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10 Lessons I’ve Learned From 10 Years of Freelancing

Last week I posted an announcement about the celebration of paNASH’s 10-year anniversary. In it I told how I started my freelance business, the fears I faced in leaving a secure job to go out on my own, and how my business’s mission has evolved.

Today, I want to share some of the freelance lessons I’ve learned over those ten years in working for myself. I hope they will serve as an encouragement to those who are thinking about starting their own thing, are new to the freelancing world, or have been in it long enough to have faced some common struggles.

Freelance Lesson #1

I had to be disciplined. Being your own boss requires A LOT of discipline. Why? Because there’s no one looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re showing up on time or getting your work done. Discipline has always come naturally to me, and I was raised by a former Marine Corps officer who further instilled this trait in me. This is not to say that discipline can’t be learned later in life. But the discipline required to work for yourself will make things easier if you’ve already mastered it through other methods such as playing a sport, sticking with a commitment, etc.

Freelance Lesson #2

I had to use my love for life-long learning. I’ve always loved learning new things. And I realized the need for constant learning when starting a business because “a skill does not a business make” according to my friend and colleague Melody Bowers, co-owner of VirtualCollective.

You need to either already have some business sense, or be disciplined enough (see lesson #1) and have the ability to learn it as you go while managing your other responsibilities. If there’s something you can’t learn, there’s always someone else who has the knowledge you can pay to either teach you or to do it for you.

Freelance Lesson #3

I learned it was normal to question my decision almost every single day. I also realized it was normal to feel like giving up on a regular basis when things got hard. But, once I began working in a way that was true and authentic to my own personal mission in life, those doubts and insecurities started to diminish. I became okay with the discomfort of a process that isn’t linear. Instead, it looks more like this:

freelance lessons

Entrepreneur Darius Foroux further explains the figure above in his encouraging article Don’t Quit When It Gets Hard. I love it when he says, “If you never feel like quitting, that means life is too easy and you need to take action in your life.”

Freelance Lesson #4

I learned I had the ability to figure out the logistics. It turns out the things that seem intimidating at first (i.e. getting a business license, paying for your own health insurance, tracking your income & expenses/P&L, etc.) aren’t really all that scary. In fact, a lot of this not-so-fun part of having your own business is easier than you think.

And Freelancers Union has made a lot of it very simple. They provide tips and resources on the logistics of running your own freelance operation and even provide access to affordable insurance.

Freelance Lesson #5

I learned what I’m worth. The toughest thing for me was figuring out my pricing. At first it was hard to know how much to charge. And even when I thought I knew, I then had to figure out which pricing model worked best. An hourly rate? A day rate? A package or retainer rate?

Like most people first starting out, in the beginning I was devaluing my skills and expertise. But, after I started getting clients and began listening to their feedback on the services they received, I started to better understand my worth.

Yes, it helps to look at your competition and the average rate others charge for the same service or product to get an idea of what you should charge. But, what helped me most was asking current and past clients if they would’ve paid more based on the value they’d already received. To my surprise, most of them said yes, and even some told me flat out I was undercharging.

Now, most people (both potential and current clients) say my pricing is reasonable and fair. It took some tweaking and trial and error, but now my pricing structure is in harmony with the service I’m providing.

Freelance Lesson #6

I learned when to say no. This included being selective of potential clients, turning down certain speaking gigs/presentation requests, not wasting my time with potential contacts who only wanted to talk about themselves but never wanted to listen or make the relationship mutually beneficial, discontinuing professional relationships when trust had been broken, etc.

This is difficult to do when first starting out. Especially when it comes to turning away money. But, I can tell you the times I listened to my gut and turned away the opportunities that weren’t the right fit for my business, I was always glad I did. And the times I didn’t listen to my gut, I always regretted it.

