Reinvention for Entrepreneurs: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the JourneyBy Amy Lynn Smith on January 18th, 2013 /
Establishing your own business requires a leap of faith of spacewalk proportions. And getting started is only the first of many bold steps to come.
Because when you come right down to it, continual reinvention is essential to staying relevant as an entrepreneur.
The first step is a doozy
I launched my freelance writing/editing business in 1993 because I wanted to evolve — not just at the time, but all the time. I longed for the ongoing challenge of new projects, new collaborations and new chances to grow creatively.
It didn’t take long before I realized I needed to do more than just go after any writing gig that paid the bills, though. I had to establish myself as a personal brand.
Everyone says you should write what you know, so I started with the custom publishing arena I’d worked in on staff at Campbell-Ewald. Before long, editors started calling.
Even more important, they kept calling back — and many of those clients still do. It seems that finding freelancers who adhere to deadlines, value accuracy and deliver what they promise (and sometimes a little extra) isn’t as easy as you might think.
Seriously: Never underestimate the power of doing whatever it is you do like it’s, well, your job.
Shoot for the moon
To paraphrase Shakespeare, the moon isn’t constant. Unless you have a shatter-proof contract, most clients won’t be, either. Putting all your business in one client’s basket is a huge gamble, which is why I’ve always used diversification as one form of reinvention.
When opportunities arise I jump at the chance to bulk up my knowledge of different industries, which I’ve done with healthcare, personal finance, politics and more.
And it isn’t just subject matter. Keeping up with the ever-changing nature of communications is essential. Print publishing is still viable (and I firmly believe it always will be), but the digital world has moved to the forefront and it’s here to stay.
Because people are creatures of habit, I initially faced some resistance. Why anyone thinks writers who cut their teeth on print can’t write for digital is beyond me. Good content is good content. But strategies as simple as putting “digital” before “print” on my résumé helped. So did leveraging my video experience, which seemed counterintuitive just a few years ago but it worked, for reasons that are obvious now. Sometimes, there’s trial and error involved in reinvention.
There’s also a fair amount of cold-calling and persistence required, but it can pay off, as can urging current clients to give you a shot at a new medium. A commitment to excellence is especially helpful here. People change jobs often, and a lot of new business has been the result of someone who liked my work moving to a different company. Presto! One client turns into two.
Always keep exploring
Sometimes, the work you do will lead you on a new path you never expected. That’s why in business, as in life, you should always keep your eyes and your heart open.
My passion for issue advocacy has brought me some exciting new opportunities, which I’m pursuing as I continue working with my established client base. As with every reinvention, there’s some juggling involved, along with new learning curves and a lot of giant steps outside established comfort zones.
As a sole proprietor, it can be scary to routinely take leaps of faith without a sprawling safety net. But it’s also exhilarating. And, after all, the freedom to constantly reinvent myself is exactly why I set out on my own in the first place.
Profile Photo via LAF Lines Photography.
Typewriter via Favin.com.