“Hey…I know we’re one year apart. For you, it’s 2019, November. You just got back from a 6-months long business trip in Germany. Christmas is knocking on the door and you just can’t wait to spend time with your family.
In the meantime, you’re making ambitious plans for 2020 and you’re really excited.
Me… I’m you, one year later. Things are different. I won’t go over everything that happened since the beginning of 2020. I just want to let you know how your plans go.
We both know you’ve been dreaming to start your own business for a very long time.
But you’ll surely pick one hell of a year to jump ship and quit your daily job.
You will take the leap of faith on the 15th of February 2020, right before a piece of s**t pandemic hits the planet, caused by a new coronavirus called COVID-19. You’ll be very grateful for having saved an emergency fund.
But for you — right now — things still look pretty exciting in 2019.
Regrets? We’ll keep that for the one-year retrospective.
First, let me give you some context from where I stand, here in November ‘20.
The freelance economy was already booming for the last several years, but the coronavirus crisis will make it surge 22% compared to 2019.
In April ‘20, there’s going to be a major lockdown across countries, caused by the pandemic. Millions of people around the world will lose their jobs and hundreds of businesses will be forced to close down.
Unfortunately, you’ll have a few setbacks also, but in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity. You’ll have to push through.
Just when you’ll think “Working from home is cool!”, for many people, work-from-home will be the new norm and many will struggle to adapt.
Later in summer, when part of business activity will resume, companies will start to turn their head-hunting towards freelance workers to keep things flexible and reduce costs. The freelance economy is likely to see continuous growth when the pandemic is over.
Without going through other crazy chapters of 2020, let me emphasize some of the learnings that will help you in this new journey of yours.
This may be one of the most important aspects of running your own business, or any business for that matter.
Just like a healthy personal relationship, business relationships are also built on communication. You need to learn to communicate effectively, professionally and assertively.
It’s best to have clear communication channels with your clients. There are many tools out there, but try using a single one, if possible.
Set up recurrent meetings to make sure everyone is aligned to the same scope. Things can go off track pretty fast. This way, you avoid unwanted surprises, like working on a feature for two weeks without syncing, to find out afterwards that your client completely changed his/her mind.
If the client is local, try to have weekly in-person meetings. Of course, you’ll be wearing a mask, because it’s 2020. Online calls work to a certain degree, but you won’t get the dynamics of meeting in-person.
When things go sideways, be accountable and try to find solutions. Don’t be afraid to ask for more time if needed.
I can’t stress this enough — always ask, never assume.
This is going to be an interesting aspect and quite difficult to achieve. It’s basically an entire paradigm shift.
It’s difficult to switch from a 9–to-5 mindset after 10 years working for employers.
It will take time to adapt to your new lifestyle. Your first 2 weeks will feel like a vacation. You even tell yourself “I deserve a few days off before I begin this new journey”.
Soon after that, you’ll wake up and realize you’re on your own and you’re responsible for everything from now on. This is when anxiety kicks in.
Self-doubt is building up and you’ll have good days and bad days.
You’ll need to wear many hats in this journey.
You’ll ask yourself if you did the right thing. Your brain will tell you “Probably not” but your gut will yield “Remember WHY! Keep Pushing!”.
Don’t worry, it’s all part of the process.
After the paradigm shift is over, you enter the next phase, in which you start to discover your real value and actually start to see yourself as a business and partner for your clients.
That’s when the employee mindset is OFF.
You’ll have to be careful and not underprice yourself. You’ll have a few setbacks, but you’ll learn to negotiate and build long term relationships with your clients. You’ll be fascinated by entrepreneurship and you’ll start to see yourself as a legitimate business, rather than someone hired to do work.
Running your own endeavour changes not only your professional life but your entire lifestyle.
You have the luxury of flexible time. Therefore, you’re responsible for the choice of how you spend this time.
It’s not “Sitting-On-The-Beach-With-MaiTas-All-Day” lifestyle. At least, not in the beginning. You’ll probably go through burnout. You have to be careful.
To avoid feeling completely lost (which many times you’ll feel), plan your week, even the month if that’s something possible.
It’s best to have structured days and stay organized.
You’ll need to learn to manage your time very efficiently.
Maybe “successful people have morning routines” is an overstatement, but you’ll want to try and build such a routine.
It indeed sets the entire mood for the rest of the day. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes of meditation, maybe brain dumping in a journal, at least 30 minutes of exercising and maybe some daily reading. The benefits are real.
It goes without saying how important this is, no matter the life circumstance.
You should never stop learning new things and always aim for a better version of yourself.
Especially, when you’re running your own business.
You’ll stumble on new concepts and learn new things about business, sales, marketing, financial and everything that goes into running a business. It will feel overwhelming at first but you’ll be fascinated about it.
On top of that, you need to keep pushing for improvement and learn new skills. It’s how you’ll bring more value not only into your client projects but also into your very own business.
Aim for under-promise but always over-deliver. It’s how you’ll build a reputation and consolidate client relationships.
Never underestimate the importance of giving value for free.
It’s said that starting your own business it’s a great way to discover yourself as a person. It’s one of the best personal development journey one can take.
Throughout this journey, you’ll discover things about you that you’ve never known before, good things, bad things, things you’ll hate, things you’ll want to change and things you’ll want to strengthen.
You’ll give up old habits and build new habits.
You’ll eventually have a morning routine that works for you.
Of course, there’ll be skipped days, but you’ll do your best.
You’ll thrive for a better version of you 1% per day, every day. According to the compound effect, that’s an insanely 3800% in a year.
You’ll be your best friend and your worst enemy.
But be grateful for that.
Is freelancing for you? Do you mind working alone, at least in the beginning? Can you wear many hats? Do you think you can self-motivate in stressful times? Are you comfortable with uncertainty? Are you willing to level up your communication skills? Do you think you can manage your time effectively? Then, yes. If not, I’m confident that the path you choose, it’s the best one for you.
One of the silver linings of 2020 pandemic is the lessons on gratitude and self-sufficient.
No matter what you choose in life, be grateful and be kind. You’ll be ok.
Thank you for giving me 6 minutes of your time to read this letter.
I wish you all the best,
One-year later you.”
This was initially posted on 20.11.2020 on Medium, here