A little advice for myself on my first day as a freelancer
This is the letter I wish I could go back in time and hand to myself a year ago today. May this advice for myself serve you well, dear readers, no matter who you are and what you do.
Dear Year-Ago Me,
Today you’re going to start the first day of your full-time freelance career. Two weeks ago you walked into your stable, easy-to-commute-to, respectable job and gave your notice. It was the most exhilarating and terrifying thing you’ve ever done. (Look at that smile on your face!) You did it. You survived the seemingly never-ending two weeks notice and here you are. You’re your own boss.
Your next jobs are lined up, your appointment with the accountant is set, and you feel like you’re conquering the world right now. You’re determined to do everything perfectly from the get-go—even your taxes. (Pardon me, past-self, while I take a moment to giggle.) You’re convinced that you’re not going to make those rookie mistakes. You’ve spent the past month researching all the mistakes others in your position have made. You think that the reason you’re going to make it is because you’re not going to make mistakes. You think that your “failure is not an option” attitude is what will set you apart.
I have a few words of advice for you:
Sometimes learning lessons the hard way is actually the best way
Sit down for a second. I know this is hard for you to hear, but you are going to mess up sometimes. You’re going to underestimate how many hours a project will take. You’re going to forget to keep track of all of those things you need to keep track of for taxes. You’re going to forget to pound the pavement for new work while immersed in a big project.
You’ll think that makes you a failure. You need to remember that life doesn’t have a report card. No one gets a 4.0 in life. You need to let go of your fear of failure.
These aren’t failures, they are lessons. They are only failures if you don’t learn from them. Yes, sometimes you do, in fact, need to learn things the hard way. I know you’re not really used to that. High honor roll and high GPAs really got to your head. You must learn that these lessons are going to be what will allow you to learn and get better. Stop feeling like you’re being graded. Some lessons can only truly be learned the hard way.
Yes, please continue to try and avoid mistakes and seek the advice of those with more experience, but don’t beat yourself up. You will need to save your strength for the tougher battles.
You have a far greater enemy to face that you weren’t even counting on—doubt.
You are going to have to battle the doubt monster EVERY DAY. When you make a mistake, when you feel off, when you aren’t as busy as you’d like to be—these are some of the times when you are most vulnerable. It latches on like a leech. You barely feel it. You’ll hear a voice like a small whisper in the back of your mind. “You can’t do this”, it will say. If you let it continue to speak, it will tell you all the reasons why you just aren’t cut out for this and it will bleed you dry.
Silence that voice immediately. You are doing battle. This voice is not your friend. It is the enemy. You must learn ways to silence this small but potent beast. Be prepared at all times with all the reasons why you are doing what you’re doing and lash back at that voice. Take a deep breath. Pray. Have friends and family who are your go-to encouragers. Read things that encourage you. That quote that you’re going to see on Facebook later today, print it out and look at it everyday. That is one of my first defenses against the doubt monster. It reads “The moment you doubt whether you can fly you cease forever to be able to do it.” —J.M. Barrie. And, dear me, you’re still flying a year later—I promise.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Teddy Roosevelt once said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This is profoundly true. Stop comparing yourself to others. “Success” is subjective. And you don’t know the battles others who may seem to be “more successful” are facing. Be happy for your friends and the lives that they are living. Celebrate them. Don’t become jealous or allow their success to awaken your doubt monster. Water your own grass, don’t look at the other side. Put in the work so that YOU feel fulfilled. This is your business and your life.
Also, stop comparing yourself to your life plans. It is okay to live a different life than you planned to live. What you’re going to experience this year is something you never even dreamed of doing.
Many challenges are ahead of you, dear younger me, but even more joys and victories. Work hard. Stay humble. Enjoy the ride.