Have you ever read a really useful how-to book, then never took action on what you learned?
How about an online course?
You finished an online course and thought to yourself, “Nah, this all sounds like a good idea, but honestly it’s too much work.” Or the opposite, “I don’t think I know enough to get started, so maybe I should take ANOTHER course.”
If you have, please know that you’re not alone. Keeping momentum going is not an easy feat. But it’s the best thing you can do for your business to stand a chance.
Here’s are six tips from Deborah Fingerlowe on what to do after you take an online course.
It was a fantastic beginning. Each day, you had a task set out for you to do. You knew where to begin and there was a hard stop. Sure, some of the action steps required made you step out of your comfort zone, but overall, you were feeling super successful.
This freelancing thing wasn’t as hard as you thought it would be.
Being a freelancer or an entrepreneur is a double-edged sword. Yes, you most certainly have all the freedom. And yes, you also have all the responsibility because, after you take that writing course, or that VA course, it’s up to you to decide what to do.
Here are the things I found helped after I finished taking the 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success online course.
1. STOP! Focus and Breathe.
The online course is over, and it’s time to take action. Realize that it’s up to you now.
Like everything else in life, the key is breaking the tasks into manageable steps and maintaining focus on the job at hand.
As a freelancer, the world is your oyster, and the path is littered with shiny objects.
Should I get a website? How about a blog? Business cards? More classes? Webinars? Social media?
And then a friend of a friend heard about an opportunity to try something that’s not quite in your wheelhouse, but since things may be slow in the beginning, maybe that’s not such a bad idea …
A freelancer is not a jack-of-all-trades.
It’s an easy trap to fall into; we have the urge to hustle. And you should hustle, but do so wisely.
You took the time to decide on a niche that you thought would work best for you, right? Give it a chance and stay in your lane. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to branch out, but first you need to develop your own brand and your own space.
How? High tech or old school, the choice is yours. Notebook, wall calendar, Best Self Journal (hey thanks, Gina Horkey) or any mobile device.
(Gina’s Tip: If you’re still undecided about a niche, we’ve put together a list of 200+ freelance writing niches to help you make up your mind – or get some inspiration.)
2. Be Specific with Your Choices.
A key to forging ahead on your plans is to choose meaningful, measurable goals.
Don’t make your plans easy to ditch, like all those new year’s resolutions. Now that the course is over, you can’t slide back into old habits.
Find a place to work and show up to actually do the work. Set up this time as you would any appointment. Don’t fit it in between a few other chores. Don’t tell yourself you’ll double down after you miss a couple of days. (Chances are, you won’t.)
As an entrepreneur, your very first step is to show up.
Once I finished course work, I took a day and cleaned out the old home school classroom. I set up my computer, found all the necessary power cords, sharpened a pencil or two and declared the area “mine.”
If you want to be taken seriously, you have to take yourself seriously first. Choose something that inspires you and make certain you can see it every day.
3. Take Some Time to Set Up the Business Side.
“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Isaac Asimov
This is one of my favorite quotes, and it’s a constant reminder not to overthink things.
Work space? Check!
Establish working hours? Check!
There will be aspects of freelance work that you won’t like. That’s okay; it’s still part of the package.
As an employee, your job was set for you. It didn’t matter whether you loved it or hated it. The work had to get done.
I’m a writer. I love to craft stories that engage the reader, stories that are memorable. But the truth is that there is much more work to do that isn’t immediately evident and that I don’t enjoy nearly as much.
Keeping track of business expenses. Doing admin work, such as setting up Google Voice and a mailing address for the business. Mastering the mechanics of my personal online portfolio. Learning WordPress and setting up a website.
While all these things are invisible, they are also vital to my business. Taking the time to learn it all correctly the first time out the gate will save me the anguish in the long run, but it’s a major time crush in the beginning. Plan for it.
4. Toughen Up.
Develop a thick skin, more than you think you need.
While what you’ve accomplished so far prepares you for the task at hand, rejection therapy awaits.
You craft the perfect cover letter, attach the required documentation and wait. If you’re responding to a specific call for assistance, realize you will be one of many. You may not get any response back. You may get rejected outright. You may be addressed by Mr./Ms. without regard to the gender you identified with in your cover letter.
This is the time to keep going.
If you decide to pitch for assignments, don’t give up due to rejections or lack of response. Set up a plan to send a number of pitches each week … and stick to it. Keep track of the process with a spreadsheet.
Try to notice if there are any patterns or trends. For me, cold pitching works and there isn’t nearly the amount of competition found with posted listings. If I can find a connection, or a hook, my chances for success go up. Think of pitch letters as writing practice. Good practice makes perfect.
There are two more steps that I’d like you to embrace, right now.
I’ll address them together as they’re related. Ready?
5. Do Something that Scares You.
Not personally, but from a business standpoint.
Propose an idea that’s kinda crazy, but that could work if you had a little help. Pitch the idea to the person who could offer that help.
I did, and I couldn’t believe the response. I proposed a live, full-day conference with all the bells and whistles to get a new blogger started. I contacted someone I admire, someone who currently has the skills and consistently brings in 10K per month through her own blog, and proposed with plan an initial conference in Fall 2017, followed by plans to expand.
She said yes. And that proves my point: It never hurts to ask.
6. Seek to Connect.
I think this complements the whole do-something-scary thing. As communicators, as business owners, as writers, we need to work and forge connections. And we need to do it all the time, so that it becomes second-nature.
Armed with skills and a desire to engage and connect with people, we provide expertise, value and understanding. Seeking those connections may be intimidating when you first start out, but know that it will be worth it.
Now it’s your turn. Be brave. Be accountable.
Comment below and tell us what specific step you will take this week. Make it real and publish it here.
Deborah Fingerlow is a writer, traveler and explorer seeking adventures both large and small. Business to business communications and the development of authentic connections are her superpowers. When she isn’t writing, or searching for the closest farmer’s market, you can find her visiting schools and hospitals with her therapy beagles, Sunshine and Ella.
“Life is a grand adventure; don’t be afraid of taking a wrong turn. Embrace it, own your decision and enjoy the ride.”
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