Should you work for someone else – or for yourself?
The eternal question for writers and other online business folk.
I get asked about this a lot. Some people have a dream of throwing something up online, working a few hours per week and watching their bank accounts grow. People want to know, how much can you really make if you run an online business? Is it as hard as working for someone else?
The truth is, everyone’s experience is different. We all have different goals, and needs, and responsibilities and whether your experience of freelancing will be a great one, or a disastrous one, rests on a combination of these and many other factors.
I am a successful freelance entrepreneur. I have many different clients, whom I do different things for. I write books and online content and I offer creative solutions to other online entrepreneurs,amongst other things. About 2.5 years ago I quit the corporate world as a well-paid content writer and flash forward I can honestly tell you that I am able to pay my bills without struggling, I often don’t have to work a full 40 hour week (but sometimes I work more than that). But even though my average work week is less than 40 hours, the hours I do work are intense and focused. It suits me. And I need it to suit me because I am also a single parent to 3 young children so I have to have scheduling flexibility.
And yes, I’ve learned a few things through my own experience and also in observing and getting to know other successful freelancers, be they writers or of another ilk. So, here are some thoughts for you, the still-trying-to-make-it freelancer.
1. If you believe you can start a website, throw a little content or a few random products up there and success will then flow your way, you are bound to be sorely disappointed.
This seems self-evident to many people but I see it so often it bears repeating. Repeatedly.
“But I’ve been doing this for 2 months now? Why am I not a success?”
If this is your expectation, I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom, but frankly you need to get over yourself and move on – or better yet, forward. And yes, of course, I know some people just take that as a challenge and good on you. Go for it. But I’ve seen so many people feel like their dreams are dashed because they didn’t strike it rich a few weeks out of the starting gate.
Reality check – entrepreneurial success does not happen in a few weeks for 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999% of the people so don’t feel bad about it.
But what I have seen that consistently brings success over and over again are these elements:
- the ability to see some of your ideas through for months on end
- the willingness to struggle for awhile
- the willingness to learn from yourself and your mistakes
2. The other false idea I’ve seen destroy many a freelancer is the concept that you’ll only have to answer to yourself.
Well, if you are going to need buyers to make money, no matter what you’re selling, you’ll still need to find a way to attract them and get them to pay money.
Which means you’re not going to be able to do things all your way.
So if that’s how you’re viewing freelancing, again, you’re liable to be disappointed.
Jonathan Morrow wrote an article “The Mad Men Guide to Changing the World with Words” some time ago which caused a stir. Though it was directed at writers, the sentiment holds true for any entrepreneur who wants to sell anything – services or products. In the post Jonathan stated that it’s better to start a blog about a topic the world is interested in and then convince yourself to write about it, rather than (like most people do), starting a blog about a topic you are interested in, and then convincing the world to listen to you. Why? He says:
They start a blog about a subject they want to write about, and then they use every psychological trick in the book to get people to read it.
And sometimes, it works. If you’re a good enough marketer, you can prop up any blog or product, no matter how bad it is.
But why go through the trouble?
People don’t buy cigarettes because of the marketing. They buy them because they’re addicted. Cigarette companies are obliged to finance millions of dollars on marketing campaigns to convince people to stop smoking, and yet they continue to make billions of dollars anyway.
On the one hand, it’s horrifying, but on the other, it’s just smart business. The best type of product is the one people can’t stop buying.
So, it seems that as a freelancer you should probably have your purpose in mind prior to ever starting your business. But, if you are already knee deep and frustrated then you either need to start over, or work your game plan from where you are.
Wanting Actual Payment for Your Services or Products
Freelancing, in the right hands, can certainly be the fulfillment of a dream. But put in the wrong hands it can be, frankly, a nightmare. If you want the complete flexibility to do exactly what you want when you want, then go into your entrepreneurial adventure just for fun and without need of the income. If you never need to get paid then you can have total creative freedom.
Don’t feel obliged to try and make money online if that’s not what suits you – or just because everyone else seems to be doing it.
If you think freelancing is a good fit for you, here are 2 habits that will improve your chances of success:
1.Be Adaptable – like a Graffiti Artist
(Yes, I’ve used this line before). One talent a graffiti artist has to have, is the ability to create their art on multiple surfaces. No two rocks or walls are the same; every crevasse would influence the end result and overall effect of the art. To be a successful freelancer you must be able to do that same thing. What you create and do will be vastly different than anyone else so you’ll have to learn what works for you. When you are as adaptable as a graffiti artist, no matter what surface you’re presented with, you can learn to guide things toward the result you desire.
2. Live like a Hummingbird Hawkmoth
Mutualism is a form of interaction where each individual derives benefit. Hummingbird Hawkmoths are a fine example of this type of relationship – drinking nectar to survive and pollinating plants along the way. When you are an Entrepreneurial Hummingbird Hawkmoth, your services and products benefit the buyer, and you gain benefit from them in the form of money, notoriety, a paycheck, etc. A mutual relationship such as this can go on forever, compared to a parasitic relationship where you do something merely to sell, without giving -mutual gives everyone long term gain.
Be adaptable and aim for mutualism – habits that will serve you well in the freelance arena.
Whether or not being an entrepreneurial freelancer is a dream, or a nightmare for you, is something only you can decide.
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grafitti photo by Tattooed JJ
photo 1 by borman818