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Do you have realistic expectations?

Date March 7, 2008

Studies have shown that people who have realistic expectations for themselves and their businesses have a higher success rate.

And there’s the rub. What should you expect as a freelancer, especially if you’re just starting out?

One area I believe many business owners overestimate and underestimate respectively is how much money they can earn and how long it will take to build a customer base.

Unfortunately, since we live in a microwave society, many people believe in the get quick rich hype that says they can make tons of money in a short amount of time with little to no work. While it may happen occasionally—think lottery—it’s not the norm.

This leads to is what I call “utopia entrepreneurship”—a situation in which someone believes starting a business will be the solution to their life problems whether it be financial or family related.

To get the right perspective of your expectations, think about what others with a background and experience similar to yours have accomplished over their business ownership lifespan. The experience of others can help serve as a baseline for what to expect over a given time frame.

However, what I’ve noticed is that success can have a schedule of its own. So, you shouldn’t limit yourself to what others have done, especially if you can improve upon their business processes. But, at the same time, you shouldn’t push yourself beyond what you know you can handle.

How long it takes you to succeed depends upon how ready the market is for what you offer and how ready you are to grab opportunities as they show up. Sometimes it’s slow. Sometimes it’s fast. Either way, the “speed” at which success comes should not be the barometer by which you measure yourself.

As you progress, you’ll come to your own conclusions and deeper understandings about what it takes to operate a full-time freelancing venture—one area that I took for granted and regret to this day.

As cliché as it sounds, success really is more about what you learn along the way than where you end up. We don’t fail when we make mistakes. We fail when we don’t learn from our mistakes.

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2 Responses to “Do you have realistic expectations?”

  1. eamon.mack said:

    I am just starting off on my writing career. I find it really difficult to start as a freelancer. It’s a combination of not having enough confidence in my writing yet, and not knowing on a daily basis what I should be doing. The only thing that I’ve really learnt in this time is how much there is to learn. It’s slower than I though. I didn’t have a get rich quick mentality, but I did hope that I’d have some small amount of money coming in. But it’s difficult to know when that’s going to happen. Like so many things, I suspect it’s just a matter of sticking with it. Perseverance!

  2. Jerret said:

    Great comment! And, you’re exactly right. Freelancing, like any small business, is really an experiment; you have to keep mixing things together to get the right outcome.

    Remember, every artist, writer, programmer, or other freelancer was a beginner at some point.

    As long as you keep going, no matter how small the steps, you’ll eventually be successful. The hard part is picking yourself up day after day with no cash flow and very few clients. It’s those who survive these hard times who go on to be very successful. I’ve seen it too many times not to believe it.

    -Jerret

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