Plot a destination and set sail

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I’ve just been having a conversation with a colleague from a previous role who is making the jump and going freelance. It’s an awesome decision to make, right for some, not for all. As I have my own company and work for a variety of clients in a different roles, my friend was asking about how do you know what to charge, how do you have the conversation, how do you work it out and so on. There was more to the questions though. It wasn’t about maths or market rates. I could see the angst on my friend’s face, the way breathing and posture changed, the way their voice was different and the way they interpreted my questions… My friend was struggling with self confidence, professionally and personally. They were certainly out of their comfort zone and really feeling it!

Focusing to build confidence

The obviousness of breathing aside, it was about hearing the real issue of self confidence and addressing that. I know my friend has knowledge, skills and experience. They were my colleague before my friend so I know what they can achieve. But if they don’t know it, it will be a struggle.

The first point we discussed is that they are out of their comfort zone, it’s new, and it’s ok. It’s ok to feel a bit lost. I suggested that you have to give yourself permission to feel that way, then focus on what you can do.

Another point we addressed is that my friend wanted to “be ready” for the work. That’s understandable and commendable, we want to make sure our clients and employers get what they need from us. However we don’t all know everything, so it’s about taking the experience and knowledge we have and going from there. In part of the conversation my friend asked “how do I work out x for a client, is that a normal process?” When I thought about it, there is no normal process. Every client is individual and you go with how they want to work, within the remit of your own expertise and consultancy. Having both worked with the same company, I reminded my friend of their experience and the experience of the people, which is all valuable and valid.

A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner

There were lots of other detail in our conversation, including about how to scope out charges for work, by the hour or day, what’s an acceptable amount and so on. The biggest thing that I saw was someone who, in their own words, felt “overwhelmed” – with information, opportunity, choices and decisions. I used an analogy in this conversations that I use quite a lot in sharing my own experience. I’ve never been a great one for planning out my career path, rightly or wrongly. I’ve tended to ‘see an island I like and set sail for it‘.

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Sometimes I don’t get out of the marina, because it’s stormy out there or I’m all tangled up in the ropes. Other times it’s a nice sunny day and I’m relaxing on deck. When I get out of the marina and onto the high seas and the wind blows, I put the sails up and go with the opportunity that has presented itself. Sometimes I get nearer that island and I see it’s not so good as it was from afar, so it’s time to pick a new island. There are islands I stay at for a while, others I only visit for a short time. The point is, I’m always pondering the next island. If it’s a way off, what can I visit on the way? Perhaps some islands I take a scenic route and get to much later than I thought. But, hey, the journey is pretty cool!

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