Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.
One of the scariest things for a new freelancer is the terror of no work.
You will start off by taking on anything that you can find, writing for anyone who is willing to let you. That is how you start and that’s fine.
You need those first projects to get a feel for who you as a writer. You want to find out where your strengths are, what you love and what you don’t. It is, in a word: Experience.
The tricky thing is not starting out. The tricky thing is moving to the next stage. You will eventually find yourself in a place where you have to choose between clients, and maybe even let some of them go. “Firing” a client is a strange kind of terrifying. You know, logically, that you have to let them go to free your time up for the more satisfying, better paid work. But you can’t help worrying that you are making a mistake.
The truth is – you might be. You have to take risks sometimes to get ahead. You have to let things go to make space for new things. Yes, it’s scary. No, there are no guarantees.
Living to live, not to survive
One thing I have observed repeatedly is that the people with the biggest success stories are the people who live their passion. There work is meaningful to them. Your work should be meaningful to you.
Regardless of what it is you do – you should be doing something that gives you a sense of satisfaction. As long you keep moving towards the work that leaves you satisfied you are moving in the right direction.
You don’t have to be film star, a famous author or famous artist for your work to be meaningful. If we all derived joy and meaning from the same work we would be pretty screwed. You can be an accountant, a nurse, a domestic worker cleaning and caring for people, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you do you can be happy – as long as your work leaves you feeling satisfied.
Choosing your day (or night) job
– and being happy doing it.
There are some basic guidelines to being happy in your job. They are not my original ideas, they all come from different places. I have spent a lifetime reading up on how to be happy and these are some of recurring themes that I have noticed:
wherever you are, even if it’s not where you want to be, be there, 100% ,in the moment. Give your full attention to what’s going on around you. You are there now so may as well make the most of it. Another way of saying it is “start where you are”.
Have a Back Up Plan
I would never quit a job or fire a client without a working back up. It’s not a romantic notion, but it is common sense. Don’t get too bold and proud and quit your day job just because you don’t like it. That’s just stupid. Make sure you have something else working in the background to keep you afloat.
Make Someone’s Day
Maya Angelou said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
To do something kind for someone else is so satisfying. It’s good for you. It’s good for them too. Sometimes the kind thing can be as simple as listening to them with your full attention for a few minutes. So few people actually try to understand each other.
Choose the clients who’s work you love to do
You deserve to be happy. I don’t know you but I do know this. You should be happy. So as soon as you are able, choose work that makes you feel good. This is your inner voice’s way of saying that you are heading towards the life you envisaged for yourself.Contrary to popular belief – you are allowed to love your job and be happy.
Choose Your attitude
Shit is always going to happen. You have to choose to be happy anyway. This is probably the single hardest thing that anyone ever has to learn to do. And you will have to relearn it every single day of your life. Choosing to be happy. Choosing to find a positive spin on things, and realizing that you HAVE A CHOICE! Many people don’t want the responsibility of their own happiness. It’s a scary thing, having to be responsible for your own inner state. I try and fail often. But then I try again.
Choose to work for people who value your work
Yes that means the people who pay you well. If someone values your work they are willing to pay for it. A client who values you (or a boss) is going to make a commitment to you financially. He doesn’t want to loose you. If they don’t pay well you can be guaranteed that you are disposable to them. Needless to say this does not go for Non-Profits and works of charity and love.
Work for Free
You don’t have to go out looking for a cause. Usually the things that are meaningful to you will present themselves in your life. When you see the chance to take on something that is within your abilities and will make a difference to someone or something that you care about – do it. The inkling will be that you actually want to do it. It’s called “Paying it Forward” and it is a huge privilege to be able to do it. Do it!
One word of caution though – set up boundaries. If you can commit to an hour a week then that is it. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of either. You should be able to see quite clearly where the boundaries should be.
The worst that can happen is that you stuff up. As long as you have your back ups you should be okay. When you come to the point that you are compromising good clients because you are too scared to let go of your old clients “just in case” then it’s time to let them go. choose the good client. But…
Honor your Contracts
No body likes an arrogant know-it-all. You never know when you will need a reference. Also just don’t be an A-hole. Being an A-hole will not make you happy, and no-one will think you are clever. So make sure you give ample notice, help get projects finished off properly before you leave, and behave as you would like to be treated.
So get out there and love the crap out of your life. It already is beautiful.