When I decided to leave corporate world and enter the freelance universe full time I had no idea what kind of experience I was stepping into. I had recently moved to Sacramento, I didn’t know anyone, and I was essentially launching my business from scratch in an unfamiliar market that was soooo different from LA. I spent the first few weeks legitimately freaking out about the decision to give up stability and go out on my own. My husband on the other hand, who does not freak out about much, spent those first few weeks listening to my self deprecating meltdowns about being a failure and telling me to shut up and keep working towards building the life I wanted.
A major piece of becoming a successful freelancer is raising your hand and saying yes to all kinds of opportunities. Yes to networking events, yes to advice requests, yes to trade work with other creative freelancers, yes to sometimes working for free because the end project will give you good brand exposure. In the early days when I was establishing my brand, and it’s value, I did a lot of jobs for a discount or free. I was just glad people trusted that I knew what I was doing. Those early projects were the build years where I made mistakes and developed my strengths.
My financial success as a freelancer depends on my ability to land work, but that doesn’t mean every project is the right one for me. In fact, some jobs are a very, very wrong fit and in these cases I happily say no. This was the hardest lesson to learn because I don’t have a guaranteed paycheck so it seems counter-intuitive to say no to paying projects. While I am fully aware that saying no is the right answer it still leaves me feeling guilty. I was discussing this phenomenon with my friend Rosaura who also owns a small business, Pigment & Parchment, and she came up with a genius idea: The No Reward Board.
It works on the same principle as your elementary school behavior chart: when you follow the rules you get a sticker. In this case Rosaura and I decided we get stickers for saying no to projects that are not the right fit for our brands. Part of this was an excuse to have a drinking craft night (more on how to throw one in another post) and the other part of the exercise was creating a visual aid to remind us that we don’t need to scratch and scramble to take on every project that comes our way. Our reasons for turning down projects vary, but the main point is we are committed to upholding the value of our brands and services.
The board design was born out of our shared affinity for glitter and kitsch. I have mine hanging up over my desk as a daily reminder that saying no can actually help me grow my business because I am not distracted by projects that don’t make sense. I can focus all my efforts into building a brand I am passionate about.
You don’t need to be a freelancer to have a “No Reward Board” though, it works for all aspects of life. The friend that only ever shows up when they need something? No. The office gossip? No. Partner that doesn’t make you feel good? No. Spending money on frivolous stuff when you are trying to save for something big? No. Voice inside your head that says you’re not good enough? No.
While creating the No Reward Board I realized that one of my other passions in life is helping people around me celebrate their talents and promote their own value, both professional and personal. So if you poke around the Hey Girl site a little bit you will notice that I have added some new services I am offering for bloggers, small businesses, and individuals. You are here to be the best version of yourself every day, I am here to help you get out of your own way.
How would you use the No Reward Board?