Way back in 2013, only a mere 3 months after taking the plunge, I wrote a post titled 3 Things I’ve Learnt 3 Months Into Self-Employment. 33 months later, I wanted to pass on 3 more things I’ve discovered now that I have a longer-term view of freelancing life, and I also thought that it might be interesting to revisit the initial 3 things I blogged about – to see if they’re just as true/more true/less true – now that a whole bunch of time has passed…
3 Things I’ve Learnt 3 Years On
Alrighty then… Let’s go.
1) You can’t say “yes” to everything
As you’ll see below (or here), the #1 of my original ‘3 Things’ was also about saying “yes” – but it was from the other person’s perspective. This time it’s about me saying yes.
You often hear the common wisdom that is to “say yes to everything.” A guy I know and look up to on the Cardiff entrepreneurship scene admitted to me that he follows this course, saying yes to absolutely everything/anything that comes his way and never turning anything down.
But you know what? That’s borderline foolish. (Sorry person-referenced-above-who-I-have-now-insulted…)
Because when you say yes to something, you could be saying “no” to something else.
So while you can say yes to everything, you probably shouldn’t. Our time is finite, so if you agree to do something and it takes x hours to do, you can’t save or reuse those hours on something else (unless you sacrifice time from something else, such as time spent on a hobby, with family/friends, or sleeping). What if you say yes to something good, but then something great comes along, and you can’t do the great thing because you’re busy doing the good thing? That would suck, wouldn’t it?
You have to be careful about what you choose to do and not just say yes to things willy-nilly. It may seem harsh and even cruel to say no to certain things, but you have to be careful and tactical with your time.
I certainly feel like I’m getting better at this, especially in the past year or so.
2) Do away with distractions
Early on in my freelancing career, I was a moderator for Inbound.org for a time. I took to the moderating quite obsessively, upsetting some people in the process (but that’s a whooole other story…!), before quitting for good. While I was doing it though, I noticed that I was doing it a lot. To touch upon the above point, our time is finite. I could’ve spent that time differently – especially in the early days of freelancing.
I don’t regret it too much though. The whole upsetting-people thing aside, I made a lot of great contacts and friends in the SEO industry while I was living and breathing Inbound.org, and it helped to get my name out there. Hell, I’ve not contributed on there for years and yet I’m still in their Top 50 all-time members as I type this, hah!
…But at the same time, it wouldn’t have helped with sales or client acquisition, at a time when that was absolutely crucial to focus on. Obviously I did ok in the end (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this!) but it might’ve been a much smoother ride if it’d been distraction-free.
So, if you’ve got any distractions in your life, try and put them to one side. (He says, still absolutely obsessed with Twitter… We’ve all gotta have at least one vice, right? Right.)
3) The community around you is so, so important
I harp on about them all the time (most likely to the point of causing boredom and sickness), but I love Welsh ICE more than I can explain. The coworking space and startup community just outside Cardiff has been pivotal to my freelancing success.
When I first looked into coworking, I thought it consisted of just three things: a desk, coffee, and WiFi. Oh and I knew that I’d go stir-crazy it I worked from home all day everyday, spending every waking minute talking to my cats. But there’s been much more to it than that: I’ve had support from members (whether it be dedicated mentoring sessions or a simple pick-your-brains moment with someone who’s been-there-and-done-it); I’ve networked with members; members have passed on referrals to prospective clients; members have become clients (including the space itself!); I’ve hired members to do things for me; we’ve collaborated on projects together; and so on. I’ve also made a bunch of friends up there (aww).
I’ve read (well, listened to) quite a few books recently, and most of them have said that you need to surround yourself with positive people and not negative people. Places like ICE aren’t perfect for sure, and I don’t get on with absolutely everyone (because life just ain’t that perfect), but there’s certainly more of the former than the latter. And their on-going support has been really important to me.