Persistence in the Face of Disappointment
“We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb.”
-- Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was a famous American scientist and businessperson who is perhaps best remembered as the inventor of the light bulb. And that is a curiosity, because he didn’t actually invent it—the first light bulbs date to the very early 19th century, decades before his birth. What Edison did was to substantially improve the light bulb, a process that took thousands of failed attempts and experiments. What he finally achieved was a set of refinements that made incandescent electric light practical, and Edison’s perseverance made such a big difference that he is now frequently credited with an invention that wasn’t even his.
There’s obviously a lesson to be learned here for everyone about the value of “stick-to-it-iveness”. The more difficult the task, the more mental discipline it takes to persist even when things don’t turn out as initially planned. Becoming a freelancer is by no means easy. It can take many weeks, months, or even years of focused effort, planning and very hard work to become established and achieve a measure of success. So it requires some persistence, even when initially you may encounter setbacks that will make you wonder what the heck you are even doing.
I must confess that I personally did not have a very difficult time when I decided to become an online freelancer. This may be because I already had the experience of running my own business, or due to my having fairly low expectations to begin with. The first few weeks were slow, but I got established fairly rapidly and was able to build on my early successes to acquire a good stable of clients and new projects.
That said, I am hardly preaching from the mountaintop when it comes to the matter of determination. I have had many, many ideas in the past that I was never able to bring to fruition, because I encountered early setbacks and was not able to push through my disappointments and see the projects through. Heck, I even gave up on writing this guide more than once before coming back to it.
So believe me when I tell you that it is not any sort of a sign of a deficit in moral character if, when the going gets tough, you feel like getting going—right out the door. I think it’s a natural part of the “fight or flight” reflex that we humans have bred into us when we encounter stress, that many will choose “flight”. But we also have the capacity to resist that impulse, to force ourselves back into “fight” mode and redouble our efforts to work towards what we want to achieve.
As a new online freelancer, you are going to face a certain number of annoyances and hassles no matter what you do. You’ll spend hours lining up a project and patiently answering endless stupid questions from a client, only to see the job awarded to someone else because the client wants to save a buck—or even worse, not awarded it at all. You’ll deal with irritating customer service departments, Web site nuisances, unscrupulous competitors, and long droughts where it seems like you can’t get a project to save your life.
Don’t let any of this get you down. Like anything else, online freelancing has a learning curve, and in time you will get better at all of these issues. Try to focus on the positive experiences—you will have plenty of those too—and take a long-term focus. The sad reality is that a huge percentage of starting online freelancers give up before they even give their freelancing career a fair shake. Like Edison, if you believe in yourself, and you have the ability, and you commit yourself to the long haul, you can achieve success.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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