Do You Want Me To Come Over There and Chew Your Food, Too?
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that my business is getting bigger. Big enough that I have to subcontract some work out and I may be doing that more and more over the next couple of months. The bad news is that I have to hire a bunch of subcontractors to do some work for me, which really isn’t all that fun because I’m still in charge of what goes wrong.
At one point, I put out a Craigslist ad to round out the recommendations I was getting. I was surprised by some of the resumes that were showing up in my inbox. I’m being realistic about what I’m offering out there. In order to make it worth my time, it cuts down what I can offer subcontractors to a rate I wouldn’t expect someone with more than a year or two of experience under her belt to take. But I was getting emails from MBAs and industry vets.
I mentioned as much to a fellow freelancer and we had a conversation about why writers with far better credentials than mine would be trying to work for me for a rate I knew was for newbies. She said something that stuck in my craw about people not knowing where to find work and wishing that these freelance writing blogs would give more specific information about identifying prospects.
Now, I know she meant the blogs by freelance writing mentors that charge for their time and services, but it still bothered me. I’ve heard that said before and I even once wished the same thing when I was having my own trouble. But that was just me having a down moment. When I’m being clear headed, I know that expecting someone to hold my hand is ridiculous.
Not to sound all dramatic and whatnot, but we freelancers eat what we kill. I’ve likened it to the difference between a street cat and a pet cat in the past. As freelancers, there’s no one to put scientifically balanced kibble from stay fresh containers in our bowls. We have to go get it.
So sometimes when I hear other freelancers talking about how they want someone to tell them where to find the work, how to get the work, and how to do the work, I get mad. Because that’s like a lion saying she wants you to show you where the best giraffes are, show her how to take them down, and then serve her on a silver platter. What? You don’t need me to pre-chew the food up for you and place gently on your tongue, too?
Freelancing Isn’t Easy. Otherwise, Everyone Would Do It.
I’m of the school that nobody owes you anything, especially if you’re trying to own your own business. If someone wrote down a step by step plan for you to find clients, land clients, and service clients, that would be called an employee manual. . . because you would be working a job.
Now this isn’t to say that I don’t think we should help each other. We MUST help each other if we expect to succeed. No man is an island. . . even if he’s a freelancer. I just don’t think you should expect anyone to jump at the change to chew your meat for you. Sitting and wishing and waiting will get you exactly nowhere.
Here’s what helped me besides the usual blogs and books:
I made friends with people I wanted to be like. And not just making a few comments on their blogs or slinging tweets in their directions. I brought something to the table. I offered help when I could. I participated in the conversation in a meaningful way. I gave something valuable before I asked for anything in return. And as I showed I was worth interacting with I got a list of people I can email or call when I need help or advice.
I wrote. A lot. And some of it was bad. Some of it is still bad after all these years. But I keep doing it because the more I do it, the better it gets.
I failed. Over and over and over again. And I’m still failing. But every time I fail at something, I know what doesn’t work for me and I’m that much closer to figuring out what does.
I called strangers and asked for work. I also emailed strangers and asked for work. When someone told me they needed a writer for anything, I told them I was a writer. And then I asked for work. You get the pattern here.
I got used to the word no. Because I heard it a lot. Guess what? It didn’t kill me. And it made all the times I heard yes so much sweeter.
That’s what I think is really behind wanting to hear all the answers spoon fed to us. We want shortcuts. We’d rather not waste our time with all the failures. And we’re scared of the no we might hear. And the only thing I have to say to that is “Get over it.”