Yesterday I was telling someone that, when I was a young adult, I often wished that life would just let me coast once in a while. I wanted a short period of time with no uphill climbs, no downhill plummets...just a little time to sail along without any stress or excitement. Naturally, the times in which I wanted to "coast" followed difficulties and the feeling that life was one big uphill climb.
Fast forward a few years and wisdom and experience have helped me see things more clearly, realistically and in a way that is better for making progress in life. I no longer wish
to coast because I realize now that it's an unrealistic wish. I have, however, come to the conclusion that life tends to balance things out. I believe, if we look around us, life is always trying to achieve balance.
When life, work or family issues become stressful and difficult, it's hard to see the potential for things to turn around. But they can and they will, IF you work through the difficulties with the belief that solutions exist, that you can find them and that, along the way, you'll learn something beneficial to prepare you for the next leg of your journey. Although it's normal to focus on a problem when it first manifests, eventually the focus must shift to dealing with it, learning from it and moving beyond it. If this shift never occurs, the problem can linger in your life much longer than necessary.
A diamond isn't found in the earth all shiny, sparkly and ready to go on display. It requires a lot of polishing to get to that point. A beautiful piece of metal work doesn't just morph into shape. It's heated in the fire and pounded into shape. A rose bush doesn't just miraculously sprout, grow and produce beautiful flowers. It starts off in the soil and must fight its way toward growth and survival. In the same way, we are continually going through the process of being refined. Each challenge or trial, as unpleasant as they are, serves to help us become a better version of ourselves. At least it can, if you allow it.
Some people choose to stay focused on the problem and remain there for their entire life. Focus on the solution, instead. You will come out on the other side.
A career in freelancing seems to comes with a lot responsibility in the decision-making department. As the boss, worker and everything else in between in your freelancing business, you're faced with all of the decisions. Sometimes they're simple; other times you know the decision you make will ultimately change your business and your life.
It's common to feel insecure, scared and apprehensive when faced with business decisions. But don't let these or other emotions prevent you from making the best, level-headed decision you can for yourself and your business. (Notice I put "yourself" first.) Sometimes big decisions have to be made quickly, but if you've got time to ponder, then ponder and incorporate these tips into your decision-making process:
1. Look at the situation from all angles and the point of view of anyone involved in or affected by it.
2. Weigh all possible options, thinking about the short-term and long-term effects of each.
3. Talk to trusted mentors, advisors, family members or friends to get objective opinions and gain insight from other's points-of-view.
4. Sit in a quiet place and think about which possible solution gives you the greatest amount of inner peace. Sometimes, when all other steps fail, this one will tell you which choice is the best one for you.
Tough business decisions often leave us feeling alone with the weight of the world on our shoulders. The last thing you should do when facing a difficult decision is isolate yourself throughout the entire decision-making process. Balance quiet pondering with honest, solution-minded discussion and, when it's time to make your final decision, be 100% sure. And remember, throughout the entire process, always consider what's best for you.
A growth-minded business person is continually expanding their goals. As he or she reaches them, the next goals command him or her to stretch a little bit further. This process of stretching also expands the comfort zone, which makes it possible to create and work toward goals that become increasingly larger. When this entire process is put together, business growth naturally follows.
As you look back on your business over the past six months, where do you see the most growth? Has your income increased? If so, is it because you have more clients or because you have better-paying clients? Do you enjoy what you do more? Why is that? Do you work less hours, or are you just doing more of what you love? It's important to know where you're experiencing the most growth and success because this is a sure indicator of your strengths as related to your business. Identify where you've had the most growth, and then ask yourself what you did that helped you get there. This will help you as you endeavor to grow during the remainder of the calendar year.
Conversely, it's important to analyze the areas of your business that have not grown as much as you would have liked. What are these areas? Are you still working for less money per article/hour/client than you would like? Why is that? Are you afraid to ask for more, or do you lack confidence about the value of your service? Did you start a work project you were passionate about, only to leave it unfinished? Is this something you do habitually? If it's preventing you from building your brand, gaining exposure and bringing in more work/income, then it's worth exploring the underlying reasons.
As a teacher, I always encouraged my students to ask "why". As a motivational coach, I will encourage you to do the same. Rather than taking everything at face value, explore the "why's" of your successes and lack thereof. Dig down to the roots of achievement and find out what you did to make them blossom. Clean out the dredges that surround areas of stagnancy and find out what's stifling your growth. When you're honest enough to do these things with and for yourself, and follow up with course-correction, you will experience tremendous growth in your business.
Successful computer interface programs have front-end operations and back-end operations. The front end gets everything started and the back end supports the front end's part to ensure successful completion. As freelancers, we tend to be good at front-end operations. We have to, or we won't have any work to do or a
business to run. But we often fall short on the back end of things, and this can cause us to miss out on income, clients and success, without even knowing why.
