Overwhelmed? Start With One Thing.

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Before I hit my groove as a freelancer and novelist, I wasted a lot of years cowering under the table, completely overwhelmed by the idea of working for myself. I was scared of marketing and accounting, hampered by the fact that I knew nothing about either. Lengthy novels seemed like a marathon I’d never finish. Getting published? I didn’t even know how to go about it. And then there were the ancillary things like having a website, interviews/meetings, editing, and on and on that just seemed like so much work and so many chances for me to screw up, get sued, or end up in an audit.

All of this led to one thing: Me doing nothing. I figured I could never master all of this stuff, so why bother. I was safer in a day job where someone else handled the scary stuff. But then something funny happened. A friend asked me to do a project for him. And I did. Then he asked for another, and referred me to a friend. Before I knew it, I was freelancing! But what happened to all the scary stuff?

It sorted itself out. Not to say I didn’t have to learn and ask for help. I did, and plenty of it. But it didn’t all happen on that first day, or with the first project.

As things tend to do, questions came up as I went along and got sorted as needed. I didn’t need a website that first year and by the time I did, I knew enough to deal with it. Accounting wasn’t much of a bear at the beginning, either. The first year I didn’t make much money or have many expenses, so that was easy. It gradually got more complicated, but I was able to follow the learning curve. Getting published? Well, it was a long damn time before I had anything worth submitting, so I read and learned as I wrote and by the time I was ready to submit, I had a handle on the process. Novel writing came with practice, too (and more than a few trunked novels).

Marketing… Well, that’s still a work in progress and I wish I knew more than I do. But I’m learning and every day brings me new ideas to try and chances to learn from those who’ve gone before. I’ll get there.

The point is, you don’t have to know it all in the beginning. But you do have to begin. I wasted a lot of time too scared to even begin. Somehow I was certain that even beginning would bring this huge avalanche of problems down upon me and I’d be buried under all the things I didn’t know how to do.

Had I been smarter, I’d simply have chosen one thing and begun.

So this is my advice to you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of starting a freelancing career or writing novels, pick one thing and begin. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, either. Write a small article and submit it. Ask to submit content to a small website. Attend a networking event. Call some old colleagues and ask if you can do some work for them. Take an accounting class, if math scares you. Do some research into marketing tactics. Ask some friends for help, or figure out who knows what you need to know and ask them. Start writing that novel, first, and worry about submissions later. Set up a small website, knowing that you can expand it later.

There are tons of ways to get started and once you’re moving, the other stuff tends to flow along with you. I’ve discovered that you tend to learn what you need to learn when you need to know it. And you don’t have to know everything, which is great because who does?

It helps to remember that there are plenty of people out there with the skills you need. They can teach you or do what you need. There are also plenty of people out there who’ve been there before you and can help you. And with the rise of the internet, those people are as close as your keyboard.

You are never completely on your own unless you want to be. And no problem is without solution. Two pieces of wisdom I wish I’d known earlier. I would have come out of hiding much sooner.

(Photo courtesy of PIRO4D)

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