I love to chat about freelancing and the possibilities it can bring to us and our community. In fact, getting me to stop talking about it might be your biggest challenge. I’ve written for a few freelance focused blogs, sharing my thoughts and generating discussions, and I’ve been freelancing fulltime since May of 2010. I believe there are huge opportunities for freelancers and the local businesses who choose to hire them, and I’d love to help more people benefit from the freelance world.
I get asked a lot of questions about freelancing; how to start your own business, where to find clients, and even what’s the best coffee (or energy drink), but I’ve noticed that sometimes people are asking for advice, but what they really want is support.
What’s the difference?
Filled with platitudes and usually commiserating with you. You might hear things like “you’re doing it right” and “things will get better.” “It’s not you, it’s the economy.”“ It’s not your rates, it’s the people overseas who can work for much less than you can afford to charge.” A supportive friend might tell you your city is a “connected” city, and you can only get a good job/project through nepotism or cronieism – and sometimes both. There’s nothing wrong with support, but you can’t improve your business if you are surrounded by people who are more worried about your feelings than they are about the viability of your business. Mom and Dad, friends and family, and spouses are usually great for providing the emotional support you’re looking for.
Honest feedback with helpful suggestions. The person providing the advice should take a good look at your setup and compare it to their own experience, and offer strategic solutions instead of empty words. They’ll often give you the tough answers and the awful truths; the information you need in order to move forward. They’ll usually be gentle with your feelings, but for the best results you need someone to be honest with you. They should be able to tell you when you’ve screwed up, because when you’re self-employed, your clients usually won’t tell you they’re unhappy – they’ll just leave.
Be warned – just because someone gives you advice, it doesn’t mean you have to follow it. Advice is free, but you usually get what you pay for. Look at the person sharing their wisdom and decide if their experience is applicable to your situation – but even if it’s not, don’t discount it completely. Listen to what they have to say and then make your own decision. You’re responsible for whatever choices you make, good and bad.
My advice to you? Find a good mix of supportive friends and professional contacts within your industry. Talk to them and use their feedback to make your own decision, and then act on it. Just remember – if you spend all your time talking to people about what you should do, you won’t leave yourself any time to actually do it. Make mistakes, but learn from them. But keep trying. It’s worth it.There’s a time to be supportive and a time to give advice. If you truly want to improve yourself and your business, seek advice. If you just need an emotional pick-me-up, choose support. The next time someone is complaining about their business to you, ask them if they want advice or support, and then give it to them. The people who only choose support won’t be in business for long, and the ones who ask for advice are usually forward thinking enough to take action. And then you get to look like a hero.