The one thing every aspiring freelancer, college student or person with access to a time machine should know.
It’s all a balancing act.
Perched on a tightrope, with high winds, and possibly some large, angry ravens pecking and cawing.
I make a living on the Internet by being myself and sharing the things I’ve learned. But I’m also scared shitless to be myself and share the things I’ve learned.
Some days, I don’t care about being judged. I’ll write 5,000 words about life with 48 cusses and sweatily hit “publish”. I’ll get 254 emails about how awful a person I am because I: work for myself, voice my opinions on the Internet, give myself permission to do silly things like cancelling an almost-funded kickstarter campaign or sponsoring my own podcast or writing about my pet rats in business magazines.
Other days, I care too much about being judged. What people think, who’ll be offended, what the contents of every single one of those 254 emails said and how right they are about everything that’s wrong or imperfect about me. I’ll write 5,000 words on 50 topics and delete every single one (without even hitting save).
People tell me how lucky I am all the time. To have the life I want and be able to live it. And they’re right. I am really lucky. I don’t have to worry about being killed in a war and I wasn’t born into abject poverty. I live in an age where I’m able to communicate directly to the people I want to reach without having to go through any gatekeepers.
Everyone wants the secret. No, not the Rhonda Byrne kind. The secret to working for yourself, to making money, to building an audience, to getting somewhere. What’s the one tip you’d tell an aspiring freelancer or someone just out of school or someone who’s struggling to get their business off the ground?
To which I say, “Type words into the Internet and money will come out!”
Just kidding (that doesn’t always work). Anything you read is all just survivorship bias any way.
The truth is, I haven’t a clue.
Yes, I know and teach quite a bit on the subject of business, but that really comes down to systems and processes that you can use to track, evaluate and iterate on. I’d never teach or sell anything that guaranteed success or preached “there’s only one way to do things, and it’s this way…”
Sometimes the difference between success and failure comes down to how you perceive the results.
A lot of folks I know that do far better than I do with money or reach don’t feel like they’re even close to successful. Some folks I know with neither of those things feel untouchably stoked about the life they’ve got. I don’t personally feel successful—mostly because there are still a million things I want to try and even more things I need to learn.
My only advice is to pick a direction that feels right to you and run screaming towards it. WEEEE!!!!! You can always change directions later. Unless you die, then it probably doesn’t matter. But if it does matter when you die, let me know, ok? Also, try not to run in directions that greatly increase your chances of dying (like wrestling polar bears with ninja skills, for example, please don’t do that).
Persistency and bravery always trump following safe bets and proven methods. And bravery doesn’t have to look like free solo climbing mountain or standing on stage in front of 35,297 people. The bravest acts can be simply putting ourselves out there without knowing the outcome or reception or that 254 people are going to hate us for it.
For the most part, I enjoy being scared shitless. This balancing act forces me to keep learning and questioning, and to feel brave because all I did was press the “publish” button.