Freelance Lesson #7

I learned not to compare myself with others. My pastor’s wife always says, “Comparing yourself to others makes you either small or smug, and neither of those are good.” I realized because I do what I do in my own unique way, comparing myself to my competition is a waste of time because it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

The same is true for you because you also have your own unique way of delivering your service or product that no one else can duplicate. Instead of comparing, focus on what makes you and your brand solely yours. This is what becomes your selling point!

Freelance Lesson #8

I learned (and am still learning) when it’s time to shift gears. When learning to drive a stick, you start to develop a feel for when it’s time to shift gears. This doesn’t mean you won’t grind your gears on occasion.

The same is true in running a business or working as a freelancer. You’ll start to learn when to give something a little more time to grow before uprooting it. When to pull the plug on what’s not working. And when to simplify if you’re trying to do too much or be too many things.

This type of self-awareness can mean the difference between success and failure.

Freelance Lesson #9

I realized the real risk. At first I thought the obvious risk of starting my own thing was leaving the security of a full-time job with benefits. I was wrong! Since leaving my job at a prestigious university where there were constant hiring freezes and multiple firings, I’ve had more job security than ever before.

I’ve been able to develop the grit and skills required to work for myself and bring in a steady stream of clients, to supplement my income at times when the stream was unsteady, and to eliminate the salary cap I had at my previous job.

The only real risk I faced was potentially losing any or all desire to work for someone else again. Let’s face it. It’s pretty hard to go back to working for someone else after having worked for yourself. But if I ever had to again, I’d be very selective in who I worked for (see Lesson #6).

Freelance Lesson #10

I learned fear is inevitable. Fear is not a reason to not venture out on your own if it’s what you truly desire. Instead, it’s often an excuse. Everyone who’s ever done this has had some level of fear.

Do your research. Prepare (but don’t wait until you feel fully prepared because that will never happen!). Then push through the fear.

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Sunday Inspiration: 7 Steps to Success

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a bi-weekly devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. Each post comes from an outside resource (as referenced). I hope these posts will inspire and motivate you in your life and career in addition to our weekly original blog posts. Enjoy!

“He was…successful…because he obeyed the Lord.” 2Ch 31:21 CEV

Here are seven scriptural steps to success in life:

1. Put God first. He wants you to succeed; what good parent wouldn’t? So work on your relationship with Him. “Acquaint now thyself with him…thereby good shall come unto thee” (Job 22:21).

2. Help others to become successful. “Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord” (Eph 6:8). Don’t just be interested in yourself, become interested in others too.

3. Create a climate of confidence around you. As long as you keep speaking words of doubt, you’ll never experience victory. Remind yourself that your “sufficiency is of God” (2Co 3:5).

4. Stay informed. “A wise man will hear and increase in learning” (Pr 1:5 NAS). Observe, read, and grow. If you’re willing to pay money for a good meal but not for a good book, perhaps you value your appetite more than your intellect.

5. Visualize yourself attaining your goal. Think and talk in success pictures. Moses did that: “He had his eye on the One no eye can see, and kept right on going” (Heb 11:27 TM).

6. Write down your plan and establish deadlines. Make a detailed list of required activities, and set checkpoints. Guard your mind and prioritize your time. “Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get” (Eph 5:16 TM).

7. Set a realistic goal. And work toward it one priority at a time. Many things in life fail for one reason—broken focus. So avoid distractions: “A double minded man is unstable” (Jas 1:8). If you do these seven things, you’ll succeed in life.

Source:  https://www.jentezenfranklin.org/daily-devotions/seven-scriptural-steps-to-success

paNASH is Celebrating Its 10-Year Anniversary!

Ten years ago today, I walked into the Davidson County Clerk’s office to get a business license for paNASH. I had no idea what I was doing since I’d never started a business before.

It was scary to say the least. But, I put one foot in front of the other, filled out the form, and paid my fee.

When I walked out I thought to myself, “Okay, this is real now. I have to do it.” My business license was more than just a little piece of paper. It was something tangible that was holding me accountable.

