The Common Denominator of Success

Posted: May 5th, 2009

Just recently I combed through a box containing photos, numerous phone number on scraps of paper, souvenirs and a dusty yellow pamphlet I stole from my late uncle Ed titled “The Common Denominator of Success” by Albert E.N. Gray, a successful insurance salesman. At the time, I was working in sales and figured it may come in handy as a bit of motivation whenever I needed it (you can read the full text here).

I read it only twice, but always kept it around like a bible. I thought now was a good a time as any to dust it off and see how it related to me as a freelancer. To no surprise, it had everything to do with it:

The common denominator of success — the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful – lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.

It’s just as true as it sounds and it’s just as simple as it seems. You can hold it up to the light, you can put it to the acid test, and you can kick it around until it’s worn out, but when you are all through with it, it will still be the common denominator of success, whether you like it or not.

So what are the things that successful freelancers do that those who do not succeed do not like to do? The list can go on without an end but I can quickly sum it up here to three basics:

Work Hard

Yes, freelancers have all the freedom in the world when it comes to scheduling their hours. Working two hours a day, though, won’t get you anywhere (unless you already are rolling in the dough). Even those who are a success story had to start from zero and work their tail off to achieve it. If anything, it is important to get into the habit of working hard and burning the candle on both ends if you have to.

Some wise man said you only get out what you put in. The getting, though, usually comes way after the putting.

Work Smart

Common tasks that many freelancers fail to do, including me at one point, is that they do not take the time to organize, analyze and attempt to improve their business. Usually the reason is that it either takes up too much time or creates an additional unwanted expense. The hard truth is that it may cost you income and run you out of business if they are not done. Here are some of the essentials:

  1. Manage your income and expenses or hire an accountant. The expense will pay you back in dividends.
  2. Always be marketing your services, even when work is a plenty.
  3. Find ways to be more efficient. More work done in less time, more often, equals more money in the bank.

I also happened to have posted a series last week which touches on the above.


This is another perceived time waster but the biggest growth as a freelancer can come from taking the time to network and see what others are doing in your field. This offers huge advantages in your career and business:

  • You can seek the advice of experts
  • You can keep up with trends in your industry
  • You can can potentially drum up business and form partnerships with those you meet
  • Your networking friends can be a great influence in your work

If you haven’t jumped on the Twitter boat yet, you are missing what is arguably the best and fastest way to meet others in your field (feel free to even add me).

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Now these are by no means the only three magic beans for successful freelancing, yet it is important to utilize them in your career path to riches. If you feel, however, I omitted an important task for success, please leave a comment below and tell me what should be added to the list.

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.

2 Comments. Join In!

  • jess

    May 5th, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Yeah, it seems like almost everything is happening or being talked about on Twitter. If youre not following then you are out of the loop, and it’s such a great way to advertise!

    I also think that when it comes to being organized that one should always carry around a portfolio whether it’s on an outsourcing site like or their own site, or even a suitcase. Thanks for the input!

  • Johnny

    May 5th, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Thanks Jess… I’ve had it on my short list to try out Vois for some time. It made it to the to do post-it note, so it should be this week. I’ll let you and the boys know how it is.