Remember your last day in your 9to5 office?
I bet it felt exhilarating. If you look back, things were quite promising. The journey-in-front excited you like never before.
If you're like me, you’ve been eager to try this for a long time.
I wrote a letter to my past self to emphasize a few learnings about running a freelance business in the early days.
While the learnings in that "letter" are more about defining a process and a system for yourself, here we talk about things that took a whole year for me to realize.
In hindsight, this change in perspective had a huge impact on my freelancing path and running my own business.
Let’s squeeze out the key aspects of year one of freelancing.
The most important lesson of all lessons from year-one is “You are not alone!”
What do I mean by that?
Well, at first it may seem like you can do everything by yourself and you even feel empowered to do it. You feel excited, eager, hyped. Frantic the very least.
A couple of months in, you'll start to feel stressed out. You'll wonder if you've chosen the "best" year to do all these.
Let me tell you something...there's no "best time" or "worst time" for this kind of endeavors.
Of course, plan things out and make sure you have a runway budget for at least 6 months.
No matter how much planning you're doing before-hand or during, things will, eventually, go side ways. After all, you're trying to create and run a business by yourself. It's hard, no doubt.
Trust your gut and do it.
“Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.” — Robert Allen
But let me tell you something that will change your perspective - you're actually a 3-person business. How is that?
In every one-man-show business there's a Technical, a Manager and an Entrepreneur.
Let's call them The Doer, The Supervisor and The Dreamer.
So you're actually wearing 3 different hats, at least.
Most business owners start from a technical position, as doers. That's because most of them had worked in other companies.
The most common problem is that we tend to stay in technician position for too long into our own business. After all, that's what we know best. It's where we're the most skilled.
But it's also a safe path to working to much into your business, rather than on your business.
You'll need to break out of that mindset and see your business through all these 3 lenses.
The Dreamer - the one focusing on the future by defining a vision and strategy for the business.
The Supervisor - the one focusing on planning and organizing ways to achieve the results.
The Doer - the one getting the job done.
Often times these 3 persons are trying to unintentionally sabotage each other.
Once you switch to an entrepreneurial mindset, you'll find a balance.
Michael Gerber, in his book "E-Myth Revisited" book , puts these in perspective.
In the early days, most of us can't quite fathom the importance and impact of networking.
This is one of the worst fears for many freelancers, especially the ones in their early years.
The struggle to find new clients is a constant battle many of us feel we're losing in the beginning. The uncertainty can be daunting.
If you're lucky to start with one client from day one, chances are you'll lose yourself in the technical day-to-day tasks.
To a certain degree that's ok.
After all, you're providing your services, but you'll want to grow your network and start generating more leads.
Otherwise, you wake up one day that your only client is gone and you have no business.
Build a personal brand early on. Polish your online presence and define your ideal client.
Have a clear message with the services you're offering and connect with other business owners.
No matter how much technical expertise you posses, you'll need to learn marketing and sales. There's no business without these.
As a freelancer or solopreneur, you need to learn to market and sell yourself and the value you bring to the client.
Lead generation and networking should be a continous action.
In the beginning, it will feel weird and uncomfortable, but once you get it into your daily habit, things will feel more natural.
It's business development 101.
This only consolidates the first lesson, "you're not alone".
Find your kind.
Meet, connect, reach, network, ask, answer, help, give.
The first year can become very lonely and you'll have your moments of doubt. Quite often you'll wonder if what you're doing is the right or wrong.
The impostor syndrome will reach sky high levels.
Anxiety will turn your mind into your worst enemy.
We've all been there.
In fact, it's backed by neuroscience.
There's a chemical called oxytocin which plays an important part in human bonding. Lack of this particular chemical can produce anxiety and fear. On top of that, when oxytocin goes down, cortisol (the stress hormone) levels go up. You don't want that.
Let's put science aside for now.
You're not alone. There are others like you.
We rise, fall, try, work, struggle, learn and grind all day.
Reach out. Don't be shy.
The sooner you find your kind, the sooner this game becomes easier and more digestible.
Freelancing and solopreneurship can feel really chaotic. Running your own business is no easy task, we have to admit.
You need to:
All these while trying to manage your health, relationships and every other personal life aspects...
But remember WHY you started.