I started working hard on my business part-time while still working full-time. Nine months later I took a leap of faith and quit my cushy career advising job with benefits to pursue my business full-time.

paNASH’s Beginnings

paNASH originally began as an image consulting business working primarily with up-and-coming recording artists here in Nashville. I used my skills from my previous experience as a college career adviser to teach new artists how to present themselves in media interviews, to labels, and more. The additional wardrobe styling piece of the business served as a creative outlet for me at the time.

But after eight years, I started feeling restless in my business and it no longer felt right to me. I couldn’t yet put my finger on why, but I knew it was about to undergo some big changes.

I loved working for myself and knew I didn’t want that to change, but I was burned out on the original concept of the business. And, I’d become extremely frustrated with the way the music industry works. I loved my clients, but I was done with the constant frustrations.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was being called back to what I loved most and was best at, career coaching. Only this time, it was taking on a new approach. For the full story, read From Fashionista to Passionista.

paNASH

paNASH Today

Since making the change to my business nearly two years ago, I’ve been much happier. It thrills me to see my clients gain the confidence to pursue their own passions that have been lying dormant for so many years.

Although they face a series of common challenges while going through the process of pursuing their passions, they start to sense an excitement in the transition to a new life and career. They have a light in their eyes again.

And while I’m also happier, I still face some challenges in my own transition of the focus and mission of my business. One of those is still being thought of as an image consultant. I guess I did a really good job of establishing paNASH’s brand early on. Too good of a job! When you Google paNASH, there are still some things that pop up indicating image consulting. I’ve had to turn away several people seeking image consulting services.

But, I’m using the same branding strategy now that I did then to eventually replace my former brand. And it’s working. Just like it works for my new clients whom I’m teaching how to develop their own personal brand for their career and their lives.

The Importance of a Mission Statement

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s so important to have a brand and a mission statement for yourself. My personal mission statement is:

To boldly pursue my passions and purpose, and to teach, encourage, and inspire others to do the same, resulting in lives overflowing with joy, peace, and fulfillment.

This mission statement helps me to make better decisions regarding both my business and my personal life.

My business’s mission statement also aligns with my personal mission statement. When I changed the mission of paNASH nearly two years ago, it became:

To serve, educate, and encourage you by assisting you with the discovery and pursuit of your passions in a way that honors your purpose and your own vision for success, while amplifying who you are personally and advancing you professionally.

No matter what your goals are, I encourage you to also develop your own mission statement. To learn how, check out my on-demand program on personal branding (45% of proceeds go to Justice & Mercy International). You’ll be glad you did because once you’ve completed the program, you’ll be able to make better life and career decisions. Decisions that are true to your unique passions!

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paNASH is Hiring a Social Media Intern

paNASH is seeking a social media intern who can assist with social media and social marketing efforts. Specifically, we are seeking someone who is well-versed in social media advertising, especially Facebook advertising.

The ideal intern will be able to work independently with the ability to work from home much of the time, but will also receive regular guidance, feedback, and instruction. He or she will also have access to occasional complimentary career coaching for his or her own professional and career development at no charge. The successful intern may also earn a small commission from the business he or she brings in through his or her social media advertising efforts.

Duties designed to help you build your resume:

  • Facebook advertising: create target audiences, help determine what type of ads to promote, and create ads (opportunity to earn a commission for business generated from ads).
  • Occasional LinkedIn advertisement/opportunity to learn LinkedIn advertisement.
  • Promote paNASH’s on-demand programs and one-on-one coaching services via social media.
  • Help re-evaluate paNASH’s social media presence and make suggestions for improvement.
  • Maintain each of paNASH’s social media accounts, including Pinterest and LinkedIn.
  • Promote weekly blog posts via social media.
  • Assist with writing and/or editing weekly blog posts.

Requirements:

  • Must be enrolled in an accredited university and registered to earn academic credit for the internship.
  • Experience in creating Facebook ads and proficient knowledge of Facebook Ads Manager and Audience Insights required.
  • Experience in creating LinkedIn ads preferred but not required.
  • Proven ability to leverage various social media platforms for marketing purposes.
  • Good grammar and written communication skills required.

