5 Things I have learned turning from a banker into a freelancer.
I can’t believe it has been a year since #Week 1 already! The past twelve months have gone by so fast. Many things have happened, mainly positive ones, and I have learned a tremendous amount. Time to reflect and share my most valuable lessons with you.
1. You -can- do it.
Self-confidence, I can’t stress enough how important this is. Especially if you’re looking to change careers completely, you need to believe in your own ability to do things and be willing to prove it. Often, people might choose someone else over you to do a certain project because of that person’s previous experience or the ‘right’ background. As unfortunate as this may be, it’s the reality we live in. All the more reason to have a healthy dose of faith in yourself; if you don’t, no one else will!
In order to show future clients your potential, it’s a good idea to create a portfolio of your own. In my case, I wanted to write and do more creative work. A blog was the perfect place to start; I could write about anything and develop my skills. One year in, it has become a platform not only for my own posts, but also for the articles I write for other websites. Whenever I speak to someone about writing content for them now, at least I have something I can show them.
2. The power of networking.
Ask people to grab a coffee with you. It might be 2016, a lot of things still happen through people’s networks. This might not seem fair, nor the way it should be, but it is what it is so you better make the best of it. When I say networking I don’t mean go to every big event you can find and try to get a conversation going with complete strangers. Networking can be as simple as going for a coffee with a friend of a friend that does something you’re interested in, or an ex-colleague that started his own company.
I try to speak to someone new at least every other week and doing so has served me well. You might not be able to do something for one an other immediately, but who knows what the future will bring. It happened to me a few times already that someone I’d spoken to a couple of months before came back to me with a potential project to work on. Even if nothing comes out of it, you might still be able to refer someone else and do a little bit of matchmaking on the side!
3. Take risks.
Nothing’s ever changed by staying in your comfort zone. Trying to build up a career in a completely different industry takes a lot of hard work, perseverance and boldness. You’re going to do things you’ve never done before, stuff you have zero experience in. You need to be willing to learn fast and adapt to circumstances that are new to you. Obviously that is super scary.
The first paid freelance project I did made me feel hugely excited and terrified at the same time. What if I would mess it up? Wouldn’t it be best to tell them I couldn’t do it after all rather than hopelessly fail? I initially did try to get out of it but luckily for me, the people I was doing the job for insisted I’d give it a go. Not only did I exceed my own expectations, the experience taught me an important lesson as well. Whenever a new project comes on my path now, I know that if it makes me feel both super excited and terrified, I need to go for it.
4. Work for free.
Yes, it really says you should work for free. Don’t immediately think about money, invest yourself in projects you believe in first. There are numerous ways you can do this. Try to figure out how you can support a business in a way that benefits both the company and you; where do you think you can be of added value to them? Are you good with social media? Write a social media strategy for them or give them a few suggestions of things you think they could do better. Do you love business development? Do some research and present them with new potential customer groups to target.
A slightly different way of doing things is not to work for free, but to work for a salary or day rate that is significantly lower than your ‘usual’ rate. Accept that you’re in the middle of a process of changing careers. Any company or person that gives you an opportunity to do what you love is giving you a chance to improve yourself. Bear in mind that by doing so, they are taking a risk; you’re not the best version of yourself in this field (yet). So in return, it seems fair that you work for a lower rate, at least for a certain period. By the time you do your next project, you’ve become better at what you do and thus your rate can go up accordingly.
5. The value of money.
“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates and a monthly salary” Nassim Nicholas Taleb said. A brilliant quote, and very true. When you know you get your salary anyway, regardless if you work a lot or very little, you don’t fully appreciate the value of it.
Ever since I’ve had to ‘win’ my own business, I realise how difficult it is to keep a company going, to make it profitable. That’s why whenever I get to work on a new, paid project, I’m extra proud. When the time comes to send out the invoice I’m one of the happiest people around. The satisfaction that comes with generating your own business and literally -earning- your own money is probably an addiction too, although I’m not sure if it’s the fourth harmful one 😉