There’s a lot of advice out there (this blog included) that seems to tell independent contractors what they have to do if they want to be successful. In reality, if you followed all of the advice you receive, you’d be swamped with work and never have a personal life — that’s not the definition of success for many people! Paul Jarvis recently wrote a great article on The Muse around this topic and we wanted to share a few of his key points here:
You have the choice to say yes. You also have the choice to say no if it doesn’t serve your goals. What does this mean?
You don’t have to attend that networking event or conference—even if you think your whole industry will be in attendance.
You don’t have to accept every project that comes your way. Especially if it’s a client who doesn’t seem like a good fit. Or worse, seems like he or she would be awful.
You don’t have to take interviews or calls if you’d rather be in a heads-down work mode.
You don’t have to use a social network just because other people use it.
Now, before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about choice versus responsibility. Sometimes we don’t have the choice to stop doing something we don’t like. Rent needs to be paid, food needs to be eaten—and often there are people depending on us. So, we have to drum up meh gigs, or work with difficult clients, or do another completely undesirable job that we’d honestly rather not do. Choice is what we’re talking about now. Specifically, having two options, and picking one over the other simply because someone else told you that’s the way that it is.
Too often, well-meaning experts give us all advice on what we should do and how we should do it—all in the name of getting ahead. Advice is great when you need to learn a new skill for the first time, but the problem is when it comes to running a business, or marketing, or dealing with clients, there are endless ways of going about it.
So, it’s not enough to be blindly led by the advice and best practices of those who’ve made it in your field. There needs to be a further step taken where you ask yourself some tough questions:
Do I truly care about this?
Does this conflict with my values, personality, or style?
Will this make me happy and keep me excited?
Is this something I need in my life right now?
Why is this important to me?
If someone hadn’t given me this advice, is this how I would do it?
Now, if you feel scared or unsure about doing something, don’t just take it off your list and say, “Paul said I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.” Instead, take a moment to consider why that is. If it’s a fear of trying something new or something that could push your limits—that’s a bad reason to not try something. (Typically it’s those things that lead to the most growth.) But if the reason is simply a lack of interest, or that it doesn’t align with your values, or that it won’t further your goals in any way, then you can just say no.
Take control of how you work, so you can enjoy it more. After all, working for yourself isn’t just about the money and success. It’s also about having the ability to craft a life for yourself that you love. Because when you’re your own boss, you don’t just get to pick what you want to do, you also get to take control of how you do it. So take advantage and learn that there’s always a choice.