Category: Career Coaching


10 Lessons I’ve Learned From 10 Years of Freelancing

Last week I posted an announcement about the celebration of paNASH’s 10-year anniversary. In it I told how I started my freelance business, the fears I faced in leaving a secure job to go out on my own, and how my business’s mission has evolved.

Today, I want to share some of the freelance lessons I’ve learned over those ten years in working for myself. I hope they will serve as an encouragement to those who are thinking about starting their own thing, are new to the freelancing world, or have been in it long enough to have faced some common struggles.

Freelance Lesson #1

I had to be disciplined. Being your own boss requires A LOT of discipline. Why? Because there’s no one looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re showing up on time or getting your work done. Discipline has always come naturally to me, and I was raised by a former Marine Corps officer who further instilled this trait in me. This is not to say that discipline can’t be learned later in life. But the discipline required to work for yourself will make things easier if you’ve already mastered it through other methods such as playing a sport, sticking with a commitment, etc.

Freelance Lesson #2

I had to use my love for life-long learning. I’ve always loved learning new things. And I realized the need for constant learning when starting a business because “a skill does not a business make” according to my friend and colleague Melody Bowers, co-owner of VirtualCollective.

You need to either already have some business sense, or be disciplined enough (see lesson #1) and have the ability to learn it as you go while managing your other responsibilities. If there’s something you can’t learn, there’s always someone else who has the knowledge you can pay to either teach you or to do it for you.

Freelance Lesson #3

I learned it was normal to question my decision almost every single day. I also realized it was normal to feel like giving up on a regular basis when things got hard. But, once I began working in a way that was true and authentic to my own personal mission in life, those doubts and insecurities started to diminish. I became okay with the discomfort of a process that isn’t linear. Instead, it looks more like this:

freelance lessons

Entrepreneur Darius Foroux further explains the figure above in his encouraging article Don’t Quit When It Gets Hard. I love it when he says, “If you never feel like quitting, that means life is too easy and you need to take action in your life.”

Freelance Lesson #4

I learned I had the ability to figure out the logistics. It turns out the things that seem intimidating at first (i.e. getting a business license, paying for your own health insurance, tracking your income & expenses/P&L, etc.) aren’t really all that scary. In fact, a lot of this not-so-fun part of having your own business is easier than you think.

And Freelancers Union has made a lot of it very simple. They provide tips and resources on the logistics of running your own freelance operation and even provide access to affordable insurance.

Freelance Lesson #5

I learned what I’m worth. The toughest thing for me was figuring out my pricing. At first it was hard to know how much to charge. And even when I thought I knew, I then had to figure out which pricing model worked best. An hourly rate? A day rate? A package or retainer rate?

Like most people first starting out, in the beginning I was devaluing my skills and expertise. But, after I started getting clients and began listening to their feedback on the services they received, I started to better understand my worth.

Yes, it helps to look at your competition and the average rate others charge for the same service or product to get an idea of what you should charge. But, what helped me most was asking current and past clients if they would’ve paid more based on the value they’d already received. To my surprise, most of them said yes, and even some told me flat out I was undercharging.

Now, most people (both potential and current clients) say my pricing is reasonable and fair. It took some tweaking and trial and error, but now my pricing structure is in harmony with the service I’m providing.

Freelance Lesson #6

I learned when to say no. This included being selective of potential clients, turning down certain speaking gigs/presentation requests, not wasting my time with potential contacts who only wanted to talk about themselves but never wanted to listen or make the relationship mutually beneficial, discontinuing professional relationships when trust had been broken, etc.

This is difficult to do when first starting out. Especially when it comes to turning away money. But, I can tell you the times I listened to my gut and turned away the opportunities that weren’t the right fit for my business, I was always glad I did. And the times I didn’t listen to my gut, I always regretted it.

Freelance Lesson #7

I learned not to compare myself with others. My pastor’s wife always says, “Comparing yourself to others makes you either small or smug, and neither of those are good.” I realized because I do what I do in my own unique way, comparing myself to my competition is a waste of time because it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

The same is true for you because you also have your own unique way of delivering your service or product that no one else can duplicate. Instead of comparing, focus on what makes you and your brand solely yours. This is what becomes your selling point!

