The Monday Hangover No. 3

Posted: January 12th, 2009

Who Saw This Coming? Freelancers, That’s Who!

For those of you who are fans of American football, you may have witnessed a couple of events that came out of nowhere, not even predicted to happen in a million years… or at least this season anyway. First, the always inept Arizona Cardinals upset the heavily favored Carolina Panthers on their own home turf. Second, the mistaken-for-dead Philly Eagles beat the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. Now they play each other next week for the chance to go to the Super Bowl.

Being from Arizona, it’s quite shocking that after the twenty plus years of being in Phoenix, the Cards finally put together a winning season and have made it this far, let alone are playing for the Super Bowl. I can’t even say I’m a true fan claiming to be more of the fair-weathered type. They have been, after all, perennial losers for the past two decades.

As for the Eagles, I’ve followed all their turmoil throughout their season. I mean there was talk of replacing their coach and chasing their star quarterback out of town. Their season was barely even half over at that point either. So what gives? We have two teams that were deemed to be mediocre at best running the tables in the NFL playoffs and it doesn’t seem right. While you’re at it, you’re probably also asking yourself  “What does this have to do with freelancing?”

Well my friends, the answer is everything. I don’t like the idea of using sports analogies to make my point, but then again I don’t make the following points too often. Those two Sunday “miracles” don’t happen every day, so here’s my two cents on what to take out of all of this:

1. Don’t listen to naysayers, the news or anything that can discourage you.

I think it’s safe to say the Cardinals and Eagles did just that yesterday. Imagine, when everyone in the press and even your own city is convinced you can’t win, you have a mediocre record to prove it, then you overcome all of that to win a game you weren’t suppose to.

For freelancers, it’s the same. Well almost. Although we are not under constant pressure to succeed, we inevitably fall into the trap of believing the hype around the failing economy, lack of jobs and general bad news about employment. This can even discourage freelancing for some.

As a freelancer, if I bought into any any of that crap I would be out of business and constantly whining about it as I move back into my parents’ home. What do I do then? I work harder at securing more work and spend a little more time than usual searching the job boards.

The reality is there are always jobs out there, maybe a little less than before the economic crisis, but they are there for the taking. If you stay focused, work hard at finding yourself work and on not get discouraged with bad news there is no reason you can’t prosper or even start freelancing in trying times of the economy.

2. Expect the unexpected. Nothing is ever guaranteed.

It was pretty much guaranteed the defending Super Bowl champs AND Carolina Panthers would walk all over their opponents. After all, they came off a bye week and were playing in front of a home crowd. We all know what happened, didn’t we?

Like the Giants and Panthers learned, their own path can take a turn pretty quickly. A freelance career is no different either. I’ll pretty much summarize it by saying there is no such thing as steady work, steady income, nor kept promises by your clients. Here are a few examples:

  • Steady work coming from a reliable client may suddenly stop
  • A steady income stream from a service you provide can suddenly dry up due to “budget changes”
  • A client that had promised you future work, decided on their second cousin instead

The lesson here is to never get into a comfort zone as a freelancer. It’s easy to get complacent when the checks are rolling in, especially when they come from reliable sources. You have to assume the worst, however, and prepare for it with a backup plan such as keeping your portfolio up to date and knowing where to look for new work. These situations can happen in the blink of an eye.

Also, you don’t want to get in the habit of relying on promises made by clients or potential clients. While they may not necessarily be lying to you, sometimes things happen where they cannot fulfill them which leaves you high and dry. Best practice: Ignore promises and carry on as if you never heard them. Some may come true but a majority won’t.

3. Believe.

Who wants to attribute the Cardinals and Eagles respective victories the other day to luck? I’m sure some sports commentators and writers will but I’ll go out on a limb and say that they had absolutely no doubt in knowing what they had to do to win. Then they went out and did those things with success.

Likewise, if there is any doubt in your ability to do anything, even just a little, then you are likely to fail at whatever it is you are doing, especially in freelance. Plain and simple. Anything we try that is new and challenging, whether in freelancing or not, will always have a period that will test your will and your ability to continue on. I’ve gone through too many to list here, but bottom line is that if you do not persevere through hard times, you’re done. Game over.

Not to discourage you either but you will likely face a difficult time or two in the freelance profession. Your success depends on how you deal with challenges. Believing you’ll get through them and taking the necessary steps to do so will only further your career as a freelancer.

UPDATE (Jan 17th, 2009):
Lend an ear to the podcast interview with Michelle Goodman, a freelancer of sixteen years. She mentions how the bad economy can actually be an advantage for those who want to give freelancing a try.

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

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