The First Wall

The Freelance Writer’s Journey Chapter 4

I was told that, as one sets out on any entrepreneurial journey, they are going to hit some walls.

I think I hit my first wall last week.

A “wall” in this context is an obstacle that seems insurmountable at the time. And the freelancer comes to the resigned realization that the only way out of the situation is directly through the wall. There’s no over, under, or around in this case. Just forward. One inch at a time, usually.

There is such a disconnect between my actual results and my thoughts. Now I understand more about how wildly rich people can still struggle with anxiety and depression. The way that I think about my circumstances has more of an effect on me than my actual circumstances.

The wall is probably why I’m writing this post a couple of days later than I intended to.

Challenges In Week 3: 

The wall could be described as a combination of the challenges of balancing school with work as well as the sense of overwhelm that a freelancer tends to get. One month into my doctorate program, I’m learning that graduate school isn’t a joke. I am tempted to procrastinate like never before. This leads to some soul-crushing overwhelm on days that I have both work and homework.

I processed through the overwhelming feelings. I learned that it is actually very normal for both beginning graduate students and beginning freelancers to feel this way. That is also coupled with all of the change in my life over the last six weeks.

I learned that the best remedy for feeling stalled and overwhelmed in work is to simply get out of the chair, take a lap around the neighborhood, and decide to accomplish one bite-sized task afterward. If I don’t do that, I’ll find myself staring at a blank page for an hour, or finding a distraction that doesn’t push the ball forward.

However, doing one bite-sized thing as early in the morning as possible builds momentum. It improves focus for the next task, and so on and so forth. That is partly why I am writing this post before my workday starts. I want to get a quick win to feel momentum and focus.

Wins In Week 3:

Despite turbulence in my inner world, things are going pretty well on the outside. For the second week in a row, I hit my income goal. I was expecting this to take months, not weeks. Where I’m sitting right now, I am basically where I originally wanted to be by December. It’s causing me to rethink my goal and possibly replace it with something bigger.

I also landed my first $40/hr client on Upwork, which was huge. I started three weeks ago at $15 to $20/hr, and managed to double it in short order. I’m finding that it’s about leveraging all “success” into something incrementally better.

For example, every piece that I wrote at the $15 level, I saved and use as samples to pitch slightly larger jobs. Every time I landed a job I was unfamiliar with, I taught myself how to do it, and then used the newfound knowledge in my next proposal. The mindset is not to simply do the job well, but to see how I can use the result of the job to get me to the next step.

Some freelancers I know like to book themselves full, and then completely double their rate for anyone new. I am not sure if I want to do that, or if I want to try a more incremental approach. We’ll see.

Preoccupation in Week 3:

I thought I would add a section to talk about the things that I have been obsessing over, besides the wins and challenges that I face.

The thing I’ve been preoccupied with this has been Upwork success stories. Because Upwork is the first platform that I really tried, and I’ve stuck to it, I’m starting to see some success in it. I was wondering how high the ceiling goes. So I read and listened to some stories of people who managed to make six figures on Upwork during their first or second year, and tried to see if there was anything I could replicate.

It’s extremely refreshing to hear the story of somebody with similar goals succeeding. Especially because they tend to say, “Other people may say it can’t be done, but I found that it could be done. Here’s how.” These stories inspired me to stay committed and rethink what was possible in my own story.

Final Note

I am slowly growing in discipline. I am facing walls and overwhelm, and doing what I can to break through. On the outside though, things are going well. I’m excited to see what October holds, and whether or not I can accelerate my original timeline. I am feeling very inspired by people who have “made it” who are not any different than me. I also have an increased sense of sobriety at the difficulties ahead.

One freelancer I’m learning from said to keep your “freedom why” at the forefront. People freelance because they want freedom. “Free” is the first part of “freelance,” after all. Some one freedom to spend more time with spouses and kids. Others want a higher degree of freedom to travel. Some want greater financial freedom. I’m starting to get a better grasp on the specific freedom I desire, and it’s motivating me to make incremental progress.

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