How Do I Know If I Will Be Successful At Freelancing?

A student asked me the same question I asked my teachers: “How do I know if I will be successful at freelancing?” After 35 years of freelancing, I found myself giving the same answer to my student that my instructors gave to me: “You don’t know.”

No one knows if they will succeed or not. But one thing everyone does know is that you will not succeed if you do not get after it. Waiting until you know you will succeed to start your freelance career, to pursue that one big project, to add a new service, or to reinvent yourself, is wasted time. Get moving, or nothing will happen.

Doing these 5 things will help you succeed.

It takes more than talent and desire to be successful at anything. They are necessary, but how many talented people don’t make anything of it because they don’t start and keep moving? Neither talent nor fear will motivate. We have to decide to do something and then do it. Here are 5 things you can do to help create your success:

1. Set specific, achievable goals. Goals give you direction and are the stepping stones leading to your success. You cannot be successful at something until you first decide what that something is and then decided how you will get there. Write down your goals and keep them close by.

2. Work on your goals. Setting them is the first step. The next is to move forward on them task-by-task and item-by-item. Schedule time DAILY for goal-related actions, and then follow through. Daily effort means you are consistently building momentum.

I spend the first hour of my mornings reading, journaling and planning my day. I look at my larger goals at the end of each week, identify my next steps that will move me forward and add them to my schedule for the upcoming week.

3. Learn from people who are successful at doing what you want to do. What do they offer? How does it benefit their customers and clients? How do they promote their work? What is the quality of their work? Do some investigating by looking at web sites and reading blogs, by networking, by taking classes, and by attending seminars and webinars.

4. Ask someone to hold you accountable. This can be a trusted family member, friend, colleague, or mentor. Share your goals with them and allow them to check in with you at regular intervals, preferably once a week. Listen to their feedback and allow them to encourage you.

5. Enjoy each small step and victory. I have learned that simply making one small decision is enough of an achievement to propel myself forward. Success is a journey — like a road trip. Along the way, you will hit milestones. When you complete a project or achieve a goal, celebrate it.

Adjust when necessary

Becoming successful is not a straight road. There are curves and obstacles to navigate. I have adjusted my route several times during my freelance career. Some of those adjustments were due to (speaking in Freelance Road Trip terms) taking wrong turns, some due to new construction, and some due to running out of fuel. I made corrections and adjustments, and kept going. Once you start moving toward success, knowing if you will succeed or not becomes less of an an unknown. The further down the road you go, the closer you get to your goal, and the more likely you are to be successful.

Wherever you are right now in your freelance career — thinking about it, starting out or in the middle of it, I encourage you to keep moving forward.

Further reading:

22 Habits of Successful Freelancers on Lifehacker.com

The Secrets of Successful Freelancing on Forbes.com

If You’re Not Failing You’re Not Growing on 99u.com

Your turn:

What is one goal you want to go after right now? What is one step you will take this week to accomplish it? Share in the comments.

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