Tag Archives: Work For Yourself

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Average

First off, I have to apologize for having gone rogue and left you hanging here. I hope you found the Oreos and the remote.

Evidently our brief tent camping adventure actually tried to kill me, which might make me the biggest wuss in the history of tent camping.

In reality that’s probably not what did it, but the timing is definitely hard to ignore. I’ve been sick for the last eleven days with pleurisy. Which I now know is a Latin word with the literal translation “Horrible stabby pains throughout the torso accompanied by sudden onset asthma”. I think the Greeks referred to it as “Oh my God why does THAT hurt now?!” and it’s marked on the Mayan calendar as a series of flying monkey carvings and comic book swear words.

Needless to say I’ve had trouble focusing on writing anything of any significant purpose. But as of yesterday I’m feeling much better. I believe it’s due to threatening myself with a return trip to the doctor… cleared it right up. Others might attribute it to the round of steroids, but I’m sure it was just my super strong self control.

I haven’t just been lying around groaning though. I mean, I have been lying around groaning, but I’ve done plenty of other stuff as well. Remember that secret society I joined a couple of weeks ago? The one that you probably thought was a cult when I disappeared? Well you can quit tracking down their bearded leader, it’s turning out to be one of the best things I’ve done in quite some time.

Last week we were placed in groups of 24 and given a partner. We introduced ourselves, started private Facebook groups, shared a cup of Kool Aid, and waited for the actual experiment to start on Monday.

The experiment itself is nothing overly magical. Right now it consists of a short email every morning asking us to do something very simple, to take one small step down the path towards our goal. Pretty basic stuff.

If I’m being totally honest with myself I was actually pretty skeptical when I joined this group. As excited as I was about the mysterious aspect of the project and the possibilities that came along with it I really didn’t know how it was going to help any of us face our fears, much less achieve our goals. I’m not sure Jon Acuff even knew what he hoped to accomplish, which is probably why he called it the Start Experiment and not the Definitive Start Project.

I’m no stranger to goal achieving attempts either, I’ve done plenty in the past in an attempt to try and move myself along. I’ve read books and bought courses, I’ve joined small groups of other entrepreneurs. I’m a pretty smart girl and when I set my mind to something I can be very motivated. But despite all that I’m still basically in the same place I was 5 years ago career-wise. Nothing significant has changed. I’ve learned things, improved things, gained business and lost business, worked and not worked. But the net result of it all is that I’m still not where I want to be, nor am I much further down the path. Things were getting stagnant in the life’s work department.

Then a funny thing happened. I joined a group of 2,547 other people who also wanted to push through and do something more with their lives. People who had lofty dreams and challenges and fears just like I do.

At first it was disorganized, no one really knew what to do or expect from the project, or what was expected of us. But in the last few days things have started to happen in big ways for people. Something has shifted in the wind. People are coming out of their shells, they’re making moves previously considered unfathomable, they’re doing things that were totally unconsidered, although entirely possible, before.

I personally have stepped way outside my self induced shell, and I have to say the air is pretty invigorating out here. I’ve put myself out there and asked for help on my own website (do you have any idea how humbling that is for a designer?), I’ve confessed my fears and faced them in front of hundreds of people, I’ve made great contacts with people doing exactly the thing I want to do, I’ve found people willing to mentor me and others willing to be clients, my website looks better than it ever has, my teeth are whiter, and my laundry smells like fresh cut daisies. No kidding.

I know It might sound crazy or even cult like, and it might be very hard to understand how a simple little experiment could have such an effect on so many people, but in reality it’s not just the experiment. It’s the other people going through it with you. It’s the accountability, the community, the fact that no matter what you’re afraid of there is definitely someone else afraid of the same thing and another 20 people ready to tell you that your fear is completely unfounded*.

It’s also the tasks we’ve been given. We weren’t told on the first day to write a business plan or hand out 5 business cards. Instead we were told on the third day to identify our superheroes, those people who have come before us and done exactly what we want to do. That in itself was a humbling experience, reaching out to someone and saying “Hey, I’m not sure I know what I’m doing, but you seem to… can I ask you some questions?”. That’s not something I would have willingly done before, and it’s pretty damn hard to do if you’re older than 12. But I’m learning now that it’s oh so important.

I’m also learning to ask for help, I’m learning to not stop learning, and that no one operates in a bubble. All from letting down my guard and admitting that I can’t do it all myself. Which ironically is something I actually didn’t need a group of 2600 people to learn, but I’m glad I found them anyway.

It’s been a pretty intense four days to have only received four short paragraphs by email. I feel really good things coming out of this, and I can’t wait to share them. Especially now that the flying monkeys are gone.

For now the moral of this story is this little quote, which is one of my favorites. I’m starting to think it’s the key to a lot more than I thought.

I hope you can find something scary to do today.

 

Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

– George Addair

 *Unless it’s a fear of garden gnomes, the conclusion was reached that the fear of garden gnomes is well founded.

