To My Fellow Freelancing Mamas: Mistakes are Okay

Risk a Wrong Turn

Yesterday I received an email from a sweet new mama who is working to chart her own course and create an awesome freelance life. She was hoping to connect and learn from the path I walked when my kiddos were babies, and I couldn’t wait to talk to her. Today while her little one rested, we talked for over an hour about what has worked for me, shortcuts I found and how she can get started.

After we hung up, I thought about the things I forgot to say.

Being a new mama is scary. Those little babies seem so tiny and fragile and you constantly worry that you’re going to make a mistake. Launching a business is pretty much the same way. It seems like there are so many ways you can fail and you want to know every tip or trick to make sure you’re a success.

But, I’m going to let you in on something I wish I’d known back then: Mistakes are okay. Mistakes mean you’re learning. Mistakes mean you’re trying something new.

Maya Angelou said, “You did the best that you knew how. Now that you know better, you’ll do better.” So, to my fellow freelancing mama, the next few years are inevitably going to be filled with tons of self-doubt—over parenting, starting a business, writing, you name it. You’ll replay your decisions and the what-ifs over and over. You’ll learn that there is no magic formula to making it all work, but the beauty is you don’t have to figure everything out today.

In Bird by Bird, author Anne Lamott wrote, “E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

So, block out the well-meaning dream killers, conquer your self doubt and start scheming. Grow your business at nap time and bedtime and even during tummy time if you can. I can tell you, there are going to be days when demands of family life and your work like will seem daunting. Some mornings you’ll wake up and you’ll be so tired that you feel like you can’t get out of bed. But you can and you will. And one day, you’re little ones are going to go off to preschool and grade school and you’ll look back on those years and wonder how you made it all work, but you’ll sure be glad that you did.

 

Freelance Lessons Via My Family’s Ranch

IMG: Freelance lessons you can learn from ranching.Growing up, my family operated a cattle ranch, which is one of the best places to learn life lessons no matter what career path you chose. While I have no desire to raise cattle (although I do still love that lifestyle!), I think that background has helped make my freelance a career success.

Here are the top four entrepreneurial lessons I learned from my family’s ranch:

When you take something to market, it is a product. Whether it is a cow or a feature article, when you’re ready to sell what you’ve produced, it is quite simply a product. There is no reason to get attached to it if you want to make a profit. Instead, focus on creating the best product you can. Invest your time in it and tend to it every step of the way. But always remember that, ultimately, you’re creating a product that has to meet the needs of your buyers (i.e. clients). You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache.

IMG: The risks of entrepreneurship can be easily managed.

Business ebbs and flows. “Feast or famine” was a common term in my house as I was growing up. Some years were better than others, and I learned an important lesson: The ups and downs of self employment don’t need to be scary, but they do need to be managed. Be prepared. Save for a rainy day. Live on a budget. Most importantly, capitalize on the good times. Work hard and put in extra hours when necessary. But don’t forget that the slow times can be valuable, too. Use any lulls you encounter to recharge your batteries, streamline your operations and seek out new opportunities.

Change isn’t just good. It is necessary. If you plant the same crop of alfalfa (which is cut and baled into hay) year after year, you eventually deplete the soil and get less productive crops. But if you rotate the crop every few years and plant corn (which is also fed to cattle), the corn adds nitrogen back into the soil, making future alfalfa crops stronger. As entrepreneurs, sometimes we need something that adds vitality to our lives. For me, it is a creative writing class or workshop. Even though I mainly write non-fiction news articles, I’ve found that tapping into the creative process fiction writers use gets my creative juices flowing and improves my writing. It also inspires business ideas and gets me planning for future projects.

Some things are out of your control. For ranchers, droughts are scary. They prevent you from growing crops for winter feed and they suck the life out of the grass the cattle grazes on in the summer. Even worse, you can’t do anything about it. Sometimes you find yourself running on faith. You do what you can with what you have and hope for the best. Whether you’re a rancher or a writer, that’s a life lesson you can apply to any situation beyond your control.