Well, my friends—this feels like a milestone. Of course, consistent with the theme of the past 12 months (and 13 days)—I’m reluctant to call it as much, or to take credit. Call me Minnesotan. Whatever the reason, I think remaining humble is key to being accessible and approachable for others (particularly those also interested in forging their own paths)—as well as for keeping the little pilot light burning in your belly, ready to ignite and conquer at a moment’s notice.
That being said, I’ll do this, just for a moment. HOLY CRAP. I DID IT! I ACTUALLY STARTED A REAL BUSINESS, GOT MY OWN CLIENTS, PAID MY OWN INSURANCE AND PAYROLL AND RETIREMENT, AND STILL WENT ON VACATIONS AND SLEPT AND DRANK BEER AND ATE FRENCH FRIES! THIS IS THE GREATEST EVER!
Thanks for allowing me. Now, onto the good stuff. When I spoke at WordUp Mpls a few months ago, I shared a few things I’ve learned this year. Here are a few:
- You can’t wait for everything to be perfect before you move forward. If I had, I would’ve let the fact that I didn’t have a business plan (still don’t) or a sketched-out customer pipeline (still don’t) or a fancy logo or business marketing plan (still don’t) in place, deter me from starting my own thing—from starting. You just have to start.
- You should trust your gut, more than ever. Nobody’s perfect, but I’ve had a few less-than-ideal situations in the past 12 months that could have been prevented, had I trusted my gut about the people and the projects. If you have a bad feeling about someone or something, run. Or if you have a good feeling, but can’t necessarily prove it’ll be a success, jump anyway. Give it a shot. What do you have to lose?
- Do not show your freakin’ clients your freakin’ dirty laundry. I have one million examples of this, and have been guilty of it myself, on occasion. In short: your clients hire you to do your thing. They likely do not want to learn the intricacies and complications, and they definitely don’t have time to waste. When in doubt, keep it to yourself.
Most of all, though—and this is true whether you want to work for yourself or anyone else—nurture your network. 99.99% of my business this year (that’s a real stat! Okay, maybe not.) have come from people I know, or people who know people I know, and that’s what it’s all about. The same has been true in my career, for getting interviews, and landing gigs. If you do nothing else proactively in 2015, do this: Say yes to coffees and lunches and happy hours. Go to the networking event, even on the coldest of nights, for the presenter you’ve seen ten times. Stretch your limits, meet new people, and catch up with the ones you already know.
I have so many people to thank, and will forever and always forget people when making lists like these (please don’t be offended!), but here are a few on my mind and heart (in no particular order):
- Lisa and Lauren – For being good listeners and cheerleaders. Cafe Maude, anyone?
- Justin – For being a reliable sounding board and truth-teller, and for the accountability and perspective that can only come from someone at a similar stage in their solodom path.
- My awesome clients – Maggi with the Minnesota Food Charter, Kate with Nonprofits Assistance Fund, and Mary Beth at Be The Match, to name a few. Thank you for believing in me, trusting me with your ever-important work, and for allowing for some fun in the process.
- Jen and Chuck – For collaborations, encouragement, and support. (That lunch at Lucky’s was a turning point for me.)
- Joan – For helping me land my first contract, and for teaching me more in the past five(ish) years than I ever could’ve understood back at Second Harvest.
- Judy, Charles, and Eric – For the mentorship and friendship over time—I’ve learned so much from each of you, and respect you more than you can know.
- H and B and L – For not thinking I’m an a**hole, despite my extreme T. For being supportive, for doing incredible work in the world, and for making me proud to have worked with you and to know you. (And for keeping me humble—don’t tell anyone I was not at all qualified to be your “boss”… You’re all far too brilliant.)
- Don – Not only for your partnership and love in life, but for the context and insight that comes with having done similar work in the past. The original “Going Solo” and “Jump!” events helped me rationalize the possibility, and to make it so.
- MIMA Boardies – Current and Former – Lauren, for bringing me on board. Jamie, for being a hilarious and genius PIC. Arik, for helping us… ahem…”professionalize.” Kat, for believing in me, and for the good talks over good drinks. And the rest of you silly geese—for the fun, and for being a part of something, and allowing me to be a part of it, too.
- My parents – Because, duh. Most of the time, you believe in me more than is reasonable. Thank you for being my biggest fans, and for always trusting me to do what I think is best. I’m confident and well-equipped, thanks to your support and the examples you’ve set. I love you.
- Nora – For the humor and camaraderie on the MIMA board, for sure. But more than anything—for the grace with which you’ve handled life’s most difficult and horrifying events, and for the example you’ve set of a beautiful spirit and committed friend. I look up to you so very much, and my life is better with you in it.
- Davis and Bjorn – For recent partnerships, but even more so for the counsel and support along the way.
- Dawn Marie – For the partnership as colleagues, and the support and encouragement as friends. You’re the F to my T (there’s probably a euphemism there) and I miss seeing your face every day.
One year, 13 days. 378 days. 54 weeks. 9,072 hours. The clock is ticking. Harvest is waiting for me to work on some billable projects. And I, my friends, have to get going to create another great year.
Thank you all. For everything.