The little things you do to follow up afterward your main work is finished can make the difference between additional work, clients and income or putting yourself back into "looking for work" mode. Help yourself meet initial goals with greater success by including these tactics in your back-end process.
1. Include Final Communication. When you work primarily online, communication is greatly reduced and often inhibited. The small, extra efforts you make to communicate with your client can help you become the preferred freelancer to work with because your extra efforts show you're invested in the client's success. When submitting a piece of work, or finishing up a job in-person, take the time to say or write a brief "thank you".
Let the client know you enjoy working with him/her and look forward to doing so again soon. If you have expertise the client might not know about but would benefit from, let them know. "I've enjoyed helping you with your website about XYZ tree. I also have a great deal of knowledge about ABC tree; if you're ever in need of any work on this topic, I'd enjoy working with you on that."
2. Touch Base. Just because you haven't heard from a specific client in a while, doesn't mean she has no work for you or no longer wishes to work with you. I've been surprised by a few clients who have responded from my emails with comments such as "Oh, I didn't want to bother you" or "I thought you might be getting tired of writing about XYZ." If you haven't heard from a certain client in a while, send him or her an email. For example you might say something like, "Hi So-and-So, I just wanted to touch base with you to let you know how much I've enjoyed working with you in the past on ABC project. If you need assistance with any other projects now or in the future, I hope you'll contact me to see how I might be able to help you build your business."
3. Run a "System Check". Diagnostics tests tell computer and machine operators if the program is working correctly and producing the desired results. How can you be sure you're on-track toward your goals if you don't run your own diagnostics from time to time? Each month, look back over your goals to see which ones you've met, exceeded or fallen short on. Adjust your business practices accordingly for better success in the next month. The key here is in having goals to look back on. If you're not setting and recording business goals, large and small, it's impossible to measure your progress or course-correct.
Every aspect of a business is important. When one is neglected, the other's suffer. The initial processes provide you direction and goals. The middle phase is used to produce the work, and the back-end helps you determine if you're on the right track. Include all three consistently and watch your business, client base, income and success-rate increase.
Knowing when to cut your losses and move on following a ridiculous or difficult situation with a client is important in business. Sometimes saying "this is not for me" is the best and most healthy response possible. But there are also times when it's worth your while to push your sleeves up, put your team player face on and head back into the situation to make it work.
Whether a mistake has been made (on either end of the working relationship), personalities clash or the two of you have just gotten off on the wrong foot, the smartest move might be to become service-minded instead of allowing irritation, defensiveness or discouragement to cloud your judgment. Politely ask for clarification in the situation, apologize if you've made a mistake, go out of your way to let them know an error on their part is no problem (an embarrassed client might take work elsewhere just to save face) or simply ask for a do-over.
These tactics might be no-brainers to some, but they're easy to forget about in faceless internet communication.
Clients are human, too. One who's cranky, abrupt or slightly unfair might actually be overwhelmed with work or experiencing issues in his or her personal life. Is it fair that you're having to deal with some of that? No, but that's not the point. By taking the iniative to let them know you're on their side and are willing to do what it takes to help them, you can convert a grumpy, disgruntled client into one of your best, most loyal clients ever. Next time you're in an unpleasant situation with a client, give it a try.
Most goals come with timelines. Even goals that are open-ended, with no definite timeline, have benchmarks that we use to measure our progress.
Whether the goals you set are time-sensitive or not, it’s important to allow
yourself a little leeway and flexibility when possible if it becomes clear you’re not going to make them in time.
It’s natural to reflect on goals and think about your achievements and shortcomings. Be sure to balance your focus with both sides of the coin, rather than ruminating only on the shortcomings. If you had month-long
goals and find yourself a bit short of reaching them, don’t allow that to jade
your view of the month overall.
Think about the achievements you’ve made over the course of the month. Consider what you had to do to accomplish them and make note of the times you stepped outside your comfort zone. Acknowledge these extra efforts and intend to put them in place again in the coming month. Then, take that goal you fell short on and rework it for the new month. Figure out where and why you fell short so you can adjust, as needed, for greater
Sometimes we fall short of a goal so we can go back to the drawing board, figure things out and do it again. It’s all a part of the learning process. Capitalize on it, instead of being discouraged by it.
Being a freelancer and maintaining your own small business isn't without it's challenges. But, amidst the challenges, there are likely to be accomplishments, or you wouldn't still be doing what you do. As you experience challenges and accomplishments in your business, it's vital that you spend time reflecting on your methods and mistakes to make important realizations along the way.
