I hate repetition.
I’ve always been just a little jealous of people who can eat the same thing every day or get up and do the same workout every single morning. Me? I’d get so tired of my morning commute that I had to switch up the route I took to work every few days.
Freelancing though has forced me to face the importance of being consistent.
Habits aren’t just powerful. In some cases, they’re absolutely necessary to reshape behaviors and mindsets we’ve picked up over the years so that we can actually succeed as independent professionals. I learned pretty quickly that while goals were helpful, they’d only take me so far. That’s because of something that’s true for pretty much all us freelancers. It’s something that holds a lot of us back and that’s downright painful to admit…
Most of our business goals just aren’t based on actual information.
Trust…they’re strong on hope, passion, drive, but reality? That’s in short supply. I burned thousands on my first internet business because my goals weren’t based on actual market size or customer feedback. They were based on my love for a community, my excitement in starting a new project, and the hype of a few acquaintances. When I started freelancing a couple years later, I’d learned my lesson and started working information into my regular life.
I did that through some specific habits and I want to pass those on to you right now.
Read Business News
This is something I did a LOT in business school but completely stopped while employed, mostly because I didn’t need to. My company was doing all the marketing and filtering of industry information I needed, so I could just coast along, focused on my little corner of corporate responsibilities.
As a freelancer, I don’t have that luxury.
If I’m not keeping up with what’s going on in my niche at least once a week, I’m cutting myself off. I don’t know the challenges my clients are dealing with and I have no idea where the really great potential for growth is for me as a freelancer. Plus, being Black, a lot of the latent estuaries of business information that help propel White freelancers’ careers are cut off from me.
A consistent habit of actively engaging that same information though can help confront the issue directly.
Read sources like Business Insider. Follow trade magazines and organizations in your niche. Have newsletters sent to your inbox (automation is your friend) and carve out a little time to at least skim them. It might be dry sometimes, but business news really can be interesting if you immerse yourself. Most importantly though, it’s what will fuel your growth as a freelancer.
Envision An Audience
This is kind of abstract, but it’s one of those habits that easily becomes a reflex and pays off in ways that compound.
A lot of us blog, tweet, and write emails purely from our own motivations. The problem there is, except for a very, very, VERY select few of us, people aren’t giving us money or attention to hear our random thoughts. They pay us to help them solve business problems, and it’s close to impossible to do that if you’re not practiced in seeing things from a different perspective.
Before you write, call, or create a new service, ask yourself a few questions…
- Who am I talking to?
- What’s making their life most difficult right now?
- What do they want?
- What gets their attention?
These questions are the foundation of getting better responses, connecting with your clients, and figuring out how to position your freelance skills.
State Your Purpose
Just like the last point, I do this before every email or blog I write…even before conversations. I choose just one, primary outcome and make sure I can articulate that.
Purpose is powerful, and it’s something you need to understand as a freelancer, so practice asking “why” more often.
If you’re anything like me, your habits can use a little help, so right now (seriously, right now) set up three reminders…on your phone, in your planner, or your calendar, even on an index card on your bathroom mirror. (This newsletter will be helpful too.) Give yourself some sort of queue to keep these habits up over the next three months and see what they do for your freelance business.