Have you ever seen a tightrope walker? One foot placed carefully in front of the other. Balancing pole firmly gripped and carefully maneuvered to maintain a delicate harmony that holds gravity at bay.
Years of training and practice come into play as the experienced professional plots a path from one end to the other. The onlookers below crane their necks upward, spines tingling at the possibility of a misstep and the resulting fall. The thrill for both the walker and the audience is incomparable, buoyed by the unknown and the potential for disaster.
For those who make the adventurous leap into the world of freelancing, leaving behind the stability of a weekly paycheck, medical benefits, and all the other relatively boring but wonderfully secure elements of employment, the thrill and sometimes anxiety is very much akin to that of the tightrope walker. Taking the responsibilities of provision for yourself and your family and placing them firmly in your own hands can seem very similar to grabbing the balancing pole and taking the first steps out onto a tightrope.
In this post, I want to challenge freelancers to work without a safety net. In fact, taking that risk may be the very key to your success, not to mention how much more thrilling and exhilarating it will make the trip along the way.
Why a Safety Net Isn’t As Important as You Think
Because of the treacherous territory of freelancing, many will advise the freelancing newcomer to get all of his or her ducks in a row, confirming that there are provisions in place should the attempt fail. Practical wisdom would suggest this is the smart route to take; making sure your safety net is intact before ever setting foot on the tight rope.
What happens when the upward-gazing spectators begin to realize that the tightrope walker has a safety net, or perhaps suspension cables, to catch him if the worst should happen? The tension quickly dissolves and the spectacle deteriorates to mildly entertaining, still interesting in its uniqueness but void of the spine-tingling suspense that only moments before had consumed one and all. The walker himself has nothing more to be concerned about than a possible slip and fall into the net, alleviating any fear and removing almost every ounce of excitement, which in turn is passed on to his audience.
Even more disappointing is the likelihood that once the reality of the safety net is brought to light, it is actually utilized more often than not.
What I am saying is that when you set out to start freelancing with a strong preparation for the possibility of failure, you are more likely to fall back on your safety net than you are to move forward to success.
Removing the safety net may seem foolish, but isn’t it possible that you will try so much harder to keep from falling?
When I decided to move from graphic and web design as an extra-curricular, after-hours side business into full-time freelancing, it was a life-changing moment. The thought of not knowing when the next paycheck would come–or if one would come at all–was enough to make me stop before I started, especially since this decision affected my wife and three children as much as it did me.
Yet, because of lessons we had learned in previous experiences, my wife and I decided to go for it without any savings, health insurance, or even enough projects lined up to insure some sense of reliable income. The first few months were definitely scary, and at times a bit lean, but the entire family united in the hope for better days ahead and worked together to make it through. Even today, there is still no guarantee I will continue succeeding at the same or better level than is currently putting food on the table and clothes on our backs, but we have weathered much worse to get here and I am certain no one in our family wishes we would have taken an alternate route.
The strength and unity of our marriage and our family is deepened as well, not in spite of the hardships but because of them. Character is not grown in a garden of easy choices. Relationships do not reach new levels by maintaining the status quo. The most successful people in the world will repeatedly tell you they succeed because of what they learn from their failures.
The Benefits of Risk-Taking
Allowing yourself room to fail is wise, and when handled correctly will contribute immensely to your growth, but taking the time to identify all of your prospective potholes will usually result in you hitting every one. Like a moth to the flame, your “what-ifs” and worst fears have the potential to lure you in the more you focus on them.
I’m not suggesting you should ignore them entirely, but only to the point that you can steer clear of them and learn from those that overtake you. Any more than that and you are almost certainly setting yourself on a course that will take you directly toward them and away from the freelancing success you desire.
In short, your success in freelancing is directly linked to your passion for what you are pursuing. How badly do you want to be your own boss, choose your clients, dictate your schedule and work from home? How desperately do you want to spend your days getting paid to do that thing you love so much, with no one else to answer to or dictate your boundaries?
Are you passionate enough to pursue your dream on a tightrope without a safety net? If your answer is no, then maybe freelancing is not for you. It takes hard work, long hours at times, extreme discipline and ridiculous risk. It is not for the faint of heart. Although you could quite possibly succeed at freelancing by creating a nice, safe, just-in-case backup plan, it is my own experience that success is more likely to be yours when you throw caution to the wind and run toward your dream with reckless abandon.
The ride may be bumpier, the stress may be higher, but the thrill of the adventure will always prove much more enjoyable and beneficial, and your potential for success will be far greater if you choose to walk the freelancing tightrope without a safety net.
What Do You Think?
Are you a safety net person or a risk taker?
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