Freelance Lesson #8

I learned (and am still learning) when it’s time to shift gears. When learning to drive a stick, you start to develop a feel for when it’s time to shift gears. This doesn’t mean you won’t grind your gears on occasion.

The same is true in running a business or working as a freelancer. You’ll start to learn when to give something a little more time to grow before uprooting it. When to pull the plug on what’s not working. And when to simplify if you’re trying to do too much or be too many things.

This type of self-awareness can mean the difference between success and failure.

Freelance Lesson #9

I realized the real risk. At first I thought the obvious risk of starting my own thing was leaving the security of a full-time job with benefits. I was wrong! Since leaving my job at a prestigious university where there were constant hiring freezes and multiple firings, I’ve had more job security than ever before.

I’ve been able to develop the grit and skills required to work for myself and bring in a steady stream of clients, to supplement my income at times when the stream was unsteady, and to eliminate the salary cap I had at my previous job.

The only real risk I faced was potentially losing any or all desire to work for someone else again. Let’s face it. It’s pretty hard to go back to working for someone else after having worked for yourself. But if I ever had to again, I’d be very selective in who I worked for (see Lesson #6).

Freelance Lesson #10

I learned fear is inevitable. Fear is not a reason to not venture out on your own if it’s what you truly desire. Instead, it’s often an excuse. Everyone who’s ever done this has had some level of fear.

Do your research. Prepare (but don’t wait until you feel fully prepared because that will never happen!). Then push through the fear.

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paNASH is Celebrating Its 10-Year Anniversary!

Ten years ago today, I walked into the Davidson County Clerk’s office to get a business license for paNASH. I had no idea what I was doing since I’d never started a business before.

It was scary to say the least. But, I put one foot in front of the other, filled out the form, and paid my fee.

When I walked out I thought to myself, “Okay, this is real now. I have to do it.” My business license was more than just a little piece of paper. It was something tangible that was holding me accountable.

I started working hard on my business part-time while still working full-time. Nine months later I took a leap of faith and quit my cushy career advising job with benefits to pursue my business full-time.

paNASH’s Beginnings

paNASH originally began as an image consulting business working primarily with up-and-coming recording artists here in Nashville. I used my skills from my previous experience as a college career adviser to teach new artists how to present themselves in media interviews, to labels, and more. The additional wardrobe styling piece of the business served as a creative outlet for me at the time.

But after eight years, I started feeling restless in my business and it no longer felt right to me. I couldn’t yet put my finger on why, but I knew it was about to undergo some big changes.

I loved working for myself and knew I didn’t want that to change, but I was burned out on the original concept of the business. And, I’d become extremely frustrated with the way the music industry works. I loved my clients, but I was done with the constant frustrations.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was being called back to what I loved most and was best at, career coaching. Only this time, it was taking on a new approach. For the full story, read From Fashionista to Passionista.

paNASH

paNASH Today

Since making the change to my business nearly two years ago, I’ve been much happier. It thrills me to see my clients gain the confidence to pursue their own passions that have been lying dormant for so many years.

Although they face a series of common challenges while going through the process of pursuing their passions, they start to sense an excitement in the transition to a new life and career. They have a light in their eyes again.

And while I’m also happier, I still face some challenges in my own transition of the focus and mission of my business. One of those is still being thought of as an image consultant. I guess I did a really good job of establishing paNASH’s brand early on. Too good of a job! When you Google paNASH, there are still some things that pop up indicating image consulting. I’ve had to turn away several people seeking image consulting services.

But, I’m using the same branding strategy now that I did then to eventually replace my former brand. And it’s working. Just like it works for my new clients whom I’m teaching how to develop their own personal brand for their career and their lives.

The Importance of a Mission Statement

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s so important to have a brand and a mission statement for yourself. My personal mission statement is:

To boldly pursue my passions and purpose, and to teach, encourage, and inspire others to do the same, resulting in lives overflowing with joy, peace, and fulfillment.

This mission statement helps me to make better decisions regarding both my business and my personal life.

