You know those memories that you look back on and immediately scream "NOOOOOO" inside your head? Those mistakes or embarrassing memories that are just straight up cringe worthy?
Well, some might say that I am the queen of them. (By some, I mean my mom and everyone I ever interacted with in college.)
But I can proudly say, I've come a long way since then.
After building my own freelance business, making every mistake in the book and eventually scaling it from 0 to 100, I can confidently say to you guys, I know what's out there. Here is my complete list of mistakes to avoid at all costs. They can break your business, your reputation, and your bank account. So, when starting your own business, keep an eye out for these tricky bumps in the road.
Walk a fine line with your mentors
A lot of millennials who break out of the 9 to 5 life and embark on an entrepreneurial path naturally seek leadership in others. It makes sense, right? You've been told what to do your entire life, but suddenly you're on your own and you crave guidance. This is when a lot of "mentors" or "coaches" come into play, which can be incredibly helpful. But the key here is to remember why you started freelancing: to make your own decisions, work for yourself and live life on your terms. In my experience, a lot of emerging freelancers become "obsessed" with their entrepreneurial idols, losing sight of their own goals and forgetting to follow their gut.
In order to stay in tune with yourself and meet your own needs, make sure that you're admiring these people, but not obsessing over them and following their every move. Heading on an entrepreneurial path is about following your own beliefs, systems, and strategies, not copying someone else's. So, make sure you use them for guidance, but that you're ultimately following your own gut and meeting your own needs.
Be confident but not pompous
This is surprisingly REALLY hard to balance as a millennial freelancer. On the one hand, you want to come off as confident and professional so that clients don't walk all over you. At the same time, you don't want your clients to think "What the hell? That kid is 22 years old and they expect to be paid THAT much? What a joke."
The answer to this is surprisingly simple: be polite, transparent and personable. If a client proposes a rate that's too low for you, say that you understand where they're coming from and respect their needs. But you can also say that you're a great at what you do and know that you'll drive them results. If they don't want to work with you because they can't afford your rates, that's okay. But that's when you should walk away and not a) lowball yourself or b) become self-righteous and fight them about it.
Stay organized as hell
If you wake up every morning with no plan for the day, no schedule to refer to and no clear idea of what has to happen, you will hate yourself. You won't feel like a cool, flexible freelancer. You feel like a lazy asshole sitting in your pajamas all day.
It doesn't matter if you have one client or 10 (or zero...yet). Every night before you go to bed, make sure that you write out your exact schedule for the next day. You can write it down on paper, use an online tool like Asana, or both.
I personally like to block it off into sections. For example, for the first three hours of the day, I'll only work on one particular client. Then for the next 4 hours, I'll only work on another. And under each of those blocks, I'll write each thing I need to do for them.
I include everything else as well. Like literally, everything. I block off an hour every morning just to read and an hour at night to work out. Include every detail so that you walk into your days with ease, not anxiety and frustration.
Think from the mindset of your future self
I'll never forget an EOFire podcast episode I once heard. The interviewee stated, "Make decisions from the mindset of the person you want to be, NOT from the mindset of the person you are today." This, to me, was brilliant advice. When many are first starting out on their entrepreneurial journeys, insecurities shoot through the roof. "I'm not good enough", "someone else is already doing this", "this person has more email sign-ups than me" and "this person's course is selling better" are just a few of the millions of insecurities I hear from millennials all the time.
And obviously, our actions follow this attitude. When we become this insecure, we start dropping our rates. We stop buying morning lattes for the sake of saving money. We become terrified that we won't be able to pay our rent and so we secretly start looking for full-time jobs. It's crazy! This fear takes over our lives and dictates every decision we make, turning us into limited, terrified people.
But what if we did the opposite? Instead of thinking from the mindset of who we are today, what if we thought from the mindset of the person we want to be? What if we were already making $200,000 a year, had a nice car, and didn't have to worry about money? What if we could get any client we wanted? What if we had raving customer reviews and a community of followers?
We probably wouldn't desperately look for full-time jobs, skip out on morning lattes to save a few bucks, or lowball our rates to get clients. We would walk into our days with confidence and be proud of what we do. But why do we have to wait to have that mentality when we've reached a certain success point? Adopt it now, and the success will follow. Promise.
Make decisions with confidence
When you quit your full-time job and begin venturing out on your own, it's really common to start regretting your decisions or overthinking your future ones. Whether it's choosing your website layout, signing a contract with a new client or choosing a name for your business, there's no point in stressing yourself out and being nervous that you'll regret your decision. Because here's the secret: No one actually knows what they're doing. No one is 100% certain that their choices are the right ones or that the next move they make will produce a substantial ROI. The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones that execute with confidence and minimize any regret or doubt they might have. So, go forward and make decisions, even if you have self-doubt. It's the only way to get shit done.