Will Smith’s grandmother was a wise woman. She told him:
Don`t let failure go to your heart and don`t let success go to your head.
As freelancers, we know all about failure.
Freelancing is not easy, and we’ve all failed at least during the early parts of our careers.
But I don’t want to talk about failure (at least not directly) in this post. I want to talk about success and how it can lead to failure if we let it get to our heads.
The Story of a Freelancer
A while ago, I met someone on my old blog (it’s currently down and set to be re-launched in a couple of months) who was really interested in freelancing.
She showed a lot of interest in working online and asked a lot of questions so I did my best to answer them.
Like most people, she had her inhibitions about it. Can you really get paid? How do you get your money? How do you avoid being scammed?
The usual fare.
She was already working but she wanted something to supplement her income and decided that freelancing was worth a shot.
So after our quick back and forth conversation on my blog, she jumped on oDesk and applied for a couple of jobs.
She was hired in just a couple of days, lucky. She got an easy data entry job, finished it and got paid.
She went back to my blog and left a couple of comments telling me that her client gave her full marks for the job and an “A++++” on the feedback comment.
She was elated.
Of course she was. She got a big break really early. She found a job quickly, it was easy, she got paid, and she was given the best feedback possible.
“The rumours about internet success and financial freedom were true after all,” she must have thought.
Her horizon widened. She had found new land to conquer, and it excited her.
But that’s not the important part of her story.
She told me that when she was hired, she was so happy she almost took a leave from her current job just so she could finish the assignment quickly. But she didn’t, thank goodness.
Good thing she was able to reign in her euphoria and not let it override her common sense.
This post is about the mistake she almost made. It’s about how something so good can cause you to do something stupid.
The lesson in her story is simple.
Don’t Be Rash
Back in college I used to go on a lot of retreats, the most common ones being silent retreats since we were a Jesuit run school. If you’re religious, the feeling you get during these retreats and shortly after is an unexplainable bliss.
It can be considered nothing short of a kind of “high.” It’s actually very similar to the feeling you get when you succeed in something for the very first time (remember how happy you were the first time you earned money online).
You feel invincible. It’s like you could do no wrong and that every obstacle in your way can be overcome by the sheer strength of your beliefs.
You’re brought to the very heights of passion and your soul becomes drunk with euphoria.
It’s a wonderful feeling, but very intoxicating.
I don’t know about everyone else on the retreat, but that’s how I felt.
I came down from Tagaytay (we had it there) thinking I’d just found my calling in life.
When we got back to Manila though, one of my friends, a Jesuit brother (he’s a priest now), told me that I should never make any major decisions right after a retreat. He said that the spiritual high will cloud my judgement.
Wait a couple of days or a week and reconsider.
I could have been a Jesuit if I didn’t follow his advice.
I never forgot what he told me. The lesson was simple, but powerful.
Never make major decisions when you’re euphoric from success
Wait for your head to fall from the clouds, and when your feet are on the ground again, reconsider.
But let me bring it back to freelancing, since this is after all a freelancing blog.
Let’s take going full-time as an example, since it’s something that we all have to think about at some point.
When you finally get that amazingly high paying project, when you’re finally getting job offers, when your income online is starting to edge closer to your income offline, when everything seems to be going your way—stop, sit back and look at your situation with calmer and more objective eyes.
Don’t pull the trigger right away and say “I’m going full-time.”
Let your feelings settle first. Wait a couple of days, or a week, or even a month.
And finally, when you’ve sufficiently sobered up from your drunken elation, that’s when you think about it very carefully.
- Are you really earning enough?
- Will you be able to consistently get jobs?
- Do you have enough money saved up in case things go wrong?
- Will you be able to find another job if things don’t go well?
- What about the benefits you’re getting at your job? Will you be able to earn enough to replace them?
- What happens if you get sick?
- Have you thought about taxes and how much you’d have to pay if you go solo?
- Can you support everyone that’s depending on you?
These are just some of the things that you need to ask yourself. But if I had to sum everything up, the main question would probably be:
Are you really ready for such a drastic change? Or are you, perhaps, just too euphoric to think straight?
I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from taking risks. We all have to take risks to move forward, but we should be level-headed when we decide to take them.
Don’t let your feelings control your actions.
Being passionate is a good thing because it’ll keep you going. But always remember to temper it with reality and common sense because those will keep you from failing.