It was a very hot night in august of 1994. Like every teenager in Cuba, I was serving in the military for two mandatory years the government imposes on every able-bodied 17-year-old. While on security duty at the front gate, my partner Jesusito as we use to called him, told me about a plan his family had of fleeing the country on a homemade raft that night. As he spoke excited about the details, the question came: “Do you want to come with us?”
Now let’s pause for a minute and consider some things, although I had lots of dislike for the way my country was going, presently there was more to lose that gain from such proposition. Leaving meant not seeing my family for the foreseeable future, mother, father, brothers, everyone I grew up with. Venturing into a risky adventure that if gone wrong, could land me in prison or in worst case dead. After a short pause, I looked at him and asked: “When do we leave?”. The rest of the story is very long but the outcome was a good one, I was able to come to the U.S. after being in Guantanamo Base for eight months with approximately 33,000 Cubans who fled the island on that hot summer.
The point I want to illustrate, is that some of the biggest decisions in our life will come unannounced and unexpected. In one of my favorite quotes, Jim Rohn says: “It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.” He also goes onto saying: The same wind blows on everybody… the difference in arrival is not the wind but the set of the sail.
Once again I find myself in a “ready or not” moment. For many years I have entertained the idea of doing freelance work full time, I have read countless articles and books about it, got my own equipment. No matter how much we try to prepare ourselves for it, we are never ready. These are some of the things I recommend doing to improve outcomes:
1) Practice Public Speaking
Some of your pitches will come with no slides and no warning, if you have problems communicating, work on it. Imagine you were invited for dinner to a friend’s house, his father happens to own a very profitable business in need of design work. When the question comes: So Bob, what do you do? You better be ready to crush it.
2) Learn about business
Be ready for negotiation, because it will happen. Know how much you are worth, how much you need to pay your bills, and do not try to go below your set prices. Almost every client that thinks your fees are high, will result in a bad business relationship. If you are good, the market will let you know.
3) Never Stop Learning
Inevitably as technology advances, so does the landscape. Skills can be learned, as you become skillful you can become talented. You want to be the subject expert at whatever you do, make yourself indispensable in the eyes of your client. So, stay on top of things that are happening in your industry.
4) Wake up Early
Most creatives will tell you that they create better at night. Learn about the benefits of waking up early and stick to a routine, although business deals happen at any time, there is a 9am to 6pm schedule that most people live by. This is time you should use for any human interaction or business transaction.
5) Just Do It
That’s it, just do it. Find avenues and channels to distribute your work and find potential clients, visit local meetups, conferences, get involved. I have gotten great leads from Dribbble, Behance, LinkedIn and my website, quick tip from these: Keep your profiles up to date!