Success and the gentle art of remaining present
If you’re doing this freelance thing, you’re face-to-face with the temporal nature of all things, especially work. Heavy, right? I mean, it’s temporary for everyone, of course, but by living like this, you’ve chosen to embrace the uncertainty. That’s pretty cool.
When you don’t know what’s around the corner, every new job is a thrill. You’re hungry for it, and that keeps you fresh. That raw desire to succeed is often why freelancers get called.
But that temporal thing is terrifying, too. As a freelancer, the best way to manage the uncertainty is to keep work coming, and that takes remaining part of the world your contacts inhabit. Because your biggest obstacle isn’t your competition, it’s your contacts’ memory.
If you’re forgotten, you’ve already lost the job.
So much of success boils down to simply remaining present. Being there when there’s a need for your services makes you a possible solution. Here’s how to pull it off:
If you’re not on LinkedIn, you should be. When you post an article, add a new skill or make a new contact, your name pops up in LinkedIn emails. It keeps you present without being an intrusion and strengthens your brand by demonstrating that you’re an active member of the community.
Plus, it’s a way for contacts to reach you if you don’t already have a direct connection through email. I’m surprised by how often I get contacted through LinkedIn Messaging.
Be where they are
Clients on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter? Stay active there, too. By way of example, an art director I know just happens to be a talented cartoonist. He regularly posts his creations on Facebook, which serves the additional purpose of reminding us of how talented he is.
Create a persona your contacts see as helpful or valuable to the industry. Perhaps that means posting useful articles on LinkedIn. Maybe it means sharing noteworthy examples of your craft or emailing a brief newsletter with tips on how to improve efficiency in your area of expertise.
Heck, you might even write a blog about, say, freelancing…
Shake the contact tree
When you’re slow, reach out to your contacts with polite reminders that you exist. Keep your tone light and your message brief to avoid demanding too much of them.
Sometimes it takes weeks and months for something to come through. The important thing is that they think of you when it does.
An oldie but a goodie. A holiday card or congratulations on a new job make thoughtful gestures, as long as your message is sincere. A greeting is not an opportunity to sell yourself, which will be seen for what it is – crass and opportunistic.
Stay gold, Ponyboy
Dang, I love the novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, maybe because as a freelancer, and in life too, I often feel like an outsider. My tendencies toward introversion aside, I cling to the notion that whatever good reasons you have to be bitter, angry and mistrustful, it is possible to maintain your essential goodness and “stay gold.”
Staying gold is the “gentle” part of remaining present. Your positive attitude makes you a pleasure to have around – and it’s a valuable part of what you bring to the table. Your negative emotions are normal and healthy but keep them out of your work-related communications. When you make people feel bad, you’re the last one they’ll call.
Embracing the temporal life requires a Zen-like acceptance of unpredictability. Having said that, you have some control over how things turn out. Remaining present – and well-positioned for opportunity – helps keep you successful.