Use Your Unique Past to Build a Better Freelancing Business


You have a unique business tool that no other freelancer has–and you’re probably not even aware of it.

I’m talking about your unique background. Your past experiences are what make you, well you. They can also be a huge asset for your business.

Consider this post from a freelancer who was a private investigator, or this post from a former belly dance teacher, or this one from someone with experience in the fast food industry.

In each of those examples, the author was able to apply life lessons they learned in a completely different context to their freelancing business–and their business was the better for it. And the ability for successful business people to apply past experiences to their current business is not unique to our contributors. In this Forbes post from David K. Williams, What A Fighter Pilot Knows About Business: The OODA Loop, the author explains how fighter pilot training prepared one businessman for a successful career.

In this post, I’ll explain why most freelancers don’t tap into their past experiences to improve their freelancing business. I’ll also provide you with a short checklist of eight questions that you can use to find business lessons from your own past life experiences.

Why We Don’t Use Our Past Experiences

So what does being a fighter pilot, working in the fast food industry, giving belly dancing lessons, and working as a private investigator have in common?

What they have in common is this–they are each experiences that contributed to someone’s knowledge and skills.

Your past experiences are completely unique to you. While some of us may have similar experiences, no two of us has exactly the same experiences.

Your past experiences can provide a wealth of information that you can apply to your freelancing business. Sadly, most freelancers don’t take enough advantage of lessons learned from past experiences. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • They think that because they are in a new field, the past experience is no longer relevant.
  • They don’t take the time to really analyze their past experiences.
  • They fail to realize that there are different terminologies for similar concepts.

The truth is that if you’re not tapping into your past experiences and learning from them, you’re missing out on a major competitive advantage. Why not bring the best and most useful lessons of your past into your freelancing business?

How to Make Your Past Experiences Work for You

No matter what you’ve done before you were freelancer, you can likely apply some of what you learned to your freelancing business. Here are some examples:

  • If you were a student, you probably learned to get along with people. You may also have learned about deadlines.
  • If you worked in another industry, you were exposed to business practices that either worked or did not work.
  • If you worked in the same field in a corporate capacity, you can likely directly apply some of what you learned to your freelancing work.

There are even lessons to be learned from negative experiences.

Here’s a checklist of eight questions you can use to analyze past experiences to make sure that you are fully using your past experiences:

  1. What specific skills did I learn from the experience?
  2. What specific training (if any) did I receive through the experience?
  3. Was the experience positive or negative?
  4. What worked well during the experience?
  5. What did not work well?
  6. What aspects of the experience carry over to my own freelancing business?
  7. What aspects of the experience do I definitely want to avoid carrying over to my own freelancing business?
  8. What habits or disciplines did I learn from a past experience that I can use as a freelancer?

Even if you haven’t thought about this before, there are some take aways from many of life’s experiences. As you glance over your answers to the questions, think about how to apply those answers to what you are doing now.

In my own case, I worked in a corporate environment before becoming a freelancer. Although there are many differences between freelancing and a corporation, there are also many similarities. Most of all, my corporate experience taught me the importance of having a business mindset.

Your Turn

What experience from your past has impacted your own freelancing business the most? Share your experiences and lessons learned in the comments below.