What all creative freelancers need to succeed

Sep 27, 2021

Have you ever felt like building a profitable and purposeful creative business is a lonely, uphill struggle?

I know I have.

I’ve also known the joy of feeling fully seen, heard, and supported by peers, professionals, and community members as I navigate uncharted (and often scary) professional and personal territory.

We ALL need people who – unencumbered by the personal baggage and demons we carry – are able to see our vision and are willing to hold space for it when we inevitable falter.

Here’s a beautiful example of someone holding the vision for me in the early days of my business:

Justine,

This is your best newsletter EVER. You are getting more and focused, more and more persuasive…and more and more powerful sounding. I feel that you’re on the verge of a breakthrough that’s going to power you into Brené Brown status and international recognition. It is absolutely thrilling watching this process. And when you need music for your video, Ted talk, and book tour, I’d love to help you!! I want to write you a theme song that captures your positivity and energy. I love that you are becoming the Super Creative standing atop a tall building with your cape rippling win the wind and want to capture that for you someday!

Aly Palmer (musician)

WOWZA!

I printed it out and stuck in in the middle of my pinboard, where it still lives, all these years later. It’s the email I read when I’m doubting myself, feeling lost, or my imposter syndrome is kicking in. It’s one of the most generous, encouraging, and supportive things anyone has ever done for me.

Here’s the takeaway, folks. You can’t be the visionary and the holder of that vision at the same time. You need other big-hearted, big thinking, action takers to help you articulate it, create space for it, and hold you accountable to doing whatever it takes to make progress towards it.

If you didn’t know this is what you needed, but are totally on board, here are 4 ways to find your vision holders.

1) Be willing to SHARE your most audacious vision

If you’ve ever hidden your biggest dreams because you were worried about what friends/family/random strangers online would have to say about it, you’re not alone. If you’ve ever wondered how seemingly ordinary folks ignore the critics and achieve extraordinary things, I believe it’s because they’re willing to share their audacious visions in spite of the fact they may be ridiculed for them.

If you need a bit of courage, here are a few folks who put their visions out into the world and stuck with them, despite the negative feedback and ridicule from others (including industry gate-keepers).

Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because his editor said he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

Lady Gaga, when finally signed to a major record label, was dropped after just 3 months

Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime (to a friend!). It was only after his death that his work received the acclaim it enjoys today.

And the list goes on. The moral of this story is if you’re going to go big, you’re going to have to cultivate courage and tenacity

Action step: The first step to building your vision is to articulate it.  It may not be fully formed or clear yet, so use your creative skills to bring it to life. Draw it, write it, shape it. Just get those ideas out of your head and into the world.

2) Commit to consistent, imperfect action

One of my favorite sayings is “you can’t steer a parked car,” so get moving. Maybe your commitment to action is writing 1,000 words a day. Or perhaps it’s doing and sharing one drawing a day for 100 days during which you’ll explore a theme or idea. Or perhaps it’s committing to learning and implementing the fundamentals of business so you can more successfully launch your service or product into the world. Whatever your vision, it’s not going to just materialize without consistent action. You’re going to have to be willing to do some pretty hard, exciting, leap-of-faith stuff to bring it into the world.

Action steps:

  • List all the actions or behaviors that stop you from moving your vision forward.
  • List all the actions or behaviors you’d need to adopt to make progress towards your vision.
  • Choose a daily action you will commit for the next 18-254 days (how long it takes for something to become a habit).
  • Rinse and repeat.

3) Share your progress

I was once told by a college professor that I was a bad writer. So, you can imagine how completely terrifying it was to publish my first blog post in 2008. But I made the commitment to post at least once a month and I’ve held fast to that commitment ever since. And guess what? I can now say I’m a writer and feel it to be true. Through repeated exposure to the thing that scared me, I discovered that not only did I have the potential to be a good writer, it’s actually the way in which I connect, form and test ideas, and share my value and expertise with the creative community at large. I can honestly say, if I hadn’t gotten over my fear of writing, I don’t think I’d have the business I have and love today.

Action step:
Decide where, when, and how often you will share your progress. Put it in your calendar and make a commitment to it. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss the mark now and then; creating new habits and putting yourself out there is hard. Just recommit and get back to it.

4) Find the people who are doing great things and join them

I talk about this a lot because it’s a game changer! One of the biggest, boldest, and best commitments I made (and continue to make) as a business owner is finding groups of people who are in a similar stage as me in their business or further along, and join them. The more seasoned I become, the higher level those folks become, and the more I have to invest to be in their company. And I’m good with it because when I invest to be in the right company, I grow in ways (and at speeds) I never could or would alone.

Action step:

Determine who your same-level, or a few steps further along, people are and where they’re hanging out. Beyond a certain point in your business evolution, expect that those places will no longer be free Facebook groups or spaces.

Create a “business growth” line item in your budget and give it a number. Don’t put yourself in the poor house to do it, but make it an amount you need to think about. When we make a significant investment in ourselves, we’re more likely to show up for it and ourselves. Caveat: don’t compare your budget and investment to someone else’s and never let a coach or anyone else convince you that your ability to invest is in any way a reflection of your commitment level. The two are NOT the same and it’s a sleazy sales tactic.  If you’re not ready now, that’s cool. Find the group you want to join, put the line item in your budget, and make it a goal you’re planning to reach in, say, 6–12 months. Review again then.

Finding the people who will hold your vision, challenge you to do all the things you thought you couldn’t, and cheer you every step of the way is a game-changer. What’s ONE step you will take to find your people?

Justine Clay

Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Sign up for her free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth, above.