Almost everyone makes some kind of resolution in the New Year – and freelancers are no exception. These pledges range from the mundane (“I will figure out a way to make the cat leave me alone in the morning”) to the complex (“I will dominate my LARP group and all shall worship me as Emperor”).
But here are three resolutions I think every freelancer really should make – for 2016 and beyond.
1. Value yourself
You are the core of your freelance business. If you’re a freelancer, you’ve already demonstrated tremendous faith in yourself, by being brave enough to strike out on your own.
Now double down on that faith. Make this the year that you really invest in your product, your chief-of-staff, your best asset: YOU.
By virtue of your life experience, your talents, your sense of humor, your intelligence, your very intrinsic YOU-ness, you bring something to the table that nobody else can. Don’t underprice yourself - in rates or in respect.
‘Fire’ clients who abuse you, underpay you, continually overstep your boundaries, or make you feel worthless. Perceived value is a powerful phenomenon; if you respect yourself, others are more likely to follow suit.
**Resolve to grow your network in 2016 **
2. Gain perspective
When you’re your own business, it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race. Sure, you had an OKAY year – but it’s nothing compared to your high-achieving buddies/colleagues/siblings/social media connections!
Somebody is always going to (seemingly) be doing better than you. Somebody is always going to be doing worse.
A lot of the time, our perceptions of peers’ accomplishments are warped by our own insecurities and obsessions. Try to keep some perspective!
Are you learning and growing? Are you finding work that fulfills you – or are you making progress towards that goal?
If scoping out the competition fires you up (or gives you ideas about how to get ahead), keep your eyes and ears open, by all means! A little healthy comparison is good for you. But this year, resolve to balance that out with pride in your own progress.
While you’re at it, DON’T MAKE FREELANCING YOUR WHOLE LIFE. Many freelancers (myself included) dabble with becoming high-functioning workaholics. Don’t do it.
Make time for friends, for family, for social events, for staring aimlessly at walls. All freelancing and no play will make you a dull, dull human... and relentless fixation won’t make you a better worker. Work suffers when it’s the only thing in your life; too much pressure can make you rigid and resistant to creativity. Keep freelancing in perspective.
3. Take little steps to take big leaps
Dostoyevsky didn’t write War and Peace in a day – he had to write it out page by page like the rest of us mortals.
If you’ve got big dreams, go for them! Don’t get intimidated by scale. You can do things that others find unimaginable or unlikely – but you may have to do them one small step at a time.
If you have a huge, overarching goal, start building in little habits to support that goal. Create deadlines and benchmarks for yourself. Find collaborators or friends who will hold you accountable. Focus on the process, with an end objective in mind; you may be surprised how quickly it comes together.
You may feel yourself incapable of achieving your biggest dreams, but you may find yourself infinitely MORE confident about taking little steps – and those add up quickly.
Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.