I began my freelancing career with noble intentions. I was a full-time college instructor who helped edit and ghostwrite books on the side. It began when my pastor asked me to help him with his book. From there, several other requests began pouring in and and I knew that there was no way to keep teaching full-time, working on books and maintain my sanity. So I made a choice to leave the career of teaching students to be effective public speakers begin one where I partner with experts, many of whom are already public speakers, to write books that can take their message further.
So I left my teaching career and jumped into freelancing with both feet. I had a handful of jobs lined up to start with so I was fine. But as I burned through my savings and reached the last of my paid projects that was lined up before I left my teaching career, I began thinking more like a money hungry scavenger than someone who has a talent to offer to amazing problem solvers.
I attended network marketing groups where I met others who suffered the same affliction and we started coming up with ideas on how to get people to buy our respective products or services. Over time, we stopped talking about those we serve as people and began thinking of them as “clients” and “prospects.” Instead of spending time with the people I wanted to serve and learning more about what they needed, I spent more and more time with other small business owners as we thought up new ways to sell our goods and services through mailing lists, flea markets and local expos.
After a couple months of this I began asking myself if what I was doing was the result of me learning the “business” side of my freelance career or was this me sacrificing my vision for service in exchange for enough money to pay my electric bill? I didn’t come up with a definitive answer at the time, and I don’t really have one now. All I knew is that I did not like feeling like I had to be a vulture in order to be successful. I’m a trained academic, so we are programmed to value being “effective” and “doing things the right way,” not to “make money at all costs.” I met a few people in those networking groups who were great at cold calling and generating thousands in sales each week just by going to the mall or grocery store and talking with everyone they see. But I saw even more people who were like me, passionate about what we do but desperate to make a profit that would allow us to continue doing the work we loved. What made it worse is that some of the people who were in the same desperate state I was in had lived in that state for 4+ years. There is nothing inspiring about that to a newbie with only a few months in the self-employed arena!
Now I have been ghostwriting, editing, and publishing for over a year-and-a-half. I have not worked on as many books as I would like, but I am proud of the work I have done. I have been successful at only working on the projects I believe in and not falling into the trap of doing anything for a dollar. I confess that I was dangerously close before, but I’m glad that I didn’t fall in.
Am I the only one who has flirted with the trap of chasing money instead of serving people?