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Apparently, If You Don’t Ask The Answer Is Always No

Who would’ve thought that? Someone really should make that into an inspirational t-shirt or Facebook graphic.

I’ve been a designer for years, I taught myself to design websites on (gasp!) Geocities when I was 13 years old.

I was at one point in time the queen of wavy textured backgrounds, and have used more than one of those little ‘Under Construction’ GIFs. You know the ones, they looked like a pixelated road work barrier and usually had a little blinking light on top. They always showed up with a message that said “Oops! This awesome corner of the web is under construction! Please check back again soon!”. Alas, lots of sites never came back from the blinking GIF… I assume they were absorbed back into the internet or collected up and recycled into MySpace.

The blinking GIF existed before we had plugins for our WordPress sites that let us install a countdown timer with a signup button to join our mailing list. All with one fell mouse click.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

I swear I’m going somewhere with this. Anyway, my point being that I’ve been doing this a while. I’ve built up my skills over time, learned a ton, and had plenty of customers, but never to any real end. I haven’t made a fortune, or even really sustained myself for any length of time with design work. Even as much as I’ve always wanted to call myself a designer and spend my days doing something I love.

Several years ago I decided to get serious about it and set up a legitimate business around what I was already doing for people. I bought my business license, worked for hours on a logo and stationery, then spent a few weeks going to local businesses and handing out cards, telling people who I was and what I did. Looking back on it I wasn’t near bold enough at the time, and probably looked like a geeky traveling salesman.

I did get some jobs, and I was already building sites for quite a few local government entities and factories, but none of it was what I really wanted to do. They are jobs, and they pay okay, but they didn’t need or want someone with creativity or design skill, they just needed someone to build a site. Every now and then a ‘fun’ site would come through, I would get a chance to work with another entrepreneur with a dream, and those were the sites I loved.

But I still didn’t try to do anything specific to meet those people. I didn’t figure out who exactly I was looking for, or how to find them, or even what to say to them if I did find them. In fact, I spent most of my time being so scared that I wasn’t good enough for them that I did nothing at all.

I would take work as it came to me, even if it was for someone who was definitely not on my ‘ideal customer’ list. I never turned a job down. But I also never manned up and went out looking for people who really needed my specific skills, my style, my personality. My target customers.

Because of that work was sporadic, I did minimal marketing and then expected jobs to come to me. Shockingly, they didn’t come pouring in. So I blamed it on living in a small town… my target market is mostly female entrepreneurs with small, fun, boutique style businesses. There’s not a ton of those here, so that might be half true. But that’s just a cop out really.

Cut to last year, when the great mind shift of 2012 occurred. I had already decided that 2013 was to be the ‘Year of Change’, and it turns out there’s something about selling everything you own and deciding to live more intentionally that really opens you up.

I think the act of choosing to make that first bold move, and then following through, helped immensely too. I realized that I can do anything I set my mind to, and that maybe the worst that can happen really isn’t that bad. So what if someone thinks I’m crazy? That’s their problem, not mine. Maybe I’m not ever going to be able to run a successful business, but if I don’t try then I sure as hell won’t be able to.

My fear from before, the one that said I wasn’t good enough to work for these fun, stylish people… It’s gone. I now realize that it was just that, an irrational fear, a silly little voice in my head.

Part of what helped me realize that was putting myself out there. This blog, my Etsy store, choosing to be more open on my Facebook wall.

I decided one day that life really was too short, and that every other cliche thing I had read on Pinterest was probably true. I can choose to put myself out there and possibly build a life doing what I love with people I think are awesome, or I can do the opposite because of what someone might say. I’m pretty sure when the zombie apocalypse hits I won’t be giving a second thought to what someone said.

So I put my designs out into the world, I became more open and started introducing myself to people in the forums on Etsy, I started blogging regularly and sharing the posts on Facebook along with my newest designs. It took a lot of courage at first, I won’t lie.

And you know what? Shockingly, it started working. People actually responded when I told them what I needed. They responded to the blog, to my shop, to me. Turns out, the people I thought I wasn’t good enough for were completely receptive when I offered my services. Who woulda thought.

I’ve done more business in the last few months than I have in the entirety of some years in the past. Apparently the only thing holding me back this whole time really was me.

I can’t help but wonder, if I had started being true to myself years ago, where I could be by now.

My work isn’t quite steady enough to make a living on yet, but the benefits are killer. I feel so incredibly alive when I’m doing something I love, whether it’s helping an entrepreneur put their vision into their website, creating a custom sticker for someones baby shower, or training to run a 5k. It fuels me.

Doing work you love, for people you care about, is an amazing experience, and I hope I get to do a lot more of it. I think everyone should strive for that.

But I think the coolest thing about all this is what I’m learning – that it’s been in my control this whole time.

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t decided to…

– make an intentional change in my life

– decide where I wanted to be and start walking in that direction, however slowly

– just ignore the fear and open myself up

– and most importantly, decided to just ask.