Finish LineEvery now and then, you happen upon an assignment that takes you to the next level. Sometimes it’s planned, sometimes it’s spontaneous. But one thing is for certain: You’re left feeling as if there’s no turning back.

I recently experienced such an assignment. And although it may not seem like a major “get” in the eyes of the freelance world, I knew that with each step, this was the type of project I’ve always dreamed of filling my days as a freelancer.

What Dreams May Come

The mad dash to contact exactly the right people. The frantic worry about never hearing a “Yes” on the other end of the phone. The exasperated scramble to quell technical misfires when you realize that good old-fashioned low tech will do. I love it all. And like a kid in a candy store, I know I want to work hard, save my pennies and return as soon as possible.

Freelancer community sites like Freelance Folder and MediaBistro offer plenty of advice on how to get started, how to improve your business skills, and how to stick to it when the going gets rough. But where’s the advice on how to maintain a two-mile run/day habit when you’ve only just completed your first two-mile run?

Get Ready, Set, Go

I feature a quote on my About page from the career coach/author Carole Kanchier.

“A career is a continuous quest for greater harmony
between who you are and what you do.”

Many freelancers are willing to take a major step toward attaining that harmony, but fear getting sidetracked in the long run, unable to replicate their accomplishment. What are the steps to turning a dream project into your day job? Do you reject all other work that helped pay the bills in the past? Do you make sure that particular clip is front-and-center with every proposal or query regardless of whether it’s pertinent? Do you throw all of your energy into pursuing the next big milestone in hopes of making that dream gig seem commonplace?

I ask these questions because A) if they had easy answers, this wouldn’t be much of a milestone,
and B) I think the right answers will reveal themselves over time. But you don’t have that kind of time. You’ve had a taste of the good stuff and you want to make it happen now. So what do you do?

Defining targets differently
photo credit: HikingArtist.comCreative Commons License

You develop a strategy:

  • Marketing. Of course you want to include the milestone project in your portfolio. Companies and clients hire freelancers based more so on what they’ve done in the past than what you convince them you can do when given the opportunity. Yes, you may only have one clip of the type of project you would love to work on again in the future. But you’ll be amazed at how often once is enough. Include the piece among your best of the best and wow your potential boss with your skill and versatility.
  • Preparing. Whatever stopped you from reaching this milestone in the past is no longer an obstacle. You have a little thing called experience now. No, you’re not a veteran … yet. But experience opens up a world of possibilities that seemed so much farther away yesterday. You made it happen once before, so take a moment and review what steps you took to bring this dream gig to fruition. Was it really a fluke? Or did you see an opportunity and went for it with confidence and determination? You may not be able to recreate that exact scenario, but you can build on that momentum and pursue projects that will reproduce that same fire in your belly. The key is to be prepared to tackle the new assignment at full speed when the answer is “Yes”.
  • Reinvesting. Don’t turn away work simply because it doesn’t emulate your dream job.
    There’s a reason why you took those past assignments in the first place. And in doing so,
    you excelled at your milestone project because you molded your craft in the trenches. You’re a better writer today because of those assignments. When you continue to field them with renewed confidence and perspective, you’re reinvesting in the most important element of your business: You. While you simultaneously seek out more dream jobs, your core will continue to get stronger, sharper and more resilient. Which, in turn, will help you produce even better pieces for your portfolio. In time, you’ll realize that the first mile is your foundation for reaching the second mile at a faster pace.

Make Dreams a Reality

Checkered FlagYes, it sounds corny, but harmony means something different
to everyone. We all have our limits, responsibilities and
personal goals. One of my goals is to have arts & culture assignments knocking down my door on a monthly basis. However, I know that not only the journey, but also the finish
line can take on many forms. So in order to increase my chances and “bend” reality in my favor, I need to take my own advice. Marketing my skills, preparing to seize opportunities at any moment, and reinvesting in myself will help steer me on the path where yesterday’s dream project is tomorrow’s day job.