My business’s mission statement also aligns with my personal mission statement. When I changed the mission of paNASH nearly two years ago, it became:

To serve, educate, and encourage you by assisting you with the discovery and pursuit of your passions in a way that honors your purpose and your own vision for success, while amplifying who you are personally and advancing you professionally.

No matter what your goals are, I encourage you to also develop your own mission statement. To learn how, check out my on-demand program on personal branding (45% of proceeds go to Justice & Mercy International). You’ll be glad you did because once you’ve completed the program, you’ll be able to make better life and career decisions. Decisions that are true to your unique passions!

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5 Common Fears (and Myths) of Quitting a Job You Hate

You hate your job, but because of it you don’t have the time or energy to start the overwhelming process of finding something new. And you think you can’t quit it until you find another job. But is that really a true statement, or just common myth? Let’s look at some of the common fears most people have about quitting a job with nothing else lined up. Let’s challenge the assumptions that breed those fears.

Fear/Myth #1

I won’t be able to afford my bills. Is this a true statement? Do you have a little extra money stashed away you can get by on for a little while?

Are there some unnecessary expenses you can cut to help you pay your necessary bills? For example, could you sell your car and take the bus for a while? Or just park your car and cancel your insurance for a few months while taking the bus instead? Do you really need cable or a Netfilx subscription right now? Do you need numerous music subscriptions? Or can you just listen to good old fashioned radio?

Are there some things you no longer need you could sell? What about that treadmill the only gets used as a place to throw your clothes when you don’t feel like hanging them up (you know who you are!). What about the stack of books you’ve already read (or know you’re never going to read)? If you live alone, do you really need a TV in more than one room?

Are there some other ways you can earn cash like picking up some temporary side jobs or a part-time job? In addition, can you get a roommate and charge rent to help with some of your housing costs? Do you own something else others might want to rent on a short-term basis? Do you have a skill people will pay you to perform because of their lack of that skill?

Fear/Myth #2

I’ll lose my health insurance and retirement accounts. Not necessarily. If you leave your job you can always transfer your retirement over to an IRA where it can still earn some money and you can still contribute to it yourself a little at a time until you get your next full-time opportunity. The only thing you’ll be missing out on in the short-term is your company’s matching contribution.

When it comes to health insurance, you can visit ehealthinsurance.com to find temporary health insurance, alternatives to Obamacare, and more. If you happen to do a little freelancing on the side after leaving your job, you may qualify for very affordable insurance through the Freelancers Union at freelancersunion.org (also, it’s free to join the union!). I get my dental and disability insurance through them at very little cost per month.

Fear/Myth #3

It’ll look bad on my resume. Sure, if all you do is become a couch potato after quitting, it will look bad! However, if you use your time to improve your skillset, take some affordable online classes, do some side or freelance projects, volunteer with a local non-profit, raise money to travel on a mission trip, pursue a passion project, or work a fun part-time job, it’s not going to look bad at all.

Whatever you do, do something you find interesting. I’m sure if it’s something interesting to you, it could be interesting to the people who’ll eventually be interviewing you. Show on your resume what you’ve done and the skills and lessons learned from those interesting experiences. This will make your resume stand out.

Tim Ferris, author of the bestseller The 4-Hour Work Week suggests answering the interview question, “Why did you leave your previous job?” with, “I had an once-in-a-lifetime chance to do [interesting experience] and couldn’t turn it down.” He says because most interviewers are bored in their own jobs, they’ll spend much of the interview asking how you made it happen. You can then respond with how your skills and resourcefulness you used to make it happen will make you the person they should hire.

When I started phasing out my image consulting business due to burnout to decide if I wanted to return to career coaching or not, I worked a few weekends teaching beginner stand up paddling at my local SUP shop. If I’d had to go through a job interview following that experience, I can guarantee you I would pique the interviewer’s interest if I said, “I taught people the closest thing to walking on water.” Then, I would tell them about how I used my teaching and training skills to do so.

