I know you’ve heard it a thousand times: “The first step is the hardest.”
But it’s true. Even making the decision to try is the most difficult part. And I don’t mean telling yourself that someday you’ll give your creative pursuit a go. I mean driving along the highway one day and deciding, with determination, that you will start putting yourself out there. Today.
It took me 4 years to get over myself and finally pursue freelance writing. For the love of all that is good in the world, learn from my mistakes. Don’t pull a Tiffany.
If you haven’t waded shoulder-deep into your creative field, it can seem scary. Maybe you have dipped your toes in, but the water wasn’t the perfect temperature. So you decide to wait on the shore line, like I did, for a bit longer.
Maybe you tell yourself that you need to move to the East Coast before you can start. You don’t have the right contacts yet. You’ll need to network first and become an urbanite before anyone will take you seriously.
I’m here to tell your thought process that that is a pile of bal-on-ey (or bologna if you’re feeling fancy). None of that is true. Yes, it helps to have the right contacts, but those can easily be made from afar using the Power of the Interwebs. Most freelancers don’t meet face-to-face with clients anymore. Many don’t even talk on the phone.
So how do you finally, after all these months or years of thinking about it, convince yourself to take the first step and get going? Here’s how I did it.
Take Yourself Seriously
Only one person needs to take you seriously, and that is yourself.
If you don’t take yourself seriously, no one else will either. But the great news is that on the flip side, if you start considering yourself a person worthy of others’ time and attention and payment, they will believe you.
What does this even mean, to take yourself seriously?
A person who does NOT take themself seriously looks like me a year or two ago:
- Does not tell people they are a writer (or a designer or an artist), and instead says they are studying to become a writer.
- Does not keep their blog up-to-date out of fear that no one wants to hear what they have to say.
- Feels like their art is a burden.
- Works for free, and doesn’t even consider that they are worthy of getting paid for their art.
A person who DOES take themself seriously looks like me now:
- Tells everyone they meet they are a writer (or a designer or an artist), and hands out business cards to prove it.
- Blogs all the freaking time, understanding that they have words to write that can help people.
- Knows that their art is a service.
- Works for free to build up their portfolio, then demands fair payment for their time and effort.
All it takes is a slight shift in mentality. Give yourself little pep talks.
Be like my friend and author, Catharine H. Murray, and tell yourself that people are lucky to meet you because you have something to offer them. Meeting you might make someone’s day. Remind yourself that you have value, and soon you will see that just because you feel scared and underprepared doesn’t mean you are.
Commit To Trying Today
Make a real commitment to yourself. This could look like it did for me, driving along one day and deciding that I deserve to get paid for my writing. Telling myself I deserve to make money, and not just in dribs and drabs from submitting to literary journals (Not that any had ever paid me. Or accepted my work, now that I think about it).
Making a commitment to get paid in the next 3 months.
I gave myself a timeline. I needed a timeline. And guess what? I beat my timeline by a long shot. It only took 2 weeks from launching my freelancing business to get my first paid client. I know, this is annoying to hear when you are on the other side and you haven’t been paid yet and you think it’s easy for me to say because I have already done it.
I thought the same thing before I had been paid. Easy for you to say, there must be something special about what you did. You got lucky.
But no, it’s not true. I mean, I worked my ass off at becoming a good writer. But my success at freelancing came about because I finally put in the effort.
Don’t Go It Alone
No one should go it alone. And luckily, because of the Internet, no one has to.
When I started, I had no zero, zilch-o clue what I was doing, so I paid for an e-course on how to become a paid freelance writer (created by Elna Cain). She walked me through, step-by-step, how to do it. The course also included an incredible Facebook group that supports each other remotely.
Here’s what you need to do, right now: Google “[your art] + online course.” So if you’re a graphic designer, Google “graphic designer online course.” Same if you’re an artist, or a photographer. You might be amazed how much comes up, and how many of them are free.
Bookmark or write down as many of these as strike your fancy. There are so many resources for you. You do not have to figure it all out on your own.
Take the First Step
Several years ago, I told my friend that I had been wanting to read The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka for years, but that I hadn’t gotten around to it. I even owned it—the book was sitting on my shelf. At the time I was working in a coffee shop, and that day I had the entire afternoon free.
“Go read it today,” my friend said. “When you get home. It’s so short, you can probably finish it in one sitting.”
Wow, I thought. What common sense advice. So I did, and I finished it. And I felt incredibly proud of myself.
Taking the first step doesn’t have to be a dive into the deep end. Just a little tippy-toe into the water will do. In fact, if you Googled like I told you to above, you have already taken the first step. That’s it.
Simple as that.
Next I started reading a whole lot of articles about how to freelance and started feeling really excited. I kept a bullet journal with ideas as I stumbled upon them, and then turned those ideas into a list of steps for the next 12 weeks. I didn’t over-do it—I only had 3 bullet points per week.
At times I felt like I didn’t know enough, or was really behind. But that was just the creative demons getting to me.
Do it today. Find your first baby step, and waste no time getting around to it.
The first step is honestly the hardest. After you start, get ready for the snowball effect.