When I graduated with a B.A. in English in 2010, I had big dreams . . . and absolutely nothing on my resume. I wanted to be a writer, but didn’t have a single published clip to call my own. As you can imagine, the next few years weren’t very fun. Since 2010, I’ve:
been unemployed three times, for a total of 13 months.
failed to hold a “full-time job” longer than a year.
quit three jobs, been let go once and gotten myself fired once.
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While most of my friends were gainfully employed, I was living with my parents and desperately chasing after freelance gigs. So when I did finally manage to land a great job, I couldn’t believe my luck. It seemed too good to be true. And it was. I was gently let go six months later because I was an awful employee.
Then I did five things that completely transformed my life. Within two months, I was working 50-plus-hour weeks for my own clients and making six figures — more than twice my previous salary. Today, less than a year later, I’m making more than three times that original salary.
Guess what? I didn’t have to move mountains to make that happen. I just had to learn a few new habits. Here are five of the most important things I adopted right after getting fired:
1. I learned how to do sales.
Most people aren’t business minded, and I was no exception. Instead of sitting down and taking the time to learn how to sell my services — and how to better sell my client’s services — I figured I could get by on my credentials and brilliance alone. Nope.
Business author Daniel Pink argues that, in today’s hyper-connected society, we’re all salespeople. In other words, you’re selling yourself short if you don’t learn how to sell.
2. I spent an hour each day on new business.
After looking through my “sent” folder, I discovered that the emails I'd written that got the highest response rates were also the shortest and most concise. So, I wrote up an email template and customized it for every job application by addressing the poster’s specific pain and my gain.
My system worked like a charm. Now, for every five jobs I apply to, I get one or two responses. And I consistently apply to new jobs every day. I even use that same template for LinkedIn inmail.
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3. I set my own hourly rates.
Let’s say you work at a consultancy, and your salary is $50,000 per year, or about $25 per hour. Assuming a 5 percent “pay raise” each year, your salary would be $63,814 per year after five years, or about $32 per hour. Not bad, but nothing to write home about, either.
Now, imagine that you quit that job and joined “Freelance Nation.” In your first year of business, you decide to charge $50 per hour, just to see if you can get clients at that rate. You do. The next year, you charge $60 per hour. By the end of your fifth year of freelancing, you’re charging $100 per hour and making well over six figures.
If you really believe you can offer premium services, why shouldn’t you charge premium rates?
4. I rejected bad clients.
When you work for a company, there is no such thing as a bad client — unless the sales director says so. But as we all know, bad clients are very real.
For B2B businesses, every bad client is another nail in the coffin. When you only have 10 to 20 clients, you really can’t afford to spend 80 percent of your time watching over a few bad eggs that add up to only 20 percent of your revenue. In other words, make sure you only work with good clients willing to pay your rates.
5. I decided to do something I love — that also pays.
People are always arguing about whether you should do something you love or something that pays the bills. But does this have to be a choice? I hope not.
If you really believe that “no one likes their job,” you’re subscribing to one of the most self-destructive beliefs in the world. Your “job” is what you’ll be doing eight-plus hours a day, five or six days a week, until you retire. So, why choose between passion and profit? Do something you love and something that pays the bills. The two do cross paths.
Still, it’s up to you to find the intersection. There’s no Google Maps for that.
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