In my experience as an employee and a freelancer of almost 15 years combined, I’ve encountered hundreds of people, from all walks of life, and yet, all of them had one thing in common.
Do you know what that was?
The need to have someone to guide them as they make their first steps.
That’s exactly the role of the mentor or coach, should you decide to find one.
Some say the best method to help your baby to start walking is by holding their hand and helping them walk around for longer distances, thus encouraging them to improve balance and confidence to get to places on two feet. I am no expert in raising babies but the same approach is true for every professional taking on a new job. It’s no coincidence there usually is a supervisor to train them in the basics of the new job.
Starting as a freelancer is no different.
You may be an expert in your professional area but this doesn’t mean you are good at freelancing, not when you are getting started anyway. So you need that someone to hold your hand and guide you as you make your first steps; as you gain the confidence that you can indeed pull it off and succeed as a freelancer.
That is what I do with this blog – hold hands and help people change their lives. But you know what the funny part is?
This could work only if you really want to succeed as a freelancer.
I have seen my fair share of wanna-be freelancers.
There were those who came to me thinking I have a secret formula of some kind to help them succeed overnight. I have also seen plenty of people who are too shy to ask for help, as if feeling embarrassed that there is something they cannot or don’t know how to do; or worse – thinking they were not worth my time to help them. And yet, there were those who were not afraid to ask for help; they were not embarrassed to say “I don’t know it all, can you help me get there?”
The latter are usually the people who are passionate about becoming freelancers and do in fact succeed as such. I was looking for that type of people when I announced my Freelance 101 Coaching Contest a few weeks ago. And I am happy to say I found my three lucky winners. I’ll announce them in the end of the post so read on.
Nevertheless, I would like to share with you three lessons I have learned along the way and realized just now, during the past few weeks when gathering applications.
#1 – I cannot help those who don’t want my help.
Being a freelancer for over five years, I mostly blog on topics which would be interesting or helpful to somewhat advanced freelancers. As I blog from experience and get inspired from my daily life, I realize my tips are not always suitable for starting freelancers.
I am planning to change that by adding a section for new-comers and starting to share more Freelance 101 tips. Nevertheless, I was surprised to find that although thousands of people saw my contest updates, only 1% of the people who read my Freelance 101 Coaching Contest post actually had the courage to enroll.
Sure, I made it hard to apply but getting started isn’t easy. If one wants to succeed as a freelancer, answering five questions to get the help they need shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. And yet, it was, for many, apparently.
Hence my lesson – maybe I did something wrong when running the contest (that is yet to be learned), but I can help freelancers only if they want me to help them.
If you are not ready to get the help you need, no mentor or coach can help you.
#2 – To achieve freelance success, you should really want to change your life for good.
I remember as if it were yesterday, when I first stumbled upon a forum posting about oDesk (now Upwork). The freelance seed was planted in my mind but the information was scarce. I had to figure out everything on my own. I made tons of initial mistakes. I was lost more often than not. At times I wished there was someone to tell me how they did it. There wasn’t.
When I did figure it out, I started sharing my experience online, hoping I’ll help someone out there who asks the same questions that I did; hoping to be their someone who’d tell them how I did it.
I still remember the first thank-you letter I received in my mailbox – I didn’t know the guy, he never emailed me before, he never left a comment on my blog either. But he was reading everything I shared and putting my tips into practice. He was passionate about what he did for a living and he wanted to change his life. And he did. And he thanked me for playing such an important role in his life – for showing him the endless opportunities he had in front of him, should he dare to act on any of them.
And I still remember the first thank-you digital card I received in my mailbox. This time, it was a girl, doing a job she hated while having skills she didn’t know how to make money from. I showed her how and she did change her life, for good.
There were many thank-you emails after that and it’s darn good to feel appreciated; to know that I am making a difference simply by sharing online what I know. But I realized that it was them, all along. That no matter how much I share or how attentive I am to my “freelance students”, it’s they who make the leap and do what it takes to succeed. I’m merely a tool in their hands.
So if you really want to change your life for good, maybe a mentor or coach is what you need to kick-start your freelance career.
#3 – I cannot help everyone
Please, don’t take this the wrong way. I love ALL of my blog readers – newbies or experienced, from every country around the world, with all kinds of profession, with various personal or professional problems, with different reasons to go freelance – I love you all. I share my experience and everyone is welcome to read, ask questions in the comments section or via email, I will help everyone to the best of my abilities. Changing one life at a time is what I like most about blogging, mentoring and coaching.
However, when it comes to one-on-one coaching and helping individuals to start or improve their freelance careers, that’s when I can’t help everyone. And it’s not that I don’t want to, I am simply cautious of what students I take on.
I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes we figure it out as we go because every person is different. I always offer personalized approach and that’s why it’s so important for me to see the passion in you when I agree to help you personally.
