I’ve been freelancing now for eight months and it’s been an interesting journey. By no means did I think the move from full-time salaried employment to one where you didn’t know where the next job was coming from was going to be easy. I anticipated that I was going to experience the full range of emotions. Elation when I secured client work, through to niggling self doubt when weeks pass by without any potential leads.
Luckily, I had planned for times like these but how do you actually prepare for the “emotional” journey?
You can set funds aside to cover you during the times you have no income coming in. You can set yourself up with your home office and equipment so that you don’t need to spend anything more. You can have all the tools, templates and checklists that you can use for your own business and you can tell all your friends, family, colleagues and networks of what you plan to be doing but when all is said and done, when you don’t have to in your office cubicle from 9 to 5 day in, day out and suddenly you have all this T – I – M – E, what do you with it to ensure that you are maximising it?
Early this year, I realised that I needed to treat myself like “a business”. I had no employer who could pay my fortnightly wage; I had no manager who could direct and supervise my work under a watchful eye; I had no team whom I could work with, have a joke with or delegate some tasks.
As the freelancer, you are the business – marketing, sales, human resources, operations, finance – you do it all.
My second realisation was that my 24 years in a corporate service function in private and public sector organisations learning and development departments, did not serve me well to understand the intricacies of business. The hair on my arms would stand on end on my arms every time I thought of the risk of repeating my role as a “training order taker” in my new freelance endeavour. The whole point was to get away from the “order taker” mentality and to one where together with my client, it was a trusted business relationship of mutual respect and learning to co-create a solution that would solve their business problem. If I wasn’t learning in the process, I’d lose interest and be useless to my client.
I had to take this risk of going out on my own to see where it could take me. I also had to start thinking and acting like a business – the business of ME – which was my “performance gap”. (I did a little ‘needs analysis’ on myself and came up with a learning plan because you know, that’s what I do for others, I may as well do one on myself….)
So this year, I invested in a 12 month business coaching program that runs every fortnight with a small group of others in similar situations to myself. The program is a mix of mastermind sessions around particular business topics as well as four full day Business Planning workshops aimed to check our progress to meeting our one year business goals. However, it’s not only the content that is feeding my desire to learn about how to build business – but the people who attend these sessions have opened my eyes to the world of a business owner. I needed to be around people like this in order to understand their ups and downs and in doing so, understand my emotional journey too.
Many of these people have invested their time and risked their life savings for a product or a business idea they passionately believe in. Some of these ideas are so simple. So creative. So…basic. In their simplicity – they are genius ideas because they solve a distinct problem for a target market and you start to think, “why on earth didn’t I think of that?”
In the grand scheme of things, all I have done is risked a fortnightly pay packet in order to get back some freedom and control so I cannot help but feel awe for these people as we share their trials and tribulations every couple of weeks and see their business unfold in front of our eyes.
Two days ago, we did our first Business Planning workshop where we had to write our 12 month Business Goals and then break these down to what we want to achieve for the next 3 months. All goals were then broken down into weekly goals to be achieved and written into a large A3 piece of white cardboard so that we could refer to it every day, every week, every month so that we can measure our progress to achieving our goals.
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) February 24, 2015
One of the other activities we did was to sit down and write a letter to ourselves which would be mailed to us in 90 days. In it, we would congratulate ourselves for achieving our 90 day goals and give us permission to enjoy a reward of some sort. If that’s not pressure for achieving your goals, I don’t know what is. Imagine how awful you would feel if you received this letter to yourself and you realised that 3 months went by and you did NOTHING!
An activity where we write letter to ourselves to have it mailed to us in 90 days to see if we achieved our goals. pic.twitter.com/Qgynid6788
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) February 24, 2015
I believe we all need a plan of some sort especially when freelancing too. It doesn’t matter what it looks like but the simple act of having your goals written down and referred to will enable you to take action towards them. In the last eight months, I am amazed at just how much I have achieved and I shouldn’t be worried or concerned if things are going too slow in comparison to others. Or, trying to meet other people’s expectations of what I should and shouldn’t be doing.
To some people, what I have achieved doesn’t look like much but to me, building my website, learning new tools within WordPress, broadening my networks into new markets, working with new clients outside of Learning and Development departments, undertaking this business course and building Third Place (a learning and development social networking and co-working group) have all been an eye opener and are possibly new avenues into finding what value I can provide to others so that my dream is realised – and what’s that dream?
- Love what I do;
- Meet lots of people;
- Travel every few years;
- Always be learning.
Oh and have enough money to buy nice yarn to knit.