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3 big mistakes creative freelancers make with their careers

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3 big mistakes creative freelancers make with their careers

Ah, the life of the creative freelancer. Waking up at noon, taking on only the projects that excite you, working only when you’re inspired… Okay, it’s nothing like that. But the way I see it, if you’re a writer, artist, photographer, web designer or another creative type, working as a freelance professional is more rewarding and fun than just about every other way to make a living.

Which isn’t to say it’s easy to be a freelancer. Building and maintaining a successful practice is damn hard work. And you’ll almost certainly encounter some huge, career-jeopardizing pitfalls along the way. It’s best to learn about those pitfalls now, so when you face them in your business you’ll be prepared to maneuver around them.

You don’t want to make any of these mistakes. They can really slow your progress in growing your business. Trust me. I’ve been a creative freelancer for almost 20 years, and I’ve made one or two of these mistakes myself, more than once. (Alright, all of them.) (Alright, alright – a lot more than once.)

1. Taking professional criticism personally.

This one is hard to avoid. After all, as a creative pro, you probably identify yourself personally with your work – or your art, as I’m guessing you think of it. One of the most common – and career-threatening – mistakes I see freelancers make is failing to take a client’s criticism professionally and objectively.

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Sometimes freelancers mistakenly think they need to stand their ground and argue for their original vision; other times they just become belligerent and hostile. But remember: There are a lot of freelancers out there, and no client has to keep hiring one who makes their life difficult.

But if you see your work as your calling, as an extension of you, how can you not take it personally when a client criticizes it?

My advice? Always remember that it’s not personal. It’s a piece of work you’ve been commissioned to create by a client who’s paying you for it. Of course, you should put your best effort into every assignment you receive. And you should never turn in work you’re not confident will delight your client. But remember, it’s their end product, not yours.

And if a client is underwhelmed by your first draft? Take their suggestions, requests – and, yes, even their criticism – professionally and cheerfully. Then bang out a kick-ass second draft.

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2. Delivering subpar work to smaller or less-significant clients.

There’s a great scene in the old Miami Vice TV series, where Detective Sonny Crockett is standing in a hospital operating room with a doctor who’s about to perform surgery on a kid the detective mistakenly shot.

“That kid,” Crockett says to the surgeon, “is the president of the United States.”

If you want success and longevity as a freelance professional, think of every client you land, no matter how small, as Google. Imagine that for every assignment you work on, the company’s CEO is waiting to review it. Many freelancers do just the opposite. They give less than their best to a client or project they deem too small or otherwise unimportant.

I can’t imagine a time in history when this tactic made good business sense. But today, in the era of social media, when everyone essentially has a microphone, how could it be anything but totally self-destructive?

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Even the smallest companies you work for, even the lowest-paid assignments you accept, still represent opportunities to delight a client, to earn a great endorsement or testimonial, to win referral business and to get better at your craft.

3. Developing too narrow an area of expertise.

This one might seem controversial. No one wants to hire a generalist, according to conventional wisdom. Many experts tell newbie freelancers that we need a specialty, a niche. So you focus, and you become a great writer of press releases for medical device companies. And before long, you have a beautiful, extensive portfolio of press releases for medical device companies. No other types of writing. No experience in other industries.

Yes, you can use an area of specialty as a differentiator for your business. Gaining knowledge in a particular industry can separate you from the freelance pack. So can developing expertise at a specific skill within your freelance practice – white-paper writing for copywriters, for example, or shooting executive headshots for photographers.

But if you want to enjoy a long professional life as a freelancer, you need to go both deep and broad. Carving out a niche for yourself as a healthcare writer is smart, but you’ll also want to be able to show a prospective new client in another field – technology, financial services, transportation – that you can write for them too.

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So don’t get complacent. Even if you’ve already got plenty of work in your current field, stay alert for opportunities to do new types of work, for new clients, in new industries. Always be open to a chance to broaden your expertise, to enrich your portfolio… and to do more great work.

To your success!

Featured photo credit: Man Typing Laptop With Retro Camera and Coffee / Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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robbie hyman

Copywriter

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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