When I started my freelance writing journey seven months ago, I believed that taking on any work was essential, even if it didn’t align with the vision I had set forth for myself. I just wanted to start and get paid. After gaining some experience and a few clients, I’ve realized that working with fewer companies that value my work and allow me to improve my skills is more meaningful and sustainable.
Instead of pursuing the largest possible customer base, I’m now looking to narrow my focus to a smaller but sustainable market. My goal is to work with a handful of companies and a few people at each and keep busy with work that aligns with my professional and personal growth goals. This might be a slower approach, but it will deliver me where I want to be in the mid-term.
Another thing – I’ve recognized the importance of prospecting to keep a consistent workflow. Waiting for all work to be gone before seeking new clients is challenging and unpredictable. Not to mention a hard way to live. To establish a reputation and become a category of one, instead of just another person doing commodity work, I need to do exceptional work that stands out as mine. That means developing the discipline to prospect daily and investing time to work ON my business, not just IN.
I’m aware that building a sustainable and fulfilling freelance career will take time. Grateful for the day job, which I’ll continue while implementing these strategies. I’m confident that this refined approach will take me closer to my goals.
Seven months ago, when I was starting, I thought:
I need to work with as many companies and people as possible, even if they don’t appreciate my work, and take on any job that comes my way, even if it doesn’t help me improve or advance in my freelancing career because I need the money. Just pay me.
Now that I’ve been doing this for seven months and have a few clients and more opportunities than I have time on the horizon, I’m shifting my perspective from trying to work for anyone and everyone to focusing on a smaller but sustainable market. I’m asking myself, How do I become a “meaningful specific” rather than a “wandering generality?” Rather than striving for the largest possible customer base, I see smaller markets that can support me with work that I view as more beneficial.
For instance, now I think it’s doable to be working with, say, six companies and a few people at each who appreciate my work and allow me to develop the skills I’m striving to improve. And the business from each can keep me busy with meaningful work that aligns with my personal and professional growth goals. This approach allows me to level up even if, in the short term, it feels like growth will slow down. I know that in the long run it will deliver me where I want to be.
Life can be uncertain, full of ups and downs, tragedies, and unforeseen events that can quickly derail us from our path. But amidst all the changes and chaos, there’s a thread that we must follow. It may not always be clear to others, but we must explain and hold onto it tightly. This thread gives us direction and helps us stay grounded, even when the world seems to be falling apart. Time may pass, and we may face many challenges, but we must never let go of our thread. It keeps us moving forward, even when everything else holds us back.
Long term goals, dreams, and intentions are worthy but only eventuate because of my short term actions.
Life is a series of short terms that make the long term, but if all you’re doing is maximizing in the short term, you’re going to break the system, and your short term will feel unnecessarily stressful while your long term will go to hell.
What are you doing in the short term to advance your long term goals?
I can allow time to trickle through my fingers as I scroll reels, binge-watch Netflix, or deep dive down an alt-news rabbit hole, or I can do the things I’m glad to have done. Let’s list what we are glad we did last week.
As a freelancer trying to balance a day job and parenting, I find it challenging to find the time and resources to do my best work. It’s easy to feel discouraged and wish for complete freedom and flexibility.
I’ve realized that limitations and constraints are a normal part of the process. Rather than seeing them as roadblocks, I’m learning to embrace them as opportunities to get creative and find new ways to succeed.
I’ve already demonstrated my dedication by waking up at 4:30 to work on my projects, and I plan to continue putting in the effort.
I believe I can produce my best work by leveraging the boundaries and scarcity I’m facing. With a shift in perspective and a willingness to make the most of what I have available, I’m confident I can thrive as a freelancer while balancing my other responsibilities.
I might fall into the trap of shooting for someone else’s vision of success. I might seize an opportunity because I can, not because it’s what I want. I can, but I don’t want to have is a disappointing outcome that fails. It reminds me that ambition is on a sliding scale and to keep refining it.
I won’t wait for the opportunity to arrive at my door. Instead, it’s more like an invite. I will start walking down the road to greet it, one foot in front of the other.
We each possess our unique baseball swing.
It’s ours at birth.
Our swing doesn’t materially change.
As Babe Ruth has the Babe Ruth swing, and Ted William’s has the Ted Williams swing. We have our swings.
Even if we’ve never picked up a baseball bat.
The metaphor is our authentic self.
Each of us has one, and only one, swing (self) that is “authentic” to us.
The worst thing that can happen is to lose this.
Losing our authentic swing (self) is losing our soul, identity, and vision of ourselves.
We swing and miss. Whiff. Strikeout. Slump and feel cursed. Ask why?
The best-intentioned search for wisdom is worthless.
Because when “all is lost,” the only work is to regain trust in our swing (self).
We will always find what we need by picking up a baseball bat and taking as many swings as necessary until we rediscover what’s already ours.
Our swing (self)
Let’s talk about the purpose of school in the face of ChatGPT disruption.
Here’s a simple yet powerful first step: students should watch lectures and explanations at home and do homework in class — no more boring worksheets.
The focus should be on asking questions, having discussions, and doing hands-on activities in class. This way, students can discuss and question what they’ve learned, be graded on their contribution, and show up ready.
This approach encourages young people to take the initiative and think deeply about what they are learning (and are interested in pursuing). School is already failing, and this is what, I believe, ChatGPT threatens. It can potentially encourage more unengaged thinking and makes it all the easier to “get it done” without real learning and investment.
Speaking specifically of writing, I assert that we no longer need mediocre essays. ChatGPT can write mediocre essays for you in seconds. Let’s ditch the essay altogether. Instead, let’s teach young people to write thoughtfully about what matters to them — no more essay assignments for a grade the teacher doesn’t want to read. Mediocre writing is one of the first things AI will replace. Remember that writing is life work, not desk work. Let’s teach and learn accordingly.
I hear the fear in many conversations about ChatGPT and AI in general. I think the proliferation of AI will create a need for people who can bring insight and gumption to exciting problems. For now, that is uniquely human, and perhaps a first step to developing that kind of people is restructuring the school day to emphasize this need. This will help students shift their attitude from “Will this be on the test?” to using their education as a platform for positive change in their small domain.