You see, one week ago today, I got dumped.
In my single days, I often had more boys chasing me than I could count on one hand. I got so good at “define the relationship” conversations that I could break up with a guy I wasn’t even dating.
This time was different.
This time the poor sap sitting deflated on the floor, crying and praying for the pain to end was me.
We’d dabbled in this relationship for over three years now, but more recently, things started to get more serious between us. Just when it seemed like it was really going to work, something happened. The tighter I tried to hold on, the faster it slipped through my fingers.
Finally, I got a two-sentence email that revealed the truth I had been ignoring.
And now we’re done.
My freelance writing career and I are off again—this time for good.
Last week I re-read an inspiring post by Gerald Rogers, who shared what he learned from his failed marriage on the day his divorce was finalized. A big fan of postmortem analysis myself, I decided to pick my chin up and follow suit. Who knows? Maybe sharing what I messed up about my venture will help you succeed in yours.
1) “Mom-preneur” isn’t as sexy as it sounds. I wasn’t going for glamorous when I embarked on this exciting journey, but I did think it would be cool to “have it all.” It only took a week of extra whiny children, chips and hot dogs, tornado-strewn rooms and an irritable spouse to kill every myth of freelancing being “cool.”
When I decided to get mirror clear on my personal “why,” I realized that my goal was to be a full-time Mom and while connecting with other inspired, intelligent people, and that I wasn’t getting any closer to that goal by torturing myself blindly chasing money.
I learned that anything that leads an individual to true fulfillment will allow room for that person’s spouse and children as well.
2) “Wherever you are, be there.” I picked up this gem from Sandra Yancey, a wildly successful entrepreneur who heads the biggest women’s networking group in the USA.
Can you be a stellar Mom – or Dad – and an A-class business person? Absolutely! But you’re going to have to set boundaries and defend both roles fiercely.
The days I planned my time in the blocks and defended that time were the only days I made any progress. “Time-blocking” – a term borrowed from Keller and Papasan of The One Thing fame – for me means no phone-checking during story time and no stories during email-checking time.
Truthfully, I struggle with Shiny Object Syndrome, and in any money-making marathon, the prize goes to the consistent and persistent. Clay Stevens, Author of Six Figures in Six Months, says that “Fast and Steady” works at least as well as “Slow and Steady,” because it’s more important that you keep your pace than what that pace is.
I learned that I didn’t love freelancing enough to set aside consistent time for it, especially when that meant asking my husband to help watch the kids. I wanted to be with them more than I wanted new clients.
3) Perfect your Jedi mind-reading powers – and sign contracts! I learned in my rookie year that no prospect cares what I want.
They only care whether I can write what they want.
And how they want it.
And when they want it.
And even if they have no idea to describe any of those parameters to me.
Through painful experience, I learned to ask lots of questions up front, listen carefully both to what they say and what they don’t say – and then make certain everyone’s clear enough to physically sign their name to it.
You’ll know you’ve arrived at Niche Nirvana when your ideal client says, “Oh yeah, that’s exactly what I need!” You’ll know you’ve made it to Sales Street when they sign your contract (not the same as a W-9) and then actually pays you for it. I got close enough to see both of these magical destinations, but never got to visit.
Developing my connection with the force certainly did help me to tune into why people felt drawn to me in the first place. In fact , my husband and I wrote a free eBook to share we learned about listening this way. I learned as I listened that no one wanted me to write for them, they wanted me to bolster their confidence and help them improve their lives.
4) No prospect will tell you what your work is worth. So I’ll tell you.
If you can write in English with native-level fluency, and know to proof-read carefully before you submit your work, you can be confident charging $25-30/hour to start as a freelance writer.
More of a coach than a writer? No one will take you seriously for less than $100/hour. It is common to provide 2-4 calls for $500-2000 a month to start, depending on your industry and experience level.
I looked at those numbers and – even considering insurance, child care, legal protection, contract costs etc. – felt confident in quitting my day job. This was a terrible mistake. I learned that whenever some millionaire guru says you can launch something in 90 days, know that means if you are already gainfully employed. Freelancing full-time is something that takes years to grow into, because even the bravest newbies go weeks, even months between gigs.
I learned that I needed to be clear on my price, preferred payment method, and payment structure (by project, hourly, monthly…) before I could pitch effectively. I also learned to be prepared to defend it, because if they don’t balk at it, at least a little, I was aiming WAY too low. (Not to mention the lowest paying clients also tend to be the most prone to forget to pay you at all!)
I just didn’t learn it fast enough to keep the whole thing from going down in flames.
5) You are not as smart or as talented as you think you are. Don’t get me wrong, I am confident in my intelligence and my skill, but I also know it’s a big world out there. As Seth Godin says, “Without a doubt, there’s someone taller than you, faster than you, cuter than you. We don’t have to look very far to find someone who is better paid, more respected and getting more than his fair share of credit…Compare the things that matter to the journey you’re on. The rest is noise.”
For months, tag line at group events was literally, “I write stuff.” It didn’t do me any good because it was too general – like target practice where anything that hits the target at all gets the same number of points. Success in freelancing means figuring out who exactly needs you, where exactly those exact people hang out, and go talk to them. It’s not enough to know where the target is, targeting is about know where the bull’s eye is -and hitting it! I knew I wasn’t focused enough when someone I knew needed my help smiled and nodded as I spoke and then went to shake someone else’s hand. Speaking of networking…
6) Not all networking activities are created equally. Free ones attract “name only” entrepreneurs and boot-strappers with no budget. Not a bad place to start if you just want to sanity check your ideas or are O.K. with trading services, but not the best for top-paying gigs.
I found low-cost luncheon-style networking groups more useeful, but even better is attending events, expos, conferences—even malls and fast food restaurants—where my ideal client would naturally spend time. I got so good at networking that I finally stopped trying to resist the fact that everyone I met loved me but wished I were doing something else. Because…
7) Just because you can write one thing well doesn’t mean you can write anything else. Of all these points, this is the one that helped me realize at last that I have no future in freelancing. I started off as a published author who didn’t have the skills needed to market her book, so I tried to break into …content and copy writing? Yeah, I know, hind sight 20/20.
My husband writes astounding blog posts, sales letters, white papers, ebooks, and email copy fit to be framed, but not me. Not anymore! This was the biggest lesson for me: I am a writer, but I am not a freelance writer.
Looking back on the last 3 years, I feel some relief mixed in with the hurt feelings and torn fairy tale pages.
I don’t have to chase half-baked clients anymore. I don’t have to fight SEO-charged super-gurus for air time and Inbox space. I can be done juggling my family with my under-committed prospects, disrespectful clients, inconsistent workflow, and insufficient funds. Best of all, I can be done putting my real dreams on the shelf to make room for something that should pay off sooner.
So, what will I do now? I’m already doing it! This blog, public speaking, and one-on-one breakthrough coaching are where my heart really is, and feel so blessed to be able to share what comes next with you!
Thank you for staying with me on this crazy journey so we can continue to learn from each other.
Have you ever been dumped by life? What did you learn?