Finding Success Through Your Strengths

It’s the ultimate goal and dream of every grade school child. To be able to grow up and do what you love for a living, at the time it may be flying in space, driving large red trucks, or protecting and serving. As we grow older, some of us reconsider which profession would make us happy but the dream of doing it for a living stays alive.

For most freelancers this dream is the root of the choice we have made to enter the freelance market. Whether you operate as “your own boss” on a full time basis or just on the side, you probably love what you do. What happens, though, when love doesn’t pay all of the bills? When we need that extra boost up the learning curve?

When love for the job isn’t getting you all the way it’s time to turn to your personal strengths for assistance. Focusing more effort into an area you are strong at, but may not be in love with can make the difference between a mediocre freelancing career and a truly fulfilling one.


What Am I Good at?

We don’t come with instruction guides that list out what our talents are going to be in life and unfortunately we don’t have the option to place our own attributes into categories at birth. So how do we really know what we are good at? We all have an idea of what types of things we are good at but sometimes it’s the unexpected strong points that help us the most.

The real secret here is to use other people, be it experience with friends and families, client feedback or suggestions from your peers. You will be surprised to find out that your own idea of the strengths that you possess may not line up with how other people feel.

For example, if I were to list my own strengths just off the cuff my list would look something like this:

  • Smart
  • Charming
  • Witty
  • Hilarious
  • Devilishly Handsome
  • Fantastic At Everything

The sad reality here is that (with exception of being devilishly handsome ;) ) I happen to be wrong about all the stuff I am great at. When considering our own strengths we tend to lean towards the things we want to be great at. It may be more exciting to think about what we could be good at, but that isn’t nearly as much help!

In reality, my secret strong point was writing. Yeah… duh right? “Hey everyone come look at how the blog writer is telling us his strength is writing, what a genius!” No, you guys don’t understand. For 90% of my life I have hated writing, like flat out despised everything about it. I made my English teachers suffer because the subject they taught made me suffer and it was regularly my worst grade.

Digging into Your Strength

I convinced myself to start writing because my parents and teachers constantly pounded me with how much more I could achieve with my writing and that it came naturally me to me, etc. In addition every post ever written about how to get ahead as a web designer includes a few lines about blogging to get your name out.

Writing isn’t the only way to get your name out there, especially to your current or potential clients. The great thing about having a strong talent or personality trait is you inherently try to incorporate it into other areas of your life. Do you naturally have a magnetic personality? Meet with clients in person and they will be more likely to start or continue working with you. Have a knack for teaching? Use eloquent descriptions of your services to build a connection with people. Do you rock face at Halo? Cater your skills to the huge online gaming community. The possibilities here are endless.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The twisted thing about doing what you’re good at is that you aren’t really good at it until you do it over and over. So, while you may have strengths in mind that you want to incorporate into your freelance life don’t forget that your life won’t be changing over night. Often times a considerable amount of trial and error will go into finding out just how your talents will assist your career.

Over time, you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that your success as a freelancer can be attributed simply to you being yourself. Most clients love to deal with real people and real people are different from each other, not just in the services they offer, but in how they interact and get along.

Your Turn

How about you? How have you used personal traits to stand out from others in your field? Do you have a strength that you want to incorporate but can’t figure out how?

Image by BozDoz

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Comments

  1. says

    I agree with you. Skills are inborn; you have to do it over and over again to acquire them. Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. I remember when our boss overheard my colleague and I. We were scanning a magazine featuring the most successful people in the advertising industry. As we were admiring them, we said “When will we become this successful?”. My boss was passing by our area and she said, “You are successful when you love what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter if you’re not the company’s CEO, as long as you’re happy, you can call that success.” Her words made me realized that success is not measured by how much you’re earning or by your title. At the end of the end, what matters most is if you still want to go to work the following day. I quit my job the next day; I was unhappy and will probably not be “successful” because every single morning I had to drag myself out of bed to go to work.

    Anyways, I now have a bakeshop. It’s still small, but I love what I am doing. :)
    Allow me to share with you an article I stumbled upon when I was thinking of changing my career. :) 10 Steps to a Successful Career Change

  2. says

    Man, I so love your articles. Very inspiring. Now I want to revamp my site and pick up where I left off months ago… plus looking at your article made me want to go hit the weights a little bit to get me pumped!

  3. C. Jackson says

    Thank you so much for this article. I can see myself all through your story and any aspiring writer should heed your advice. After taking a couple of creative writing classes, I realized that fiction was fun, but I didn’t like the pressure to produce or the workshop environment at all. I did notice that my strength was in applied writing (journalism, public relations, advertising, technical, etc.) I always felt more confident in that type of writing because it wasn’t as much of a struggle for me. I will always admire creative writers and I even aspire to write creative nonfiction/literary journalism to satisfy my creative needs. It just took me a while to figure out that though I admire fiction writers, I’m just not one of them.

  4. says

    Your perspectives about identifying strengths are right on the mark in my experience. If you don’t look closely you’re likely to miss a valuable strength.

    I’d like to share a story about how a very negative experience on its surface turned into my first consulting niche over 25 years ago.

    I started out in my business career as a financial underwriter of corporate health insurance plans. My job was to analyze the financial performance of the health plans of large corporate clients to determine the appropriate pricing. As a representative of the insurance company, I negotiated against the employee benefits consultants who represented the corporate client. My job was to get the highest possible price for my employer, the insurance company. The consultant’s job was to get the lowest price for their client.

    My boss at the time, a guy named Steve, was a brilliant financial underwriter but was despised by all of my colleagues. The reason being that every time you brought him an analysis and pricing proposal he would show you many different ways you could have analyzed the data to reach a different price. He would send you back to your desk to run multiple additional analyses. This took countless hours. We would go around and around with this and it could be very frustrating.

    But, I chose to look at it differently. I had already decided that my objective was to become one of the employee benefit consultants that I was negotiating against. I was attracted by the prospect of working with multiple large corporations and the diversity of experience that would entail. So, given that objective, I looked at every extra analysis Steve had me do as an opportunity to learn a new way to beat the insurance company underwriters I would eventually be negotiating against as a consultant.

    After 18 months of working for Steve I had developed all of the skills I needed for my first consulting niche. I went to work for a large, international consulting firm specializing in employee benefits consulting. In the 7 years that I focused in that niche I never came out on the short end of a negotiation. That expertise gave me the credibility with my clients to expand into other consulting niches.

    That story illustrates a valuable tip for a freelancer looking to develop a consulting niche they can dominate: Look at your experiences, even the seemingly bad ones, with an eye for the expertise that can help a client solve a problem.

    I’ve done this for 25 years and it has allowed me to evolve from employee benefits consulting to general management consulting and many points in between. It’s been a good journey so far!

    My business partner, Rich Ottaviano, and I share more perspectives on how to develop a strong independent consulting practice on our blog ConsultFromStrengthBlog.com.

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