Fear/Myth #4

I need to have a “real job” instead of trying to freelance. Freelancing IS a real job! And it’s one of the fastest growing jobs in the country. Don’t believe me? Just check out this infographic courtesy of the Upwork.com and Freelancersunion.org:

quitting a job

Even if you have no plans to become a freelancer, you still need the skills of an entrepreneur to be successful in your next job. (Click here for a list of those skills.)

Fear/Myth #5

If I don’t quit now, I’ll never find a way out and will be stuck in my job forever! Not true! You may feel like you have to quit your job right away despite the fears listed above, but you don’t have to quit YET!

You can start creating an exit strategy now and implement it later when the timing makes more sense or if you’re not financially able to quit without having something else lined up. Yes, eventually you’ll have to rip off the band-aid and quit, but there are ways to be smart about it. I outline four ways to wisely plan your escape route in my previous post, “Don’t Quit Your Daydream (or Your Day Job)”.

How to Challenge Your Assumptions

Whatever your fears are about quitting a job you hate, I encourage you to challenge those fears and assumptions. Here are a few ways to do so:

  • Learn how to deal with limiting beliefs (the annoying inner critic that tells you, “You can’t do it!”). The process for dealing with limiting beliefs is available for free in the 8-Step Goal-Achievement Plan you’ll receive when you subscribe to the paNASH newsletter.
  • Talk to others who currently work in a job or career field you think you might enjoy. Find out from them the career path they followed to get there. You’ll likely find most people didn’t had a single direct career path that led them there. This will encourage and inspire you. Also, they may provide you some tips for making the transfer to that industry.
  • Take a weekday off from your job and spend the day doing job search activities just to get a feel for what that might be like. Update your resume. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with LinkedIn. Can’t take a day off work to do this? Use one of your non-workdays.
  • Put your resume out there and see what happens. Post your resume with no expectations. You’ll be able to see what kind of opportunities your current resume is attracting so you can figure out how to tweak it with the right keywords to attract better opportunities.
  • Write your resignation letter, but don’t send it. Just write it to help you get used to the idea of what may need to happen in the near future.
  • Dip your toe in the freelance water by offering your unique skills or expertise to a few friends or on sites like Fiverr.com or Upwork.com. Determine from these small assignments if you like working for yourself or not.

Make Time to Experiment

Feel free to find other ways to experiment with the idea of making a job or career change. Short-term experiments don’t have to financially break you and don’t require a huge commitment. In fact, these little experiments might be just the thing to provide a little breath of fresh air to your current dreadful situation. They can either help you hang on a little longer until you’re able to quit your job, or give you the courage now to go ahead and rip off the band-aid.

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Look Out! Here Comes a Truth Bomb About Your Resume

Truth Bomb:  Your Resume is Not About You!

Shock is the reaction I usually get when I say what I’m about to say. Your resume is not about you. Thinking it is, is one of the biggest mistakes people make when writing their resume. Here’s what I mean:

A few weeks ago, I was working with two different people to help them polish up their resumes. One was a client seeking a pay raise and promotion. The other was one looking for a new job following a downsize. Resumes for both clients had the same common mistake: they were void of any results or accomplishments from their past jobs or positions. This is a HUGE mistake because that’s the one thing people reviewing resumes are looking for the most!

When I first suggested to each client we add in some results of their past work so their resume doesn’t read like a generic job ad, one said, “I was just there to do a good job, I wasn’t seeking any kind of glory.” While this is a noble approach to good work, job seekers have to understand that including accomplishments on their resume is not about them. The moment you say, “I don’t want/like to brag,” is the moment you’ve made it all about you.

Resume Truth:  It’s about them!

Including results of your past work on your resume and talking about those results in an interview or a performance review IS NOT ABOUT YOU! It’s about what you can do for the company’s bottom line, which is all the hiring manager really cares about (typically and mostly).

Your resume should always speak to your audience’s pain points by showing how you can solve their problem. The way you show this is including the results and accomplishments you’ve had when solving similar problems in your previous jobs.

The reader knows that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. They’ll want to learn more about you if you can show how you’ve excelled in the past in problem solving. But you have to speak their language. And you must connect the dots between your past experience and your audience’s current needs.