All is not lost when a particularly difficult business situation makes you realize that you need or want to change something. Consider your realization to be part of the "moving forward" or a part of the business-building process. Some of the greatest failures have also led to some of the greatest achievements. But to get from failure to success, you must take time to reflect and, by doing so, you can discover you're making progress after all.
As you go into a new work day, week or month, look back and reflect on what worked and didn't work. You have a golden opportunity to refine your practices and habits to make them even more successful. Each new week or month of the year is a building block. Take what you learned previously and use it as a
foundation for this work period's successes. Continue in that pattern and the year will be a tremendous series of successess and learning opportunities. And, by the way, those mistakes and lapses in progress you make along the way....they're learning opportunities, too, and a valuable part of your success.
On occasion, it seems like the freelancing wheels grind to a halt...regular
clients disappear, work flow slows to a trickle or stops altogether, and it
feels as if the business world has gone to sleep. You might call this a dry spell, a lull or a slow period. But, whatever it is, there's no need for it to become unproductive, too.
Although the bulk of our work is in dealing with clients, that's not the only work that builds our businesses. When you go through a lull in business, the natural inclination might be to say "Oh, there's nothing to do. I guess I'll just play hookie today."
If it's a normal workday, there's probably actually plenty of work to do. Spend the day contacting potential clients. Put out flyers, send out emails and resume packets. Work on your website, catch up on your blog posts, do some marketing for your business. If you're a writer, writing is not the only aspect of your business. If you're a teacher, working directly with students is not the only aspect of your business. If you're a web designer, that's not the only aspect of your business. These are the main parts, but to keep the main parts functioning you have to take care of the little parts, too.
Next time you experience a slow period in your business, whether for a full day or partial day, hop right into gear and work on the other parts of your business that keep it running smoothly and help it flourish. Clients will disappear once in a while and there are natural slow periods in business. But your own neglect of the supporting aspects of business also contributes toward these lulls. Do the work necessary to avoid lulls that occur because of laziness or oversight.
Whether we're writers, translators, teachers or web designers, we all want to build and grow our small businesses to a point of success. Success is different for each person, but the paths we take to get there overlap, regardless of what kind of business we have.
Starting out, we often have to take whatever work we can get, even when it means working for peanuts while dreaming of the day when we can command more. Progress is key and one of the ways to measure our progress is finding we've reached a place where we can start choosing work/clients, rather than taking whatever we can get from the available pool. At first, we might get to choose one nice gig/client. Eventually, the percentage becoomes larger. Ultimately, we want to put ourselves in the position of choosing most or all of the work we do so we can create the type of business, income and life we've envisioned all along.
The subject of price and fees comes up often as we work our way into the position of picking and choosing. Many freelancers are afraid to price too high for fear they'll lose the opportunity. So, they low-ball themselves, continue working harder (instead of smarter) and send the message to their clients that they're not worth valuing.
Overcoming the fear of losing good work because we're valuing ourselves properly is a tough one for most freelancers. But it's worth it to continue working on overcoming this fear. You'll know you're getting there when, one day, a client says to you "How much would you charge for this project?" and readily accepts your answer. Ideally, this is what you want to work toward. Don't doubt for a minute that you can do it.
In today's Jumpstart Your Day University post, I went into detail about some of the behind-the-scenes things you can do to help create greater success in your business. Here's a peak at that post:
As a freelancer or small-business person your business is comprised of one main focus and many supporting aspects. Although most of the supporting components of your business fade into the background, their individual and cumulative strengths are what make the focal point of your business successful and strong. If you’re experiencing a lull in business, or would like to move it to the next level, you must pay attention to the behind-the-scenes aspects, too. Regardless of whether you’re writer, a freelance web designer, salesperson or widget inventor, the following business-building tips will help you create a foundation that promotes business strength for consistent, long-term success:
*Reach Out to Potential Clients.
*Keep Yourself in the Public Eye.
*Think & Step Outside the Box.
*Try New Things.
A successful theater production could never happen without all the behind-the-scenes efforts that occur beforehand. Before the lights dim and the curtain opens for the first time, someone wrote the script, composed the music and auditioned the cast. People work to create the set, the backdrops and props, and artists created the perfect stage makeup and costumes. Only after these aspects are taken care of can the actual stage production take place and, if any of these components are lacking, it directly affects the show.
If you want your business to take center stage and receive rave reviews, you can’t neglect the behind-the-scenes aspects. Consistent efforts must go into these areas each day or week to keep your business strong. Sporadic, inconsistent work in these areas will produce sporadic, inconsistent results. Assess the current state of your business to help you determine if your behind-the-scenes efforts are providing you the results you desire. If not, it’s time to increase the time and effort you spend on these parts of your business to gain the results you desire in the areas of business-building and income-gaining success.