I’ve been a freelance designer (full or part-time) since I was 15 years old. Over the years, through observation, experience and a lot of mistakes, I’ve picked up some principles that I continue to aspire to as a creative and a freelancer/business owner.
1. Be Genuine
Honesty goes a long way these days. From social profiles, to advertising, crowdfunding – even conversations, our world is so inundated with facades and projections that we’ve really grown accustomed to a very contrived existence. If you want your work and your service to stand out from the crowd, break the mold and strive for honest creation, honest business practices – and learn to have an honest conversation.
2. Be Generous
This is a tough one. This principle goes against our natural instinct and can be painful to live by – but more than anything else, generosity has been the greatest example of initial investment for a long-term benefit. Practically, being generous starts from a mindset change – giving up your poverty perspective for an abundance perspective. It may sound elementary, but even just believing that there’s more than enough for everyone (enough work, enough money, enough happiness, enough time etc.) can change you from being a beggar that fights for leftovers to being a benevolent empire builder. Treat people the way you want to be treated, give referrals and testimonials, don’t trash talk or bad mouth, and be kind to your competition (especially if they’re actually your friends).
3. Be Good
If you can to learn to be generous and not fear your competitors, you can finally step up to the real challenge – bettering yourself. Don’t get comfortable with where you’re at, continue to learn, develop and grow. Read books, take classes, learn from your contemporaries and predecessors and keep looking for ways to improve your skills and services and the methods you use to deliver them.
4. Be Gutsy
You hear it said all the time “To truly be successful, you have to take risks.” It makes a great one-liner – but it’s a tricky task, especially when you don’t know what risk to actually take. For me, becoming a successful risk-taker (and not just a bonehead) is about growing in faith, courage and the ability to sense an opportunity. It takes growing in faith to get away from small thinking that keeps you inside the rat-race of life and away from greatness. You must develop courage to overcome your fear of failure and rejection to seize an opportunity that is before you. As your faith and courage increases, you’ll learn to distinguish the difference between insecurity and discernment – which ultimately develops your ability to see opportunity.
5. Be Glad
When you’re a freelancer, this can be a real challenge. The fact is, though stability in life is an illusion (you’ve heard those seminars, the ones where they ask if you feel stable in your job – and then go on to talk about Enron and other fiascos where hundreds of people’s salaries vanished into thin air), freelancing/owning your own business challenges that stability head on. Independence can be scary, stressful and sometimes overwhelming. In a lifestyle like this, the greatest skill anyone can have is the ability to smile – genuinely smile. If you’re freelancing to make a living, I encourage you to find security and happiness somewhere besides your work. It will actually make every part of your life more enjoyable, even the business part.
Thanks for reading. Those of you freelancers/business-owners out there, share some of the things you’ve learned from your experiences below or on Facebook.