People are often too shy, embarrassed or naïve to realise that their inner circle is the first group of people to should pitch to.

Last year was an exciting year for me career-wise.  I was building my consultancy business, blogging, launching a YouTube channel, freelancing in digital marketing and copywriting on the side.  Despite leaving me completely burnt out by the time 2019 rolled around, it taught me a huge amount about moving my career forward. 

I thought I’d share the 5 key lessons I learned in the year my career finally took off…
 

1) Freelance on the side

If you have that burning desire to start your own business, dip your toe into the water, by freelancing first.  Yes, you have to be prepared to forgo weekends and evenings but you’ll gain hands on experience, make new contacts and earn money you can later invest into your next venture.

Freelance for companies within the industry you want to be in and essentially act as a spy! Examine how they run their business, how they pitch to clients and analyse what you think they’re doing wrong.  This is such valuable insight and will give you a huge leap forward when it comes to setting up on your own.

These days there are so many opportunities which allow you to freelance remotely, so it shouldn’t interfere with your 9-5 job.  However, if you can’t find anything remote, there could be value in dropping one day a week at your current job, so you can gain that essential experience.   

2) Utilise your contacts

A huge number of opportunities can come from contacts such as family, friends and friends of friends.  People are often too shy, embarrassed or naïve to realise that their inner circle is the first group of people to should pitch to. 
 
You’ve already won half the battle with them because they trust you.  Also, given they’re your friends and family you have a vested interest not to screw it up!  Nobody wants to lose a loved one over a botched-up piece of work.
 
Make sure you offer mates rates and remember good work speaks for itself; once you nail those first few projects, your skills and name should spread like wild fire.      
 

3) Talk about yourself endlessly

You need to tell everybody and anybody about what you do (or would like to do).  Firstly, no one is going to big yourself up as much as you and it’s your responsibility as a business owner/side hustler to sell yourself hard! 

Secondly, you’ll be amazed by how many people know someone who’s looking for help in your exact field.  Hand out your business cards like there’s no tomorrow or, even better give someone 2 or 3 and ask them to pass them on to anyone who might be interested.  Continually promoting yourself and your business is like a domino effect and eventually clients will come a knocking!

4) Be Brave

Ultimately if you want to take that next step you need to be tremendously brave.  Waiting for the “right time” is a myth, there is never a right time.  You need to have steely determination and unwavering faith this is going to be a success. 
 
Equally, don’t be naïve, there will be some bloody tough times; financially, emotionally and physically!  Moving your career forward can take its toll.  However, if you solider through the tricky times, you’ll end up stronger and wiser by the end.
 
Also, remember if worse comes to worse you can get a part time job.  There is absolutely no failure in supplementing your income elsewhere.  I still work the odd weekends in retail for extra cash here and there. 

5) Don’t be Afraid to say No

I think the most painful lesson I learned last year, is not everyone follows good business practice.  Just because you’ve done a job well and go above and beyond, doesn’t mean you’ll be treated correctly or with respect.

Unfortunately, there are some clients who will ask for more of you then is fair or worse still, try and wriggle out of paying you once the job is complete.  If someone is late paying overdue invoices and they’re still asking you to do more work, it doesn’t matter how good the client is, just say NO. Wait to be paid before you take on anything additional.  Equally, if a client asks you to do something completely unreasonable, make sure boundaries are set.

Learning to say “no” is the hardest part of moving your career forward because you desperately want to please everyone, but it’s also the most important.  Not being paid or wasting uncompensated resources on a client can be the difference between a business succeeding and failing.   

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