This post is part of an ongoing series on blogging as a profession and working from home in general. To read the whole series, click here.
I’ve always had a bit of a “leap, then look” approach to life. And believe me, it’s gotten me into some trouble over the years. But one place my impulsive, commitment-happy personality type has (mostly) been a boon? My career.
When I decided to chart a completely new way of life and become a freelance writer ten years ago, I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew one thing: I was going to do it. And that decision set in motion the activities which, done consistently and over time, helped me break into that first national magazine, then sell my first book proposal, then turn my blog into a money-making venture.
Since publishing my post on making a living as a blogger last month, I’ve gotten questions from lots of readers who are interested in pro blogging or starting a business from home. By far the question I’ve gotten most is: How do I get started? What’s that very first step that will lead to the next step and the next?
I sat down and thought it over, and realized that I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer the question. Ten years ago, five years ago, or even three years ago, the way to get started as a writer or blogger was certainly different than it is today. Publishing has changed, blogging has changed, and anything else you might be interested in doing as a business – retail, crafting, software development, graphic design – has also changed.
Not only that, but I truly believe there is no one formula for success. The way I started – backing into pro blogging after writing for magazines for several years – worked for me, but it’s not the only way or even, probably, the most direct route.
But then it occurred to me: there is one thing that every person must do before she can launch an at-home business, no matter what that business may be.
First, she has to decide.
Not wish, not dream, not hope. Not just talk endlessly about it, join eighty-seven support groups, or create a dozen vision boards (though I do love vision boards!).
She has to actually say to herself, “I AM going to do this thing.”
I AM, period. Not “…if the baby naps” and not “…if I find enough time.”
Just I. Am. And then put herself to work knocking down obstacles of time, energy, and knowledge.
From leading writer’s groups and classes, I’ve gotten good at telling who’s going to make their dreams a reality, and who is probably going to stay stuck in “wannabe” status. And – surprise! – it’s not always the most talented or skilled writers who I can tell are really going to do it. Instead, it’s the ones who seem to glow with urgency and purpose, those who have made up their minds to make it happen, who most often do.
Others – those who are operating on a vague hope or wish or dream – tend to get mired in the details: reading books about writing, reading blogs about writing, thinking about writing, talking about writing…doing pretty much everything except writing. Or they write, but stop short at trying to get their work out there in front of the people who might read it. Whether it’s fear or apathy getting in their way, the results are the same: no action.
Not everyone is ready to decide. If you’re pretty comfortable with your life at the moment, or aren’t 100% sure you want to write/craft/design/sell for a living, or just think this isn’t the right time of your life to really commit to something new, that’s completely fine.
But trust me: you will have a much harder time creating momentum or helping your dream take off if you are in a wishy-washy, “whatever” – rather than determined and decisive – place.
So there’s your big-picture inspiration. Now how about some details to help you on your way?
Here’s my five step process to turn “dreaming” into “deciding”:
Create a sense of urgency. It can be difficult to make the necessary sacrifices if you don’t have a good reason looming. For me, it was my due date: I knew I didn’t want to return to my job full-time after my third baby was born, and that I would have to replace some of that income right away. If you aren’t facing down a built-in deadline, you may need to fabricate one: a date you’d like to pay off that student loan, for example.
Dream big. I’d rather not-quite clear a tall hurdle than coast over a bump in the sidewalk. And think beyond the work you want to do. How will your life change for the better once you make this dream a reality? How will it improve your family life or make you happier?
Tell somebody. I know it can be terrifying to share that dream for the first time, but trust me: it gets a lot easier with practice, especially when you pick the right people to trust with your dreams. Choose wisely: keep your risk-averse aunt and Negative Nellie neighbor in the dark for now, and surround yourself with supportive, awesome people who will cheer you on.
Look to others for inspiration, not imitation. It’s great to let other successful bloggers or business owners inspire you. But keep in mind that we all have unique stories and circumstances that make it impossible to re-create another person’s success story. My strategy: look to other bloggers for guidance in the nuts and bolts – choosing a blog or e-commerce platform, for example – but when it comes to the personality and feel of your writing , photography, or product, be uniquely you.
Apply butt to chair. What’s the first step you need to take in becoming a writer? Well, you need to write. The same logic goes for whatever your would-be venture is. Don’t worry about having the perfect business plan, blog header, or social media strategy from day one. Those things will come, and you can re-invent yourself countless times along the way. But once you’ve identified the essential service or product you want to provide – whether it’s knitted baby hats or helpful blog posts - then commit, create, repeat. And make a decision to do that day after day after day.
So? Are you ready to decide?
Photo credit: Caitlinator, via Flickr Creative Commons