I somehow survived Q1 entirely creatively self-employed. Here's what I've learned so far.
Updated: Apr 13
It takes time and repetition to achieve growth through organic marketing alone.
I felt like I was going a little insane sounding like a broken record online with how often I was posting about Direct Motion's online dance classes. But the reality is that each time we post, it reaches a slightly different audience. Nobody on your friends list is going to see every single thing you post just by scrolling through their newsfeeds. And most folks need to receive the same messaging multiple times before they act on it.
The key here is releasing all shame surrounding self-promotion. Lean into the bit. Be obnoxious online. You're already your own harshest critic - now it's time to be your own #1 fan.
Boundaries. Are. Vital.
And so is a strong sense of self. Whether you're an independent contractor, working with a recruiter, or establishing your work under an LLC, it's only a matter of time before you run into things like scope of work miscommunications, offers to be paid in "exposure," or other situations that can get complicated and stressful, leaving you feeling stuck.
Explicit, clear communication is key to both avoiding and working through these situations. A practice I've adopted is including information about communication expectations, refund policies, and project deliverables in every contract before work with a new client begins. Having all the details in writing gives me and my client(s) something to refer back to if/when any confusion about our work together comes up. This supports the development of working relationships that meet my and my clients' needs, setting everyone up for success.
Be intentional about separating yourself from your work.
Boundaries with clients are just part of the picture - it's also important to develop internal boundaries separating your work from your sense of self. This is especially challenging when you're self-employed, because there isn't anyone else telling you when you're on or off the clock. That also makes this especially important, though.
My first few weeks of 2023, I was essentially either working or sleeping. I was also in a near-constant state of panic, because I'd suddenly gone from working one 40+ hr/wk contract for over a year and a half, to not knowing where my next paycheck would come from. This was bad news bears for my noggin, because my sense of self worth was so intertwined with how many gigs I had lined up, how easily I could pay my bills, and how well business was going - and business was not going super well!
Even though I've since found slightly more stable footing, I still have to consistently remind myself that Direct Motion is still in its early stages. It takes time for ventures like this to take root, sprout, and grow. Patience has never come super easily for me, especially when it comes to my income (I have fur babies to feed!). But reminding myself that it's normal to not have it all figured out this early in the game helps me release enough shame to take intentional action in the direction I need to go.
It's okay to ask for help - it's a good thing, actually.
Accepting and internalizing that this fact applies to me was probably my biggest hurdle. Without divulging my entire trauma history, let's just say I've developed what I refer to as my "independence complex." I have a tendency to take the term "DIY" to new, exciting, and sometimes unhealthy levels.
But one thing that I've noticed all of the most traditionally-deemed "successful" people have in common: they're all connected with entire teams of people helping them function day in and day out. I'm pretty sure that adage "it takes a village" applies to starting a business just as well as it does to raising a child.
Regardless of what type of work you do, you can accomplish so much more when you collaborate with others. And chances are, there are more people who want to see you thrive and succeed - and play a part in supporting your success - than you probably realize.
Practicing what I preach: if you found this entirely human-written article helpful, I am currently accepting tips via Venmo and Cashapp. To make a habit out of supporting my work, check out Direct Motion's patron membership options!
If you feel like you're in a sort of free fall, that's normal and okay.
Sooner or later, you'll learn to channel the chaos into magic and find your creative flow.