How to Make It All About Them

In order to do this, you must know something about your audience. This is why you must research the company you’re applying to. This is also why you can’t rely on one blanket resume for each job.

It’s important to really analyze the job ad to figure out what they need from the new person in that role. Start by looking at what are the top 3–5 skills listed in the requirements for the job. Can you think of a specific time when you’ve demonstrated each skill? What was the result? Can you quantify the result? How did it impact the company’s bottom line?

  • Did it increase profit or revenue? By how much?
  • Did it decrease spending? By what percentage?
  • Did it save man hours? How does that translate to dollars saved?
  • Did it increase customer satisfaction or decrease customer complaints? By what percentage?
  • Did it make processes more efficient? How much time did this save?
  • Did it boost staff morale? How much did productivity increase with this boost?

By showing the byproducts of your good work, the hiring manager can infer that you can and will produce similar results for them. Not sharing those results will leave the manager wondering if you’ll be a productive and valuable addition to the payroll. Don’t leave your audience in the dark!

The result of including results

Defining your results and being able to articulate them tactfully is one of the biggest challenges of a job search or promotion negotiation, but there is help. I work in depth with my clients on how to properly word their results and accomplishments for both their resumes and their responses to interview questions.

By doing this, my clients gain a better understanding of their skillset and greater confidence in their net worth, resulting in successful salary negotiations, higher salary offers, and better promotions.

Are you looking to get hired, earn more, or advance in your career? If so, now’s the time to learn how to do it with a little paNASH! Click here to get started.

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How to Take Responsibility for Your Career Growth

Lately I’ve had several people contact me who’ve said,

“I can’t seem to move up in my career. I keep taking on the same low-level jobs and don’t know how to get out of this cycle and move up to something better. I feel stuck!”

Oftentimes there’s a simple explanation for this phenomenon. People take a lower-level job expecting to eventually be promoted to a higher level position, but never take action on their part to ensure this will happen.

The Cycle

The cycle goes like this:

  • You take a lower-level job telling yourself it’s a good foot-in-the-door and will provide an opportunity to grow in the company.
  • You keep your nose to the grindstone and continue to work hard, hoping your boss will notice how good of a worker you are.
  • You get passed over for promotion after the first year.
  • You’re two to three years in, however nothing’s changed.
  • You wonder why you’re still stuck in the same position and aren’t advancing.
  • You begin to feel unappreciated, so you decide to look for a job with a different company.
  • You only apply for the same level job you’ve been in because you think that’s all you’re qualified to do since you haven’t been promoted.
  • You accept the same level job at another company with the same hopes of growing and moving up in the company.

And then the cycle starts all over.

career growth

Photo by Priscilla Fong on Unsplash

Breaking the Cycle and Creating Real Career Growth

So how do you break this cycle? By taking responsibility for your own career growth.

The people in these cycles are in them because they didn’t take responsibility for their own career growth. They went in with no plan of their own and instead expected the higher ups to recognize their potential and promote them.

But, just like a job doesn’t fall into your lap, opportunities for advancement don’t either. You have to do your part to grow in your career. Below are ways to start, along with links to paNASH’s online programs that show you in more detail how to carry out each action (get 15% off each online program from Oct. 12-17 with discount code FALL2017).

In addition, paNASH provides a one-on-one personalized coaching track that focuses solely on career growth. The Career Growth Track provides you an in depth plan you need to break the cycle. Also, it’s perfect for those who’ve just started a new job. It includes:

  • Successful onboarding in your new job.
  • Preparation for promotion and advancement opportunities.
  • Progression and transition planning.
  • Methods for asking for a raise.
  • “Fire”-proofing yourself.
  • Maintaining joy and challenge in your career.
  • And more!

Don’t stay stuck!

Don’t stay stuck in your career! The power is in your hands to become unstuck. You just have to learn how to wield that power by following the suggestions above. We can help you do that in two ways:

  1. With paNASH’s on-demand programs available online (get 15% off each online program from Oct. 12-17 with discount code FALL2017)
  2. And, with the personalized, one-on-one Career Growth coaching track.

Contact paNASH today and break the cycle!

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