Flying solo is not, by any means, an easy decision to make. Most people we know would rather settle for a reasonably-paid, 9-to-5 job that secures them a warm spot within an organization and a recurrent income for the long term. That’s probably the main reason why, upon hearing we’ve decided to pass this kind of “lifestyle” and go become consultants instead, their first reaction is “But how will you manage to survive?!”
Here’s the thing. Going on your own involves taking a huge risk. This kind of decision will throw you on the edge of uncertainty for as long as you choose to walk down that road. So why would any sane person sign up for it?
Do you know that moment when you realize what is it that you want to do for the rest of your life? The second the big answer hits you, you’re only left with two choices: you can either go with the flow or forever live with the regret of not doing it. Well, the latter was not an option for us.
Above all, it’s about following the dream
Look, we too had reasonably-paid jobs. We too were nine-to-fivers and experienced the feeling of belonging to a group. And make no mistake, that track of evolution was necessary and worth experimenting. Our previous jobs had brought us countless satisfactions, were full of purpose and have contributed majorly to our forming as professionals. We’ve had our fair place in each company, it took us years to learn everything we know today and it was thanks to those experiences that we’ve managed to evolve and sharpen our skills.
But somewhere down that road, we realized there was a fight going on inside of us and our conscience was the battlefield. We were growing, and our positions were no longer able to support that growth.
When you’re really passionate about something and you’re also good at it, your entire existence starts revolving around that thing. We knew what we loved doing, we believed in our potential – both as individuals and as a team – and we knew that there’s a lot to explore, to build and to change out there. We knew that satisfaction is always going to top insecurity and so we took another step.
It takes balls
When it comes to making a life-changing decision that implies trading something you’re sure of for something that might go well, some people will quickly shake that thought and go back to living an average, but predictable life. Having solid ground under their feet seems to be everything they could ever hope for and, for whatever reasons, they will choose safety over independence. The fear of the unknown becomes stronger than the willingness to pursue a lifelong aspiration. To us, that sounded scarier than any danger we could possibly face.
So we grabbed a pair, prayed for the best and took off. We had just restored our inner peace. We were free.
The greater good
Short story: we once participated at a conference where an incredibly smart and experienced coach (by the way, her name is Herma Schmitz, you should definitely look her up) said this eye-opening thing:
There’s a big difference between “listening to” and “listening for”.
When you listen to someone, what you really do is process their words through your own mental filters, which alters the information and leads you to agree or disagree with that person. It’s just an exchange of information, and your focus goes on what you think about what you just heard.
When you listen for, however, you actually hear them. You concentrate on what they say and you work your mind on finding solutions. Their problem becomes the subject, and your help becomes the scope.
It made total sense. It’s like at a football game. You could be sitting in the stands, making some noise without having any kind of input on the final result, or you could be running on the playfield and give 100% to move things forward and win the game.
So we started to practice this “listen for” method, and the first results were translated into growing businesses and happy owners who felt they couldn’t thank us enough. We were building, healing and transforming businesses, which made us realize just how big of a difference we could be making down there, on the football field.
Courage or madness?
Probably both. When you detach yourself from a system that people perceive as the standard for “normal”, from the outside it’s gonna’ look like you’re standing on the edge of the cliff with one foot over the abyss. People are going to think you’re crazy, and to most of them, you probably are.
The truth is, we didn’t accidentally land on the lucky side of our chances. One does not simply throw himself into the unknown blindfolded, head first. Ours was a calculated decision, with a lot of determination and hard work behind.
Freelancing: Yes or No?
Unlike traditional jobs, freelancing is really a unique experience for everyone. There are ups and downs to both positions, that’s why you need to decide what’s more important to you and go for the style that suits you best.
Spare time: we’re not gonna give you the “we get to work whenever we want!” bullshit. Actually, we work more now than we did before, only now we find our activity to be more meaningful and rewarding.
Income: This depends on your expertise. If you can manage to identify critical, specific needs that your skills and services can cover, then things should go quite well for you. On the other hand, if you’re not sure what you love doing or it goes more for a hobby rather than for an actual job, maybe freelancing is not your thing.
Flexibility: This is where freelancing definitely wins. You get to organize your tasks however you see fit. You also get to select the projects you want to work on and you are free to use your creativity at maximum capacity.
Social isolation: For example, our activities as consultants involve attending tons of meetings, taking trips and working with different people from different organizations. So, in terms of socialization, we really couldn’t complain about the lack of human interaction. However, other freelancers such as copywriters, lawyers or scientists can tend to suffer from social isolation. In this case, you can try to go out more in your free time or work from public places where you can surround yourself with people (parks, coffee shops, shared workspaces etc).
What about tomorrow? Yeah, about this. We keep worrying about tomorrow as if we had any control over what’s coming next. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone. There is no specific spot you could stand on, nor a particular thing you could do to make sure you’ll still be here the next day. If you let these mind traps hold you back, “what about tomorrow” can become the sad tagline of your existence, and soon enough you could wake up to one tomorrow that doesn’t bring you any joy.
When you consider switching from employee to freelancer, first you need to be sure that your value as an individual is enough to get you through the days. There is a lot of planning to be done, and a lot of “what if” questions to be answered. Take your time, weight your options and see in which direction the scale tilts. Choose wisely! 🙂