7 Steps to sustained success for your freelance business in 2018

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for your business goals this year? Research has revealed that 80% of resolutions fall by the wayside. Talk about dismal statistics.

But, if you’re reading this post, I know you have everything it takes to be in the 20% who make it past February 1st, and the even smaller percentage who continue to expand in success, abundance, and well-being throughout the year.

If you’ve noticed your resolve faltering, know that:

  1. It’s not your fault. Trying to make things happen through sheer willpower is proven NOT to work.
  2. You can turn things around by following a few simple steps that will keep you engaged, excited, and on-track with your goals.

Let’s start with the resolutions you did set and how you set them. Did you make a lot of sweeping and dramatic “new you” resolutions on New Year’s Day when you were feeling the literal and/or figurative hangover of the holiday season? Or have you been thinking about and processing the changes you want to see in your life for some time, and New Year’s Day seemed as good a time as any to cement those intentions and actions?

Wherever you fell on the spectrum of those admittedly extreme scenarios, the following 7 steps will help you change your mindset, the stories you tell yourself, and the actions you take as a result.  The outcome: a steady, but sure growth curve of productivity, well-being, and clients. Stick with this program and next year you’ll have a whole new, up-leveled set of goals to reach.

And it’s a lot easier than you think. No herculean tasks involved!

Want more? Have a listen.

Are you ready?

Step One: Be honest about what’s not working

When we feel overwhelmed, or unclear about what we need to do, it’s a sign that we need to uncover the fear underneath those behaviors and habits. Review the five key areas of your life and grade from one to 10 how you fare in each section:

  • Finances: (_ out of 10)
  • Relationships: (_ out of 10)
  • Community/support: (_ out of 10)
  • Well-being (emotional, spiritual, physical): (_ out of 10)
  • Work: (_ out of 10)

Now select ONE area where improvement would have the most impact in your business and life? Maybe it’s gaining clarity around your finances. Maybe it’s up-grading your clients, increasing your fees, investing in yourself and your brand image.  Or perhaps, it’s around building stronger relationships with clients, collaborators, and community.

Step Two: Know why you want to change

Here’s the secret to self-improvement that sticks. Attaching meaning to your goal.

What would happen if you didn’t change? How would it impact you? How would it impact your loved ones?

Let’s use finance as an example. What would be the impact of not having enough saved for retirement, not having a college fund set up for your kids, not having life insurance, etc.?  Write down all the reasons why.

The more emotion you can attach to this, the better. Go to town. Feel the pain, because without that pain you won’t feel compelled to make big changes.

Step Three: Identify what habits have led you to be in this position

Let’s continue with the finances example since I know this is a big one for many of you. If you’re honest (without beating up yourself, you’ve done enough of that already!), you’ll easily be able to rattle off the habits that have gotten you into this situation. Not filing taxes on time and accruing unnecessary penalties, not having a bookkeeping system in place, mixing personal and business income, spending without planning, not setting income goals for the year, quarter and month, undercharging etc. Write them ALL down.

If this is making you feel queasy, that’s alright because things are about to get better. Just stick with me, OK?

Step Four: Question the stories you tell yourself

We all have stories we tell ourselves that support our assertion that we’re just not good at something or “that kind of person”.  But here’s the crazy thing, they’re just stories. And you can choose to let them go and replace them at any time. Wild, right? Here are a few to kick you off:

  • I’m a creative, not a business person
  • I’m just not good with money
  • No one ever taught me to be good with money
  • The industry’s in the toilet. No one has budgets anymore
  • I don’t enjoy dealing with money
  • I don’t know how to negotiate
  • I don’t know what the going rate is
  • I’m not good enough to charge a lot
  • I’m not good enough to command a high project rate

List yours.

Step Five: Re-write your stories

I’ll give you an example from my own experience. Contrary to all evidence that I’m perfectly good with money, a story I told myself for year was that I wasn’t good with it. I told myself it was confusing, that I didn’t enjoy dealing with it.

When I really broke it down and questioned my excuses and assumptions, I had to admit that I am good with money (I managed a large roster of talent in my prior business and was meticulous about my bookkeeping). I’m not confused about bookkeeping (I’m confused about accounting, but who isn’t? That’s why we have accountants!), and I actually do enjoy dealing with it when I’m on top of it.

What I don’t enjoy is trying to figure out a mass of books at tax time when I’ve been neglecting it all year. Which seems like a pretty sane response, rather than a money-challenged one. When you can see your stories for what they are, you can have a good laugh at yourself, consciously decide they no longer serve them and are ready to let them go and start re-writing those stories.

Step Six: Brainstorm positive changes you could make

Now you’ve identified the real reasons beneath your fears and avoidance, brainstorm with people or resources that could help you dig your way out.

A new accountant? A bookkeeper to get you set up in Fresh books? A finance book or group coaching program?

Start asking around, look for friends, colleagues or mentors who are doing well as ask for their best resources. You can do this brainstorming alone (if you go this route, I recommend writing it all down as it helps you process and put it out there), or with a trusted partner or group (particularly helpful if you’ve got your head in the sand). List your resources, allies, and support groups and start reaching out.

Action always makes you feel better, and the universe rewards you with everything you need.

Step Seven: Do ONE thing each day

Write down your goal and action steps somewhere you can see them, so you can take ONE action each day.

For example, you might want to reach out to a coach or mentor to ask for resources. That email is your one thing for that day. When they get back to you, follow up on those resources, that’s your next action. See, not so scary, right?

Now I know that despite your best intentions following through on some of this stuff, especially when it brings up feelings of fear, helplessness, or even shame can be tough to do alone. You might want to consider doing the work in an intimate group of like-minded people by joining a group coaching program or hire a coach.

I know you have everything that it takes to make 2018 an amazing year. So start taking action on the seven steps I shared with you. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and I’d be happy to answer them!

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About Justine Clay

Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Through a series of clear, actionable steps, Justine will teach you how to identify what makes you stand out from the crowd, create a marketing message that resonates with your ideal clients, and build a successful and fulfilling creative business or career. Sign up for Justine’s free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth and start making monumental changes in your creative business or career today.

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