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Friday, November 02, 2012

Positively Positive

Don't miss out on money-saving advice: The 8 Top Tax Strategies for Freelancers webinar, being held Thursday, November 8th at 3 PM ET, is just $69.95. For that, you'll get close to $375 worth of goodies, plus a month's membership in the 5 Buck Forum! Register here.

What's on the iPod: Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper

It's, well, interesting to have a few days in which nothing pressing is going on. My first reaction is to catch up on personal projects, but somehow that usually turns into my stepping away from the computer altogether and rejoining society. Since much of my personal writing right now is poetry, I don't need the electronic connection, nor do I want it.

I did catch up on my online courses. Let me just say that for some of these courses, the instructors are not understanding their audience. A free course shouldn't require you to purchase $80 books. A free course should not have so much homework that it feels like finals week every week. At the moment, I'm taking two courses. One is overburdened with video lectures (I counted 17 for last week's session) and required readings that include entire manuals (hundreds of pages). Plus an assignment (thankfully optional) that had students writing a strategic plan start to finish with no direction beyond one of those video lectures.

The other course, however, is one that makes me hurry to free up time for it. There are videos -- perhaps 8 to 10 per week -- but they never feel burdensome, nor do you feel you're being talked at. The professor has set it up as a group discussion and I don't know how he does it, but he makes me feel like part of that group. The quizzes are just to test your understanding, and they're usually just one question. The assignments are sensibly aligned with what we're studying, and they're not burdensome at all. Could be the subject matter -- modern poetry -- or it could be that this man knows how to teach. I'm betting on the latter. Plus he has videos that walk you around the writers center, introduce you to the students on the discussion panel, and live sessions that show his enthusiasm for the subject. When he thanked one student for giving him a new perspective on a poem -- in a taped video session -- my admiration for him spiked instantly.

What's the difference between the professor who uses her lectures at trade shows as lessons and the professor who involves everyone in fresh, lively discussions? Positivity.

I was thinking about how positivity affects our jobs, and maybe the way these two courses contradict each other is a great example of the power of positive thinking. I've witnessed countless examples of how a negative perspective can infect and control lives. I have friends and relatives who can't seem to escape drama, emergencies, or negative experiences. Why? Because they're waiting for it to happen. When it does, it's "I knew it!" instead of "How do I change this?"

You've seen it, too. "I can't do better at freelancing because the economy sucks!" or "All I can find are crazy clients!" or "I just know something is going to go wrong with this project." And sure enough, they live their own perceived realities.

It's a tough habit to break. So how do you start?

Stop complaining. Seriously, the more you bitch and moan, the more that energy is going into your work, and the more it's going to show. Ever hear people say never cook when you're upset because you can taste it in the food? The same goes for your writing. If you're angry, channel that into your fiction, not your client work.

Find a different perspective. Yes, that client screwed you or that project just morphed, but what's the best, most positive way to tackle that without carrying it with you like a crutch? Suppose your client said, "I think I now need you to turn this 500-word article into 2,000 words with charts and sidebars." Your first reaction should be "Great! Here's my price for that project, and my invoice for this one." It's a money-making opportunity, not a slight by a crazy guy. He may well not know what he wants, but as long as he's willing to continue paying for his indecision, it's no skin off your back, right?

Start each day with a mantra. What phrase can you inject into your morning (or daily) routine that will keep you focused on positive outcomes? "Today I'm going to rock each project" or "Professionals don't whine" or "I rock!" -- use whatever works for you.

Smile when you type. You can't assert your boundaries or professional requirements into that email if you're thinking "You rotten jerk!" Instead, think "Here's what I require to make this work" and do it with thoughts of getting to Yes.

Lose fear. Fear of failure, fear of losing clients, fear of missing deadlines or not understanding project goals or whatever.... none of that belongs in your head at all, let alone when you're negotiating or communicating. If you don't understand, drop fear of feeling foolish (which in itself is pretty foolish) and ask more questions until you know you and your client are seeing the same thing.

How do you keep your work on a positive path?


Kimberly Ben said...

Thank you for sharing information about Coursera. I hope to take advantage of it in the coming year. And, yeah, $80 for books is a bit steep (although might be considered an investment if you can use it as reference resource for your biz after).

You're SO right about the power of positive thinking in all things, including our career experience as freelancers.

The forum that first gave me the information I needed to start working as a freelancer eventually turned into a very negative space of constant complaints about "no good freelance opportunities" and "low paying clients." I find it's much easier to keep a positive state of mind when you surround yourself with like-minded people.

Paula said...

I won't reply immediately to a negative or stress-inducing e-mail (client or otherwise).

I take a breath, think over exactly what I do and don't want to say. Then I think some more: how will the recipient interpret my response? Can I re-word it to ensure it won't sound defensive or upset the recipient? Only after I've done everything to make sure my reply doesn't seem reactionary will I hit send.

I think all freelancers need that inner optimist to keep us going. Constantly finding new work can be an uphill battle, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun.

Lori said...

Kim, I suspect freelancers let their frustrations boil over into generalizations. They don't want it to be their fault they're not working, and that's understandable. But if others ARE working, then maybe something needs to be tweaked.

Paula, so true. Isn't it fun to be challenged and to thrive under those challenges? Makes me feel like a stronger person for it. Still, I've seen many a freelancer talk themselves into - and out of - careers.

Devon Ellington said...

I skipped the $80 book for one of my courses and am still getting 100% on the quizzes just from paying attention to the lectures.

Most of these are ivy-league level courses, so I expect a lot of work. I think we should be held to a high level of courseload work, especially if we're getting certified. When I was juggling three courses, it was almost another full week's workload, but it was worth it.

Otherwise, it's like too many classes online, where people waft in and out when they happen to feel like it and don't do the work, and it sucks the life out of the course, it drags the whole class down --which is why I bounce people who lag behind out of my classes -- it's not just about them -- they're HURTING everyone by not keeping up and showing a lack of respect.

Don't commit to something if you're not going to see it through. And, if you commit, meet the commitment, whether it's a class or a freelance client. It's not okay to bail or sigh and say, "oh, life got in the way, lah, lah, lah."

Stay up a few extra hours and finish.

All three of my professors so far have been great, I have to say, even if I haven't always agreed with the set-up. With so many of us, I understand the need for "peer review", but there's got to be a way of sorting us so that peers actually review each other, not just random class members.

As far as keeping work positive, I like to create positions for myself with people in companies I like -- give them a reason for hiring me that they didn't know they had! ;)

EP said...

Losing the fear is the best advice you can give. You can't just turn it on and off, of course, but it's always a perfect waste of time - similar to the time you spend trying to find someone or something to blame. Hey, is it something you have control over/can do something about? If it isn't, don't waste any time worrying about it.

ChuckB said...

With the dynamic schedule you maintain, Lori, I can't imagine where you find the time to take not one, but two on-line classes. I'm into my first and I had no idea the amount of time it takes to bend my brainwaves to accomodate the learning process.

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