Freelancers make a basic decision before they ever open the door: What the core principles and values will be that holds up the company. You use the same principles you use for your personal life. When you own the business, it takes on your fingerprints.
Some of the values were easy for me to choose when I began: Be honest. Be fair. Ask before you
spend the client’s money. Don’t jump to conclusions. Listen.
Then came the giant one: no fear. Do not make business decisions out of fear. Don’t make any decision out of fear.
It’s hard to keep that one. I had made business decisions based in fear for a long time–fear of my boss, fear of not being perfect, fear of being talked about behind my back, fear of people disliking me, fear of getting fired. And it was that fear that made me a lousy corporate employee. So, on my own, I decided–no fear. I decided to stand and deliver my best or turn down the business. Sounds easier than it is.
There are plenty of things to be afraid of when you own your business–not making a profit, getting underbid, outperformed and over cautious. But fear was the big “Aha!” in my business life.
A decision based on fear is frequently loaded with other weak motives. Revenge, neediness, lack of control. If you take fear off the table, you get a different picture.
“What if my competition underbids me?” Became “How much do I need to earn to make a fair profit and do the job well?” If it costs me $10,000 to do the job, and I underbid on purpose and then get the job for $8,000, I am not getting an $8,000 job, I’m losing $2,000. That’s fear.
“I hate Client X, she’s always blaming me for her own mistakes.” I can choose
to work with Client X and be clear on responsibilities or I can pass on the job. But if I continue to let her blame me for her own mistakes, I’m letting fear make my decisions. At the end of the job, she’ll either blame me anyway or I won’t respect myself for taking on blame that isn’t mine.
Fear undermines us. It justifies bad behavior. It is the road to the collapse of self-respect. I can’t live my life without fear, but there are a million great reasons to make decisions and always one lousy one–I did it because I was scared.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. (c) 2009-2010 Image: © Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved. No additional use without express permission of the artist.