Expertise Is an Asset Worth Investing in

You can learn to kern type as you learn to hammer nails- nail by nail.

Practice creates expertise, expertise creates opportunity, opportunity creates experience, experience creates more opportunity and better ways to handle it.

People miss this because they live in a world where they need to see the benefits of their “work” on a monthly paycheck- it doesn’t matter that the work might be sub-par, that the paycheck is not big enough or that the workplace is a dictatorship.

What matters is that the paycheck is steady- and with steadiness, you can fool yourself and others into thinking that you are secure and can brag for hours to Mom about how secure you are with the new job.

Invest in expertise, whether or not people who expect steadiness see its benefit. Perhaps you will not see its benefit either after the first two years, but no matter, you will see it after ten. And by that time, you will be able to brag about bigger and better things than the illusion of security.

The Myth of The Toxic Clients

I feel like there is a lot of cultural fear that designers and freelancers in general have when it comes to the idea that they might encounter a client that is so bad for their mental health and business that it will haunt their careers for decades to come.

I don’t think that the idea of treating professional relationships with the same terms and convictions as we treat the personal ones is particularly healthy. A client is not toxic the way a close one can be.

The main reason is that you can always fire a client the same way a client can fire you, so interactions will usually be conducted by both parties in a way to minimize this as much as possible. Clients will usually behave towards you so they don’t have reasons to fire you and you can help by educating them how to do that.

Red flags in this professional context can be misleading; sometimes, the worst professional experiences come from the people that seem the most promising at first.

Trying to avoid people that will be hard to deal with is near impossible because everybody can be hard to deal with, including yourself. To go from hard to deal with right down towards toxic is a stretch.

Yes, there are predators and people with such extreme qualities that they can be a pain most of the times, but don’t jump to the conclusion that someone is toxic because they had a bad day and did something moronic to you.

The job of a client is not to be perfect for you.

Don’t be Loyal to a Career

A career is an abstract concept; something that other people made up and others lacking the ability to articulate complex abstractions follow blindly to try and make more money in the long-term.

Few people, by the same token, have “careers”. Most have jobs that sometimes pay well, but deep down feel like they deserve more.

Various advisors will try to improve their stats by dumbing you down a notch to what they believe “you have a chance at”. The advisors, the jobs or the careers are temptations of the material world and may not serve you as well as you want to be served. They are tools to use to make money and fund your projects. They are concepts.

Don’t be loyal to a concept; be loyal to the concrete work and its measurable impact. Be loyal to your grand strategy, and if sometimes it means abandoning a career that became unsuitable, don’t hesitate.

Freelancer or Business Owner

If you like (and want) to do something, don’t do it for free. As a freelancer, you have the opportunity of working with (or for) an entrepreneur that knows to hire people better than herself at certain jobs to make stuff happen.

Looking through the other lens, if you are an entrepreneur, it’s wiser to not enter a venture in which you want to be the technician.

You need to ask yourself what is more important: to do something that you want to do or be profitable. You can’t have both of them in the same venture at the same time.

Being profitable means that it’s smarter to work with the proven talent of people that are better than you at doing the hands-on work. But if the hands-on work is something you want to do, you lose, because you will never be the best person for the job that you can hire.

It’s easier to start a business you don’t want to do the hands-on work in because you will be more objective about who you bring in as a technician. It’s also easier to be the technician without having your name on the door.

Leadership and Fear

If you take the responsibility to lead, to present your opinions, to get involved, to actually help people solve problems, to be the one that says what’s next, to listen, to plan carefully, to stand up for what you believe in, do you still have time to fear things not going your way?

If you fear that you will get fired so you never speak up, if you always stay in the back of the room thinking about how to phrase your question because you are anxious about being made fun of, if you worry about involving too much and receiving to little in return, if you anxiously wait for your turn to speak instead of listening, if you never plan because you are afraid it won’t work out anyway, do you still have time to lead?

Leadership and fear dance together constantly. Choosing one usually takes the other down a notch.

Your Clients’ Happiness

Should you make your clients happy?

Well, is your clients’ happiness your responsibility?

Is the happiness of anyone else, the closest relationship you got, your responsibility?

Does anyone pressure you to take someone else’s happiness besides your own as responsibility? Do people have this idea that you should? Or even better, that you already do?

If you don’t solve your clients’ problems, but you do it in a way that makes them happy, did you do your job? Where do you draw the line?

I think the high resolution question is: does your business deliver happiness? If no, is that a bonus? If yes, is it the only thing it delivers?

If it’s a bonus, do you charge more for being put in situations where you have to make compromises so you keep them happy? Or maybe it’s just your pleasure and you like making others happy, even though you open the borders of your boundaries way more than you would do for your friends, let’s say?

If your business delivers exclusively happiness, then how much do you charge for the stuff that will not make them happy short-term but provide a better, long-term solution? Do you even bother to sell that? Or does your business sell short-term happiness at the expense of long-term suffering?

How do you define happiness? Is your definition of happiness aligned with that of your clients’? Isn’t it easier to make happy those that you can?

Freelancing as an Expert

To get to the summit of expertise, you have to climb the mountain of ignorance.

The problem is that the mountain of ignorance is mostly made by people, and some of those people become champions. When you are a champion of ignorance, the expertise never matters. What matters is always to follow the rules. To update your profile, validate your payment, pay for some tests so that a client can acknowledge you as someone she can outsource work to, but never as an expert.

Freelancers have the advantage of picking their clients; you can pick clients that want to work with an expert or clients that want to outsource some busy work that doesn’t really matter to anyone.

The idea of expertise is an interesting one. We’ve been taught to always wait for the credentials to come in to call ourselves experts. We’ve been taught to wait for the test grade before being generous with our knowledge.

What if we simply claimed we were an expert before even taking the test, and then try to perform to match the expectations we set for ourselves?

What if we (as freelancers) stopped competing in the mountain of ignorance and took a real shot for the summit of expertise? There is no test. There is no grade. There might be bad-mouthers and people that scream at you for never getting a degree, but they don’t matter. They compete in the mountain of ignorance.

Fear and Regret

Fear is the addiction to comfort zone before leaping into the unknown.

Regret is the addiction to comfort zone after leaping into the unknown.

In business, relationships, and art there is always going to be a tingle of the “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome. This is going to drive a ton of leaping into the unknown, whether it’s actually good or not.

And we will make tons of rationalizations post and after the leap, when in fact, it doesn’t matter whether we fear the future or regret the past. What matters is to defeat the addiction to comfort zone before it overwhelms our decision making and cannot leap anymore.

Think for Yourself.

The online marketplace thrives on people’s attention. The biggest problem right now for some is how to pay attention to more things at the same time so that they can “get more traction” and be “more efficient”.

Don’t do that.

Most of those that build online machines that put out daily content don’t care about the utility of what they put out. It’s simple mathematics: the best way to be able to pump out a lot of content in a short period of time is to take a big topic, build opinions around it (sometimes tested, sometimes not), then divide it into small parts that you can share on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Your problem is that the message is cluttered, disconnected and contradictory to what others put out.

That makes sense because the owners behind the machines want their content to be different, not better.

Your best bet is to stop consuming altogether and think for yourself. It’s amazing how much you understand about business after months of not consuming daily business content from four different vendors.