I thought it was gonna be more like in the movies. You know, inspirational music and a montage: me sharpening pencils, reading, writing, falling asleep on a big pile of books with my glasses all crooked because in the montage I have glasses. Real life is so slow and it hurts my occipital lobe. ~ Buffy
A few years ago, I had another blog I kept when I first packed in my 9-5 job in and took my chances at starting my own freelance business. Because the post itself was such a hit and since this blog is meant to highlight the struggles that are so often associated with running a small creative business, I decided to pull together a revised version of it to give others going through that oh-crap moment a realistic glimpse into where we all really start--square one. Check it out below:
Here's a little secret. I'm a shameless, obsesso-fan of the T.V. success that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When teenage life was sucking, the campy horror series was what I turned to--blood-sucking fiends included. It provided comfort when gooey, chocolate-chip cookies were threatening my waistline. Buffy was my hero (sorry Oprah). Not only was she athletic and resourceful, but she could be witty and pretty while kicking demon butt.
When I took the brave leap as a creative entrepreneur, I attempted to invoke that slayer power to deal with the struggle of starting up a freelance career. I'm going to be honest and tell you that starting up a copywriting business has been hard work. I didn't realize the perseverance, patience and motivation that would be required. I had visions of sipping on my morning cappucchino, bunny-slippers propped up on my desk, projects rolling into my lap. Well, maybe not rolling...more like dripping from a leaky faucet.
Instead, I was often sporting some lovely black circles under my eyes, using caffeine to combat a constant stream of anxieties--am I good enough, when will the next paycheck come, did my email to that editor fall into a black hole?--wearing 5-day old pajamas. That's the ugly truth.
Now, don't get me wrong. I certainly don't regret turning to freelancing after losing my steady office job due to the poor economy. Especially after reading Ed Gandia's supportive words:
So, for Gen Y’ers everywhere, here’s my (blunt) advice: Forget about trying to find a “job.” Forget about politicians’ promises to fix things. Forget about waiting this one out. (Even if you wait it out, you risk having even greater competition when younger rivals start entering the workforce en masse in two or three years.)
Instead, put your faith where it belongs: on your talents, abilities, creative capacity and ability to solve problems. Then, sell those abilities as a freelance professional. You’ll get back to work much faster. And you’ll have the freedom and flexibility you and your generation craves (we all want that freedom, but you guys have taken life-work balance to a new level).
Pretty promising words, don't you think? And I agree with him. But I've also realized that being a freelancer is no easy choice. But guess what? I was still just as enthusiastic about pursuing my goals. And you can be too if you're new to the game.
Here are some fundamental tasks I completed to help launch my personal brand, which I'd recommend all newbie freelancers consider attacking:
- Get a website and business cards designed - Vital marketing tools. I used my website to start building my own online portfolio and handed out my business cards to family, friends and potential clients.
- Rev up the education - I knew I was competing with more seasoned freelancers, so I did a bogus amount of reading to further develop and hone my skills. My reading included blogs and books, and I also started taking a copywriting course so I could get more experience in my chosen field.
- Set up a home office - I soon realized that sitting in front of the T.V. in my living room didn't really inspire productivity or concentration. So I found a stylin' used desk to set up in one corner of my room and purchased some basic office supplies to make it all schnazzy. I had a great work space that forced me to focus on my work without the typical distractions of home.
- Pursue a local marketing campaign - I designed a simplistic but professional brochure advertising my services, included a business card and pen (potential clients generally respond well to a small, inexpensive gift related to the services you're offering), and dropped these marketing packages off at local houses. I got one of my first official clients this way. You never know.
My first few steps were some of the most challenging I've ever faced, I won't lie. Yet, like you, I had faith in my skills and the passion to back it. Giving up wasn't an option. And just like Buffy, I eventually started kicking some serious butt.