It’s all about attitude.
So, you quit your job. You’re on your own now.
Now you have to find new clients — build those relationships— learn sales — learn accounting — get in to the hustle. There are tons of articles out there about the logistics and skills of freelancing. But there aren’t too many about attitude.
And so, I present to you my *wildly idealistic, but that hasn’t stopped working for me yet* principles for success.
Make the people around you successful.
Client success is now your unshakeable core.
Remember. What you’re here to do is make other people successful.
Your clients, the people around you, your colleagues, your friends.
Throw opportunities at them. Believe in them with all your might. Boost them. Help them succeed.
This will benefit you too in the end. It might not be obvious how yet, but it will. Keep reading.
Make sure everyone knows what you do.
People can’t recommend you if they don’t know what you do.
Blast email everyone you know when you start your business.
Talk about what you’re doing.
To your colleagues, to your friends, to your barista, to your cousin’s girlfriend, doesn’t matter who. You don’t know who they’ll end up talking to next month.
Make it your goal that everyone who knows you could describe in a sentence what you do.
Talk about what you want to do. Tweet dumb ideas.
My friend Cecilia once told me that when she has a big problem, she tells everyone about it, until eventually someone has the information, or the connection, or the skills, or the idea, to help her fix it. Might take a week, might take six months — but it works every time.
You can do this to make big passion projects happen. Tell everyone, and eventually — it will come to life, one way or another.
Volunteer. And do favours.
Not because you want quid pro quo, but because you actually want to help.
I’ve almost never been bitten by this policy.
Almost never, because in the past I’ve put effort into something and ended up feeling taken advantage of. Maintain boundaries, and don’t work for free. There’s a big difference between volunteering and working for free.
Helping out without an agenda is — #1 — a guaranteed dopamine-releasing feel-good moment.
And #2 — it means you build a network of people around you who you’ve helped. One day you might ask them for help, and they might be glad to return the favour.
Maybe that day never comes. Doesn’t matter. Leave the world around you better than you found it.
Share your knowledge.
Speak at events.
Mentor enthusiastic people who want to learn things you know. (And remember, the best person to teach someone who’s at level 1 is often someone who’s at level 2. You don’t need to be an expert in everything to teach something.)
Have coffees with people who ask.
Contribute to the community. Get involved.
After a while, there will be all kinds of people who know you.
People who have learnt something from you will think of you as an authority on that subject, which might mean they’ll recommend you to someone later on.
People who read your blog might look you up a year later when their boss asks them who can come run a workshop.
Someone whose friend asks them if they know a designer might think back to that time they saw you on a panel, and mention your name.
Boost, don’t compete.
There’s plenty of space for all of us.
At least in the design community.
If you meet other people doing similar stuff to you, make friends with them.
Maybe there are ways you could collaborate. Maybe you just found someone to connect with over shared interests.
If you hear of a client you don’t have time for, refer them. Getting someone work will make them a friend for life.
Make friends, not enemies.
Find your mentors.
Everyone needs people to look up to. Especially us freelancers who don’t have managers.
So ask for advice.
Generally, people love this.
Nothing feels quite as good as being recognised as an expert in your field, by someone with a gnarly question.
To ask someone for advice, when you really need it, is to give them a kind of gift.
Most people feel really good when they can help someone with wisdom they’ve spent decades learning.
You get the good advice that will make you better. They get a feel-good conversation and a free coffee. Win-win.
Be someone people want to work with again.
Try to be easy to work with.
Try to be practical.
Try to be transparent.
Try to be friendly.
Try to like them, and be liked in return.
Don’t be a bizness badass.
Just be nice.
It’s pretty simple, really.