s what matters. I have enough faith in my personal relationships to feel confident, safe, and hopeful about what prospects lie ahead for me in freelancing and beyond.
And I’m becoming part of that support for other people who want to make changes in their lives like I did.