Back in 2010 I was in full wantrepreneur mode.
I’d read dozens of business books. I tried hard to come up with ideas. But none of that changed the fact that I had no clue how to actually start a business.
At one point, I called an entrepreneur friend of mine, and asked if he could point me in the right direction.
He said, “Oh, sorry, I can’t today. I’m writing my new company brochure.”
OK. I was about to close my phone in defeat (wantrepreneurs could only afford flip phones back then). But right before I did, I had a crazy thought. I said, “Hey — could I take a shot at writing your brochure? If you don’t like it you can just scrap it… I just want to see if I can do it.”
I’d never written a brochure before. I didn’t even know freelance copywriting was a thing yet. I just thought it’d be fun to actually DO something…instead of sitting around THINKING about doing something.
My friend’s answer surprised me. He said, “Oh, that’d be great! You’d be saving me hours of work. Tell you what, if it’s good, I’ll buy you dinner next week. How does that sound?”
Now pay close attention, because I’m going to reveal the secret scientific formula I used to do the work:
STEP #1: I looked at other business’ brochures to see what type of info they contained
STEP #2: I wrote that same type of info, except I made it about my friend’s business
STEP #3: I emailed it to my friend, along with a list of my 3 favorite steak joints
I’ll never forget his response:
Just like that, I’d booked AND successfully completed my first freelance copywriting gig. Unfortunately, it would be more than 2 years before I realized it.
Sure, I spent the next few days on a natural high. After years of working at soul-sucking jobs, it felt incredible to do work I actually enjoyed — without having to answer to a boss. And the thought of turning it into a business was exhilarating.
But that was the problem. It seemed SO good that my mind was racing to find the catch.
– Why would anyone pay me to write when I have no college degree or experience?
– How can I be a freelance copywriter when I’m not an expert? Shit, I’m not even good at grammar.
– How can I compete against people who’ve been doing this for years, have English degrees, portfolios of work, etc.?
You have three options for dealing with doubts like these. And they’re all very different.
Option 1: Self-delusion
You convince yourself that doing work you love and having the freedom of being your own boss is only for the lucky, “chosen few.” Then you bury your hopes and dreams so deep into the recesses of your mind that you never have to think about them again.
This is the path most people take, because it requires the least amount of effort in the short run. Though in the long run it’s actually the most painful.
Option 2: Hitting rock bottom
You keep doing what you’re doing until the pain of NOT making a change becomes stronger than the fear of trying something different. It’s much easier to risk failing at freelancing when you have nothing to lose.
This is what eventually happened to me, but only after two more long years of being stuck in the 9-5 grind.
Option 3: Inspiration
This is the path I would have loved to take in 2010.
It’s where you see real people dipping their toes into freelancing…and killing it, without spending years trying to get themselves ready.
It’s when you start to understand that, most of the time, clients aren’t looking for experts. They just want someone to do work they don’t have time for, or don’t know how to do on their own.
(Example: Some people hate writing. If you love writing, and you’re good at it, those people will think you’re a godsend.)
That’s when you figure out that one of the secrets of success is understanding that you were never ready for anything important you’ve ever done — or will do.
Do college admissions officers look for “experienced college freshmen” to join their ranks?
Do you get a marriage counseling license so you can be a “marriage expert” before tying the knot?
Do you borrow your neighbor’s kids for a year to gain some experience before becoming an actual parent?
The big irony is that you weren’t even fully ready for your current job on day-1, either. You didn’t even know where the bathroom was!
Freelancing isn’t air traffic control; no one dies if you mess up.
Relax and enjoy the ride.
Now I want to hear from you…
What’s holding you back from moving forward with your freelancing business? If you have doubts or uncertainties, what are they? Let me know in the comments below.
Don’t be afraid to go into detail. The first step to getting over your self-doubt is to get it out in the open.
Most people are surprised at how quickly their obstacles disappear once they finally talk about them. Share yours in the comments and see for yourself.
PS: If you’ve been freelancing for a while, what doubts did you have before you started? I’d love to hear from you, too.