Success: The “Path”, freedom, and a red Miata

Ever since embarking on this freelance journey, I’ve started to see creeping into my social media ads for making hundreds of thousands of dollars freelancing.

These are always touting some “secret” that a certain person found after laboring through the doldrums of freelance work, and that you should be only fortunate enough to take advantage of their knowledge.

All of which comes at some sort of price.

After engaging a few of these ads during the beginning weeks of my journey, I decided instead to truly go it alone and go find my own work, in my own way. I’ve come to some sort of truth I think actually works.

That truth is this—nothing actually works.

That’s right. It’s not about finding a secret method, or looking where someone else has before. It’s really about finding your own way, and working smart, not hard.

Websites like Upwork tout access to thousands of clients, but you have to remember that you are also in direct competition with the entire world, a point made by another part-time freelance friend.

After realizing that nearly everybody who has a “secret” to success in this business is probably doing several things, including but not limited to:

  1. Putting your email on a list to sell it
  2. Making you pay for their “secrets”
  3. Entering into some kind of agreement where you work for them with little to no compensation for yourself (read “pyramid scheme”)

….the frustration in searching made me remember why I decided to start freelancing full-time in the first place: I wanted to be my own boss.

When you sign up for these services, you’re giving power back to an employer. If freedom is what you want, it’s essentially given up when you take help from these “gatekeepers” (many of which aren’t actually gatekeepers at all).

So here’s my thought: stay away from these people who apparently have “secrets”, and do these things instead:

  1. Put in the work
  2. Promote your own portfolio
  3. Reach out to clients directly
  4. Connect with actual agencies, not temp agencies (I’m looking at you, Creative Circle and others)

It’s about going out and getting your own work. Otherwise, you’re just an employee minus the rights you forfeit as a contractor. Don’t delude yourself into thinking there’s any “path” that is already built for you.

In the end, I have full confidence that I will realize the fruits of my labors when I find out what works, and what doesn’t.

This reminds me of a lesson my auto shop teacher gave to my 15-year-old self as I was polishing his 1980’s red Miata:

Work Smart, Not Hard

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