It’s been over a month since I officially quit my job to be a full-time freelance consultant. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get this momentous step when I first started thinking and dreaming seven years ago. For a planner like me, so much goes into such a move. At times I still get a sensation of free fall when I think about it, even with all my preparation.
I thought a lot about the phrase in the title of this post over the past year. “Well begun is half done,” Wikipedia informs us, is an old Greek proverb quoted by Aristotle in his Politics. Aristotle was far from my favorite when I studied philosophy in undergrad. I will begrudgingly say that, along with inspiring physics, medicine, politics, and ethics to this day, he’s got good taste in proverbs.
As I plotted to turn my dream of working independently into a reality, my concerns were:
- establishing good relationships with other freelancers/entrepreneurs
- maintaining a steady(ish) flow of projects
- managing administrative tasks consistently
- not succumbing to bad work habits
I had done enough research to know those would be major hurdles for me. I also knew I could get help, but from whom and how?
Good Professional Relationships
Being a fairly social person, I figured I would enjoy this hurdle the most. I talked with one of the owners of my gym last spring and he recommended I try out a local networking group called Team Network. Having regular check-ins with local business owners yielded referrals, which I really needed. Even better, I built relationships with consultants in related disciplines. We share ideas, encouragement, and even business when teaming up makes sense.
Steady Flow of Projects
Those good relationships yielded the relatively steady projects I feared would be a huge challenge. Talk about your virtuous cycles! I knew one good job would not automatically turn into another, but it certainly seems as though one good relationship can yield a lot of jobs. Whether it’s a direct referral or a connection I made because I was there for my colleagues, either way it’s a project. Cold-calling Craigslist posters never seemed like a desirable work stream, and I’m glad I have not had to test that assumption.
Part of me likes organizing – it’s what makes the Content Strategist in me happy. But I also knew I would never get pumped about being my own bookkeeper. Worse yet, even when I enjoy some of the admin tasks themselves, I could avoid feeding the beast until it was a monster swallowing my business whole. I found an accountant who could advise me. I added calendar blocks when I’m feeling particularly un-creative or I need a break from my usual flow. (Friday afternoons, I’m looking at you.) This week I was reminded how fun it can be and how much satisfaction it can yield to get such tasks done. I went on a Trello updating bender and I’m flying on high on organized living!
Good Work Habits
We often speak of “work/life balance,” but the more I think about it, the more bad work habits seem to be the culprit in throwing off that balance. Even as I pursue personally satisfying work, I don’t want it to define my entire being. If I take too many jobs, set up bad client expectations, dawdle at my tasks, don’t build in a buffer, and prioritize jobs over the rest of my life, those are all bad work habits. They inevitably make me toil too long and too hard, crowding out healthy habits (like adequate sleep, exercise, and nutrition), hobbies, and personal relationships. As much as it is within my power, I avoid them. I also inform my friends and family so they keep me accountable.
Sometimes it’s outside my control. As others have mentioned, being an entrepreneur can be a structurally lonely occupation. In those cases, it’s best to proactively prevent isolation from draining the joy out of your work and life. Keeping up gym attendance and teaching has been helpful. Several times weekly I meet up with my community to learn something and share my knowledge. I have limited business hours so I can enjoy my weekends and evenings as much as possible. I get together with friends regularly, and I’m trying to find fellow work-from-home types so we can work from each other’s homes on occasion.
One of the best things I did, however, was get a business coach. My coach, Mick, has been invaluable. When I’m unsure how to make a decision, he can help me work through my options and think creatively about a superior solution. When I need direction, he’s a fount of resources. When I’m losing sight of the forest while studying trees, he brings me back and holds me accountable to my priorities. He is also focused on ensuring work stays in its proper place and I have room to be a whole person.
The Other Half
Our Greek proverb states reminds us we’re only half done if we begin well. One month is not a year is not a decade, so I have a long way to go. I’m sure there will be plenty of times when I don’t finish properly and I have to begin again. I’m celebrating a good beginning to remind me that Aristotle’s right – it’s worth the effort.