How to Grow from Your Mistakes as a Freelancer

Mistakes That Make You Cringe

If you’ve been around in life for a while, then certainly you’ve made a mistake or two, maybe more. How about the time you were running your mouth off about a fellow co-worker in the office and you turn around to see that co-worker standing there, listening to every word of your speech?

Or the time you accidentally sent the boss’s bid proposal to someone for whom it was not intended? These are both cringe-worthy mistakes that have various outcomes, none of them good. But what did you learn from these mistakes?

For the first event, while it’s easy to gossip at work, the reality is that, not only did you hurt someone’s feelings, but you ended up looking like a jerk to everyone around you. What was the point of saying those things anyway?

For the second event, where you sent a bid proposal to someone unintended, maybe you learned to always double-check who you’re sending to before actually clicking the button.

So, the lessons learned were: 1) make sure the poor co-worker is out of the building before mouthing off but, better yet, don’t do it at all; and 2) sometimes you just need to check and double-check things, especially anything related to numbers, to make sure it’s the right action.

Mistakes Happen When You’re Running Your Business

As soon as you figure out you’ve made a mistake, the first step is to own up to it, then figure out where you went wrong, and fix it. Some of the greatest people we know well from history, have had their mistakes and setbacks while doing business. Thomas Edison, who invented electricity and provided civilization with light, famously, said the following quote after finally successfully creating the electric light bulb:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Of course, he’s talking about all the times he failed to get that light bulb to work. But he persevered, didn’t he?! Look at us now. There are lights everywhere.

Even the greatest among us have fallen down from time to time. Yet, they get back up, do things a little differently, and manage to achieve success once again.
Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group, said this:

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.”

Start with Dreams, then Follow Through

You’ve had dreams about doing something in your life, such as building badass websites no one will forget, or going to mysterious and foreign places as a freelance photographer. It becomes your goal, but you have to act on it in order for anything to happen. Sometimes, your dream looks a little different when hitting the reality button of what it takes to get there. You make a mistake in thinking everything should be one way, but it’s not.

But if you still want your dream, you will accommodate and change in order to do what it takes to get there. As a freelance photographer, you may need to work in more mundane niches while building that portfolio for National Geographic to see. Maybe you start out by creating online courses on how to take landscape pictures or how to use a digital camera effectively.

If you are a freelance graphic or 3-D designer, you might start out creating graphics for websites before moving up to something more special that you dream of, such as working for Disney. Use your skills to build a portfolio of 3-D art, give courses on how to do this, and make lots of connections in the 3-D art world.

The one thing to remember is that if you make the mistake of never trying to achieve a dream you have, then you will never know if you could have done it or not. So, try to achieve it and find out if you can do it.

Analyze What Your Mistake Was

Rather than beating yourself up over discovering you made a mistake, take apart the issue from the beginning. Why did you make that choice to do something a certain way? Did someone tell you that was how it should be done?

If you aren’t living under a rock, you know well enough that life today is changing ever so fast, much faster than in our grandparents’ time. What someone told you was the right way, even five years ago, is likely not the right way today. Trust, but verify.

Ask for help if there is someone close to you who could help you. Or find someone to pay for their expertise in getting your problems solved. You just never know what help you can get until you ask for it.

Find and Build on Your Weak Skill Sets

Maybe you find you have little to offer in the way of organizational skills as a freelancer. Learning how to be organized is vital to saving time and aggravation in your life as a whole, not just in business. After all, time is money. Know someone who is a whiz at organizing all kinds of things?

Ask if they can help you to think like an organizer and provide tips about organizing your kitchen.

For example, how is it that some people can’t load a dishwasher, leaving large areas of space inside, while there are still dishes left on the counter? You should have a set pattern of loading all the dinner plates in a group, adding the stew pot in the corner, and adding the frying pan along the back row of the bottom rack.

Cups and small bowls go on the second tier. Then you fill in the spaces with things that fit in those remaining empty spots, even if you have to angle them one way or another.

This same concept is also applied to business where you organize your work, placed in pre-determined folders, which are located on the hard drive directory folder called – wait for it – Work Folder. If you save website shortcuts that end up on your desktop, make a folder on the hard drive, make a shortcut from that folder that goes on the desktop called Shortcut Folder, and slide all the desktop shortcuts into the shortcut folder.

This leaves your desktop clean, tidy, and easy to view. Rather like cleaning up and putting away all the clothes you left on the floor in your bedroom, yes?

As a freelancer, being organized and knowing where to find the files and information you need is essential to working better and faster. You don’t waste time looking for that document you worked with last week. You know exactly where to go to open it again.

Mistakes are the First Step to a Better Life

Mistakes can be simple or complex. Forgetting to pick your clothes up off the floor is a simple mistake. You will have to clean that up at some point or another. If you don’t want the cat to throw up on your clothes, or bugs to crawl inside them, then you will get it done.

Complex mistakes have a bigger impact because some of them change your life forever. You will always remember what you did wrong, and you never want to make that mistake again. So, you change yourself or you change how you do things because the original action wasn’t working for you. It’s a choice you have to make – no one is going to do it for you.

We will all make mistakes but, hopefully, we take advantage of the opportunity to learn from them, and in doing so, learn better ways to do things, whether in life or in a business setting. It doesn’t matter if you are a freelance writer, a freelance photographer, a graphic artist, or a landscape designer – you will make mistakes but, eventually, with life and business experience, you will make less and less of them.

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