One of the worst feelings to have as a freelancer or solopreneur is that moment you realize you totally underestimated the scope of a project and you’re going to have to do a lot of work for free. Ugh.
It’s a fairly common problem and arises from unforeseen but acceptable complications or a lack of experience in doing that kind of work. It’s a bummer all around, but with the former you usually can negotiate with a client to increase the project fee or adjust the scope; when it’s the latter, you’re probably stuck.
Lack of experience can be a tough hurdle to overcome when you’ve changed careers or are just getting started at a new job. Feelings of inadequacy or frustration can prevent you from seeking new clients, trying new things or even continuing on as a solopreneur.
My journey in self-employment
In 2014, I started my own business working as a virtual assistant, and while I had experience doing online marketing tasks from other jobs, working for myself and being responsible for the content and strategy of my clients was all new for me.
It’s been a lot of underquoting and a lot of Googling.
I can estimate that at least half of my projects for the first year were underquoted in terms of the time I needed to get the task done. I track my time and it’s disheartening to see the clock keep running, but the end is far from near. How could I get it so wrong?
While the sting of that moment of awareness never loses its potency, I’ve managed to change the way I think about my lack of experience.
The opportunity to learn as I do
When you don’t know how to do something, how do you get it done?
I’m a visual and tactile learner, so first I read about it then I do it. After a few times, I can say I’m fairly proficient. With client work, the process of trial-and-error gets a bit trickier.
The new way that I think about taking on new tasks, is that when I underquote a project and then need a lot of extra time to learn more or try it out (usually somewhere else besides on the actual client’s content), instead of getting disheartened I accept that this is my hands-on learning time. I shoulder the buffer of trying something new and my client still gets their deliverables.
Yes, it still stinks when I don’t get paid as much as I’d like, but honestly, the next time some one asks me to do that task, I’ve got a better idea of how long it’ll take plus I won’t need as much time to learn it completely new. The uncertain feelings have roots in perfectionism (shouldn’t I just be able to do this perfectly from the beginning?) and that may never go away, but having a different mindset has made me feel less stressed.
Three things to work on
This adventure of being self-employed is extremely fluid. Each day is different and it depends solely on me to make it into what I want it to be. Outside factors like an accountability buddy or a great community can support you and give guidance, but my confidence and experience is what will make me successful.
As I go into my second year of business, there are three things I am committed to doing:
1. Keep taking on new projects to learn new things
I’m extremely grateful that I get to work with amazing clients who put their trust and confidence in me to do good work. They provide me the opportunity to try new tasks and I need to be open to all possibilities and run with them!
2. Invest in my education and skills
I’ve worked with a business coach and attended lots of free webinars. I’m doing a web design professional certificate program and a few self-paced courses here and there. All of these, plus all of the freebies, ebooks, and resources available from knowledgeable and talented solopreneurs like me around the web will only help me develop my skills and build up my experience. Use them!
3. Give myself a break
As most of us are, I am hard on myself when it comes to the decisions I make with my business. Making mistakes is a part of business and I need to give myself some wiggle room. Rethinking such a yucky process of underquoting as a positive way to advance my skills will surely be a turning point in my professional life. Here’s to learning new things!
This post was part of the blog tour for One Woman Shop’s Solopreneur Success Bundle, a roundup of e-courses, e-books, and subscriptions designed to help you succeed in all aspects of your solopreneur biz. (The promotion is over, but the story is real!)