About paNASH

paNASH is a Nashville-based career coaching service that focuses on helping people discover and pursue their passions through their work. We work primarily with people currently going through career transitions (i.e. post-grad job search, career change, downsize/lay-off, leaving corporate to start their own business, etc.).

paNASH’s ideal clients are those with a creative and teachable spirit needing encouragement and a strategy to step out of their comfort zone and overcome their fear of change. We work with people who feel stuck in or are fed up with the rat race and want to do something more authentically-related to their passions and purpose in life.

How to Apply

Send a cover letter and resume with past examples of proven ability to lorib@yourpassioninlife.com. Deadline to apply is November 15th. Position begins at the beginning of the spring semester.

How to Be Realistic About Networking

Networking is a necessary part of the career development process. It helps you discover opportunities you never knew existed. This could include a career that is just the thing that fits nicely with your passions and strengths. Or it could include opportunities in a field you’re already passionate about. But most importantly, it helps you build long-lasting professional relationships.

Since 80% of the workforce found their opportunities (whether working for someone else or for themselves) through networking, it makes sense to spend 80% of your career development and job search on networking. But before you dive into networking, you need to check your expectations about networking, and make sure they’re realistic.

Unrealistic Networking Expectations

When I used to work as a college career adviser at a local university, I had several students wanting to go into the music industry. While most of those students understood the need to network, some would put it off until graduation. This was a huge mistake! Especially since going into the music industry where getting to know the insiders is more challenging than in other industries.

I know this from personal experience when I used to do image consulting for recording artists. It took me three times longer to develop my network with music industry professionals than it did in my previous industry. In fact, it took about three years before people started saying, “Oh, yeah, I know you!”

If one of my seniors getting ready to graduate had waited until graduation to begin his or her networking efforts, he or she was about three years behind the competition who started their networking efforts their sophomore year. Those who had already been fostering professional relationships were more likely to land a job upon graduation.

Even if your own chosen industry takes less time to get to know the insiders, it’s true the sooner you start developing relationships with appropriate contacts, the sooner you’ll see the fruits of your labor. In other words, expecting it to happen overnight is unrealistic.

Realistic Networking Expectations

That’s also not to say it can’t happen quickly. I have two examples of each scenario from my own career. First, I met the vice president of a Nashville-based company while attending an event downtown at the Entrepreneur Center. An exchange of business cards and one brief conversation a month later he hired me to do some contract work for him. And I’ve been working with him for three and a half years now. I didn’t expect this to happen so quickly. It just did.

This same gentleman introduced me to a wonderful small group of local business owners at the same time he had introduced another woman to the same group. For two and a half years I got to know these business owners in a very close-knit way, including the other woman introduced to the group. In that time we shared our celebrations and concerns on a weekly basis. After getting to know each other for two and a half years on such a level, she also hired me to do some contract work for her business. Again, I didn’t expect this to happen, but with time, it did.

The “Organic” Approach

In both situations, I never asked them if they had a job for me. Instead, after taking the time to establish a rapport with them, they approached me with the opportunity to work with them. I never entered either relationship with the expectation of getting something from them. This is what I call the “organic approach” to networking.

Anything that’s forced feels creepy! In fact, one time there was a guy who was starting his own business doing similar work to my own. He called me to introduce himself to me and actually said, “I’m calling to network with you”. Eeww! That was an immediate turn-off and I chose not to engage in his approach.

The best approach to realistic networking is an organic one. It looks like this:

  • Be genuinely curious about other people. Ask them about their own career path and passions.
  • Listen to what they say! Don’t be the one dominating the conversation.
  • Share things with them things they’ll find helpful or interesting based on what they’ve told you about themselves.
  • Lower your expectations of what they can do for you and raise your standards of how you can benefit them.

Start now. And be realistic!

For more networking tips, get the on-demand program The Secret to Successful Networking: How to Do It Naturally and Effectively.

Related Post:  7 Comfortable and Easy Networking Tips for Introverts