Mental Toughness and Freelancing

Posted: April 14th, 2009

Pretty much this past week, I’ve been in New Year’s resolution mode concerning my freelance business. In particular, thinking about ways to eventually bring myself up to the top tier level of freelancers. You know, the ones that make $100+ an hour and everything is so simple for them. OK, maybe not so simple but you get the point here.

After stewing on this a while, it dawned on me that it probably isn’t the skill level I’m at that is keeping me from that top rung. After all, I’ve been freelancing as a programmer for 5+ years. Instead it is the mental toughness needed at that level which I am lacking. This sort of hit me in the face after watching the following Nike commercial:

Particularly, the line by the late Earl Woods, Tiger Wood’s father, really hit home: “I said ‘Tiger, I promise you, you’ll never meet a person as mentally tough as you in your entire life. And he hasn’t. And he never will.'”  Keep in mind, this quote was from before Tiger’s victory in the U.S. open last year when he played with a torn ACL in his knee and two stress fractures in his tibia, both in the same left leg. I think it is safe to say Tiger sets the bar for mental toughness.

Is it too far fetched to say that if your own mental toughness were similar to that of Tiger’s, you would be the best freelancer in the land just like he is the best golfer in the world? Freelancers need to have mental toughness in order to, not just survive, but to grow in their careers. Sure, there are times when you may not be earning what you would like to, you make mistakes that are costly, you have no work to do… hell, this list can go on forever.

Usually these are enough to make a beginner quit forever. Ask any freelance veteran if they’ve had bad times, however, and you are sure to get some sit-down tales of horror. These same freelancers accept adversity, learn from it and move on with their freelancing career.

To get to that ultra-mecca of freelance stardom, however, requires another level of mental toughness in order to achieve that level. These are the ones that have it set in their minds that they want to be the best (aka Tiger) and will stop at nothing in order to achieve this. That means continual improvement of their skills and business to which a key component is staying out of that comfort zone of perceived success.

My friends, that is what separates the good from the best. Many successful freelancers are settled enough in their careers and routines where improvement doesn’t happen as much as they would like, if at all. It takes effort and a bit more mental toughness to get out of that comfort zone in order to improve upon success and try and be the best at what you do.

I’ll admit, I’m somewhere in the middle of the pack as far as mental toughness goes. I’ve been rather slow to enact improvements in my business but least the first step into improvement is recognizing this. Maybe several months from now, I’ll give a first-hand account of how the best of the best freelancers does his thing. Just you wait.

My apologies for promoting Nike here, too. Hopefully you understand that wasn’t the point.

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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