The secret to freelance success is actually unbelievably, frustratingly simple:
We – and many others – have created entire websites, books and courses. But it all boils down to those two words:
If you can consistently do the right things, then good things will come to you. It’s just a matter of patience and hanging in there. That’s the real challenge because it’s hard to be consistent when you’re not seeing results in the short term.
It’s soul-crushing to craft personalised emails, only to offer them out to the world and not even receive a single reply. But if you keep doing it, day after day, the replies will come. It’s a numbers game.
So how do you hang in there and be consistent when every part of you is telling you to just give up?
Five ways to stay consistent:
1. Judge yourself later
One of the biggest challenges to being consistent is judging yourself and your output before you’ve finished. We think our work isn’t good enough – and often at the start, there is no feedback to disprove that idea. To get around this, do your thinking in advance.
Think hard at the start of the process. Create a strategy and decide what you want to do. But when it’s time to put it into action, stop thinking about it, just do it.
To create a successful blog, for example, chances are you’ll have to publish at least 150 quality articles.
So once you’ve committed to that and decided that you really want that, the best approach is to try to do it on autopilot. Try not to judge each piece of the puzzle.
Don’t judge your success in the middle, before you’ve reached that goal.
2. Create routines
Build a routine that allows you to create every day, or every other day. An automatic trigger that keeps you producing without having to think about it too much.
For example, I’m writing this blog, first thing in the morning, straight after opening my laptop. This is something I have committed to doing every day.
I’m not worrying about whether it will be well received, it’s just a task I need to do before I am allowed to start my day.
3. Forget about ‘inspiration’
In the book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks of how we struggle against ourselves to live up to our ideas and move towards the goals that we want.
Publish consistently for 18 months and you will be successful.
He calls this daily battle “The Resistance”, and one of the key insights is the idea that you can’t sit back and wait for inspiration to strike. Instead, you just have to show up day after day. The momentum of being consistent generates not only output, but also consistency.
Pressfield talks of an athlete. Athletes know the day will never come when they can compete feeling 100%. There will always be a nagging injury or a muscle strain. Maybe they’ll feel stiff, not have slept well or not have prepared as much as they liked.
“The athlete knows the day will never come when he wakes up pain-free. He has to play hurt.”Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
It’s the same for you. Don’t worry about finding the perfect moment, getting into the zone or any of that.
Just turn up and get the job done, day after day.
4. Set yourself up for success
I really believe that our environments control us more than we realise. If you have bad food in the house, you’ll eat it. If you don’t, you won’t.
It’s the same with your work and even hobbies. If you want to practice the guitar more, just leave the instrument out, ready to go. If you have to dig it out of the wardrobe, get it out of a case, and tune it then you will hardly ever grab it spontaneously.
Use how impressionable we are to your advantage.
If you want to film YouTube videos or create podcasts, leave the gear set up and ready to go. If you want to send more emails, create templates that you can tweak.
Remove as much friction from the process as you possibly can.
5. Know your WHY
It’s hard to stay motivated to do something over a long period of time unless there’s something driving you on.
I believe that freelancers should try to find work that they love, and work which is making a difference to something they care about deep down.
We talk about the Ikigai framework a lot – a way to identify the work you should be doing. Work that will give you purpose.
If you can find a purpose, you’ll have a reason to continue, even when times get tough.
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