I have some questions I like to ask potential clients. My commitment is to providing excellence and value, and I like to initiate conversations that lead to relationship. My favorite question is what are your biggest challenges?
When I’m asked the same question, I try to come up with answers that don’t seem negatively revelatory. You know? I have this discomfort with coming across as fragile. A fragile freelance writer sounds unproductive, ineffective, boring. That’s just bad for business.
It’s a good idea to be completely honest, especially with ourselves. So I ask myself, what is my biggest challenge? My answer―isolation.
There were a lot of things I used to believe I wasn’t good at. Whether it was true or not, I believed I wasn’t much of a fiction writer. I recently finished a short story. My first in a long time.
Early drafts went to about 4500 words. The feed back I got, from people who know what they’re talking about, was that the ending left them hanging. The final draft, if there is such a thing, is almost 8000 words. And the ending rocks.
It is a good story. At that length, it’s more of a novelette. And it’s the first time I felt some level of fulfillment with my fiction writing.
You know what the best part of the process was for me? Having a solid network of artists and writers, and that highly regarded polymath, to take the write to for their input.
A Network. Yeah man. I like it. I like it a lot.
I always perceived myself as a crushing introvert. It’s a story about myself that belongs in the past. I really doubt that anyone who knows me would say I’m reserved. Introspective maybe, but not shy.
Networking was a skill I thought I lacked in spades. Nope. Also not true. I may not be as aggressive about it as I would like to be―today―but I do not shy away from reaching out.
The best way to overcome a sense of isolation is to take a good hard look at what it takes you, with your style and personality, to choose the right people to engage with.
When I began my Masters program, I used LinkedIn. There was no uncertainty about who to reach out to. I was studying Professional Counseling, and my network consisted of social workers, intake specialists, MFTs and Professional Clinical Counselors.
With my love for a strong quad espresso, it was a huge pleasure to meet at Starbucks with both established therapists and counseling interns. As it turns out, people are more like me than I thought. They loved having their brains picked and sharing their experiences with supervision, clients, and the arcane process of becoming a licensed professional in our state.
People want to share their experiences and their expertise. They want to make time for that. They want to make time for you.
Another way to escape the grips of isolation is finding the right communities to connect with, too. It’s a privilege to open your email and see an invitation to a closed Facebook group. It feels good to have arrived at a point where networking becomes a two-way street.
No one wants a one-way relationship. Not in business and not in our personal lives. The best relationships are more like multi-lane freeways. Exchanging information, insights, and experiences are awesome signposts, pointing out that you are in fact running on the road to success.
When you see those markers on the roadside of your journey, feel encouraged. It’s proof positive that you’re taking off in the right direction.
And while I’m engaging in communities with like-minded professionals, and networking with the right people in my niche, I still make time for solitude. Writing requires solitude. Solitude is a positive experience. Isolation is not, because isolation is separation.
Solitude is for growth, for nurturing imagination. Separation is the loss of these things.
Networking and community involvement are the surest ways to grow personally, to build your business, increase engagement, live your freelancing life to the fullest. So connect.
That is the name of the game. Participation is stimulating and inspiring and motivates us to hit the ground running every day.