If you have the drive to succeed, I can guide you. If you don’t have it and see freelancing as merely the last possible exit of a miserable life, then I might not be the right mentor or coach for you because I strongly believe freelancing should be done by choice, not by circumstances. To benefit from my help – you should believe in that, too. And if you do believe in it, you will be passionate about it. It’s that simple.
Be wary of know-it-all mentors and coaches. It’s impossible for a single person to help everyone.
What I cannot do for you as a mentor or a coach
- I cannot decide for you how to live your life
- I cannot tell you how much to charge for your services
- I cannot hire you for a project to kick-start your freelance career
- I cannot refer you to my clients because you really want to succeed as a freelancer
- I cannot give you a list of things you should do to guarantee your success by the end of the week
(No joke, I have been asked all of these, on many occasions by different people.)
A few things I can help you with as a mentor or coach
- I can help you set goals
- I can guide you through figuring out your value proposition and forming your pricing strategy
- I can provide structure to your approach from start to the life you want
- I can narrow down your ideal client profile and teach you how to get noticed
- I can stand by you while you try new things, and evaluate with you best practices you should adopt as you move forward and grow
I don’t have a magic wand. I can only help you reach so far as you are prepared to go.
Without further ado, the three people with whom I’ll have a 60-minute one-on-one Skype call to help them get started are Ron Warne, Mariken Zuydgeest, and Razvan Coca.
If they allow me to, I will share their stories further down the road – what their problems were, how we worked together, and what happened after our session.
Thank you all for reading. And thank you all who had the courage to enroll. I hope my blog keeps helping you in the future.
Thank you for this.
I would like to move into freelancing, so much so that I have subscribed to your newsletter!
You have made many great points;
you cannot help those who do not want to be helped, you cannot refer us to clients.
At times we expect far too much from coaches/mentors, failing to realise that we often have the answers but need help to bring them out.
Diana Marinova says
Hi, Phoenicia – thanks for stopping by. Moving into freelancing can be a challenging but liberating process! Since you joined my list you will be getting a series of introductory emails to help you make the most of my blog. Nevertheless, let me know if I can assist you in some way along the way 😀
I applaud you for being at this as long as you have. I hope to have those kind of years behind me soon too.
I agree that at some point and time we all need a coach and/or mentor. I started my consulting business probably about two years ago now only because my readers really wanted my help. They reached out to me which of course was so touching. I never expected to get into this area but it’s worked out really well for me because I’ve done the work and gotten such great results that more and more people wanted the same type of advice, help and support.
I’m not a freelancer though, I think that’s really hard work but I’m not really a writer. Okay, not in that sense at least although most consider me one.
I’m sure the contestants that you chose will be very happy and I wish them all the very best.
Diana Marinova says
Hi, Adrienne – I hear ya! I too started blogging, and coaching, and writing books because readers wanted me to answer the same questions over and over again, so I decided to save them some time. It is best when it happens like this – and I congratulate you for a successful consulting business 😀
As for not being a writer – people always try to convince me that if I blog and write books, I am a writer but I totally understand what you mean, because I continue to consider myself not-a-writer, “at least not not in that sense” as you put it 😉
I think it is one of the world’s biggest irony that so many people say they want help, but bottom line, they are unwilling to change things that are blocking them or they are too arrogant to take some judicious advice. Often, they call themselves rule breakers! And that makes me laugh!
Diana Marinova says
Oh, Jacquie – a spot-on comment, thank you for articulating so well exactly my thoughts 😀
Razvan Coca says
Because we can only experience world from our state of mind.
Diana Marinova says
True that, Razvan! Thanks for stopping by in the comments section as well 😀
Mariken Zuydgeest says
When trying to figure things out while thinking about and setting up a freelance business, at some point things can become quite overwhelming. Having some help from someone who has done it, gotten through it already and actually made it, is empowering and helps to secure the feeling that you can do it too.
No matter how many times you run your plans and ideas by your friends, spouse or any other related person, it (often) takes an outsider looking in to give you the (maybe harsh) honest truth about your thinking. I am very excited and glad to have made it to the winners of this contest and am very happy to have started this process.
Diana Marinova says
Hi, Mariken – inviting an outsider in your life and letting him or her dissect your work and plans takes guts. Your courage and determination were part of why you made it to the final list of three. Looking forward to helping you grow 😀
Jeannette Paladinoj says
When some people say they want a mentor, they really want the mentor to do the hard work for them. Freelancing is really hard and many freelancers I know have never made a go of it. Two reasons: they didn’t know what they were selling and they underpriced their services. These are the two big mistakes new freelancers make in my view.
Diana Marinova says
You are so right, Jeannette – on all counts. Thanks for summarizing so well a few key issues I too see in starting and wanna-be freelancers. No escape from hard work, that’s fr sure!