If the title misled you, no – this is not a post about a freelance driving style of sorts. There’s no such thing as freelance driving; not that I am aware of any way! Today I’ll show you how consistency helps you to succeed as a freelancer; just like it does to become a good driver.
In the beginning it is hard and scary.
I still remember driving in second gear around the block with high adrenalin levels as if I am in a high-speed street chase. I was terrified if I will be able to stop; do I really know where the front of my car ends; will I hit somebody… Worrying about stuff which was totally irrelevant to the scenario where I was driving around the block in second gear on a totally empty street.
It was pretty much how I felt when I was about to start working on a new freelance project. I was going through a lot of job posts, sending many cover letters, getting interview invitation once in a while… I kept worrying if I will complete the project with quality and on time (should one be awarded to me, that is); when is my electricity bill due, will I have enough money for the rent, and tons of other things which I shouldn’t worry about at that specific moment when I was trying to land a project to begin with.
Once you have mastered the basics, you become more confident and start doing things somewhat mechanically.
Second gear became third, I left my block and started driving around my neighborhood, and before I knew it, I was on the nearest highway way over the speed limit. (Just kidding – I always follow the rules and drive carefully.)
The bottom line is that I stopped paying attention to every single detail of what’s going on in the car. I didn’t think about gear shift, which foot goes on which pedal, which button on the dashboard does what, or what I see in which mirror. Everything fell into its place with time and practice.
It’s very similar with freelancing. After the 100th job post you read, it gets easier to decide which client or project is worth pursuing. After writing tons of cover letters, you no longer think how to start your email or what to include in it and why. You just do it.
And once you master the mechanics, you become braver and start making things happen.
Yes, you make things happen, it’s not a mistake. You don’t wait for things to happen; you create opportunities for these things to happen to you. Let me tell you a story.
My instructor (tried to) teach me how to park but I doubt anyone ever learned how to park during their driving lessons. I know I was far away from it. And one day, I had a very good real-life practice when I had to park in a very tight space in the city center. But here’s the twist – all I could see in my rearview mirror was a fast-going tram, whose driver had absolutely no intention to stop before hitting me. I put my car in that tight spot for seconds, I didn’t even think if it were possible and how I could do it. I just did. (True story!) Since then, I park very well, if you must ask, thank you.
Making progress with freelancing is pretty similar. If you wait for the right moment to come, you know – when you are really ready to do this; that moment will never come. There will always be something else to learn or improve. You will always find another thing you didn’t know and is yet to be revealed. You will always have another problem to solve.
But at this stage, this is no longer a problem for you because you have kept at it. The hard beginning is behind you. You know the mechanics of working from home and the only thing left is to grow.
You have accepted the fact that you do not know everything. You are ready to go find the solution to your problem. Not knowing the details of the solution is no longer a reason for you not to take a new project and solve a new problem. And that’s normal.
If you do something enough number of times, you start enjoying it. (Are you with me? Still talking about driving and freelancing…)
Ok, I drove in second gear around the block, then in third gear around the neighborhood, tested my car on the highway, and even managed to park in that tight spot without getting hit by a tram. What’s next?
What about a 10-day road trip to a foreign country? 2000 kilometers and I never once thought about my gear shift, how to turn my lights on, how to wipe my windshield when it started raining. I even turned my radio on and talked to the passengers in the car, while driving on a highway… how crazy is that?!
As you might have guessed already, freelancing is pretty similar. Once you accept you are the master of your time and learn how to take responsibility for your work and actions, you start enjoying the process.
You want to read and learn new things. You like browsing the internet and looking for new clients. You choose them based on the quality of their websites and company values. You actually enjoy writing them emails and showing them how much value you could bring to their business.
What’s more important, you start living your freelance life the way you want, just because you can! In other words, you start discovering the real meaning and joy of being a freelancer.
But remember this is a process. You cannot become a good driver or a successful freelancer overnight. Both take time, patience, persistence and practice.
Sometimes you make mistakes.
Once I scratched my left mirror when I was parking in an underground garage because I got distracted. One other time I cracked my left break light because I didn’t see a garbage can behind my car. (In my defense, it was as dark as I would imagine a pre-historic cave would be!)
And so what? I did some driving mistakes. I called my insurance company, got them fixed and moved on. I know better now not to get distracted in confined spaces when driving; or to pay more attention to my surroundings when it’s dark.
I learned my lessons and they didn’t make driving less enjoyable in any way. It’s the same with freelancing.
From time to time you may enter a contract with a bad client. Or you may miss a deadline. You may even submit mediocre work if you were sick or something. It’s all good as long as you analyze the reasons for the mistakes you do. Learn your lesson and move on. Never make the same mistake twice and you’re golden.