Guest post by Monika Kanokova, freelance community strategist and author.
This is the final chapter from the upcoming book My Creative (Side) Business, a guide for freelancers who think outside the box. The guide was written for creative freelancers to help them build multiple income streams with their creative output and while this might be the most sentimental chapter of all, it’s the one that affects all of us.
Consider how you want to feel “now” when planning your long term goals.
Let’s think for a second here. How would you like to feel when you wake up in the morning? How do you wish to be spending your days? Who would you like to be spending your days with?
Often, when we think about our life goals, we think about our definition of success. Nevertheless, it’s a definition that’s hardly ever coined by our deepest personal desires. What is regarded as “successful” has been defined by what our friends, family, and society we are part of consider as such.
It’s easy to be able to say, “I work for Google.” People know and respect the company. There’s no need for justifications because once you work for a well-known company, you’re immediately regarded as someone who has made it. If you, instead, decide to walk your own path, you will most likely have to defend your decision many times, especially when things don’t go smoothly from the start or are rough every now and then. (Which is normal, but no one ever posts about it on Instagram or Facebook.)
Because of social media, we are constantly exposed to the successes of other people who are often younger than us on top of everything else. It’s not easy to say I’m a photographer, an illustrator, or some sort of other digital creative who’s making it every day, but is still far away from having made it. And even if other people consider you as successful and someone who’s made it, chances are high that deep down, you still feel like you’re making it every single day, which you probably are!
It might come as a surprise to you that people with 200K+ followers are hustling every day and trying to make it too. There’s no difference between someone you think has made it and someone who feels like they’re trying to make it.
In school, university, and the jobs we’ve gotten afterwards, we’ve always been challenged with a goal we were working towards, and we’ve been comparing ourselves to the people we were surrounded by. However, once you are self-employed and you reach the point where you can support yourself with your creative work, you might ask yourself, “What’s next?”
Given our society aspires to be bigger, better, and richer, you might wonder what’s next that you should be working towards. You might ask whether you should expand your business and build an actual company. But do you really want to be spending your days managing and motivating other people or do you want to be creating? How do you want to be spending your days? How do you want to feel every day? And where does what you think you want come from? Is it really what you want or is it what you believe you want?
It might be that you still have a job and picked up this book as your first step to learn more about what it takes to not get a monthly paycheck from your employer. In that case, your desire to become independent is what you might have defined as your goal. But again, are you aware of what it takes to be self-employed, and is it what you truly want because you want to spend more time with your family or you want to travel the world?
Recently, being a freelancer has been hyped in the media, so it seems like a thing that is “to be desired.” Again, how do you want to feel and how do you want to be spending your days? As a creative freelancer, you will only be spending about half of your time creating and the rest of your time doing a lot of things entire teams do and split the responsibilities. There’s no project manager to prepare a detailed brief for you; no one else to deal with the nitty gritty stuff. Is this what you want?
It’s important to think about the questions I’ve opened in this chapter and write down your conclusions. You can’t and shouldn’t compare yourself to other people. Take the time and sit down to reflect on what you want your process to look like. Then, think about how you want to be challenging yourself. Reflect on what steps you can take to free up your time to be able to focus on exploring what else the world has in store for you that fits who you are.
Let’s go back to the question of what success means to you; is it being recognized by people, or being able to make enough money with drawing, designing, or writing so that you can spend time with your family? Once you start comparing yourself to others, you only compare yourself to the impressions available to you because you don’t know what sacrifices these people made to get to where they are. You haven’t seen them sitting behind their computer at 2am. You’ve probably only seen a picture of a drink at the pool or how they walk their dog at the beach.
Write down what success means to you and go back to that piece of paper whenever you face a decision you’re unsure about. I believe that once you write down how your successful self wants to be spending days, it’s much easier to feel happy about your life without comparing yourself to others.
That piece of paper, however, will also make it easier to say “no” to great offers that don’t bring you closer to how you want to feel. And once you know who you want to be spending your days with, it will be easier to know what to focus your energy on in order to reach just that.
Again, how do you want to be spending your days? You’ll probably be the happiest if you define success by how you feel every day and not by what everyone else tells you is to be considered successful.
Read more tips from Monika on building your own creative side business.
Monika Kanokova is a freelance community strategist and the author of This Year Will Be Different: The Insightful Guide to Becoming a Freelancer. Her heart belongs to good design and delicious filter coffee. If yours does too, follow her discoveries on @kathmo or visit mkanokova.com to learn more about her approach to community and product strategy.