Unlike some couples, my husband actually reads some of the blog posts I write for FreelanceSwitch. Which makes me really happy considering my own parents hardly read the articles I write for the regional magazine I work for. Heck, Shane even reposts some of my blog posts on his Facebook page! What a guy.
So when I came across this Forbes.com blog post about the career lessons you can learn from Han Solo, I knew I had to write about it. Shane loves Star Wars (and I love Harrison Ford) so this blog post is dedicated to them both.
Don’t think you can learn anything useful for your freelance career from a spice smuggler from Corellia? Think again. Another Forbes.com contributor, Dave Their, wrote a piece on what freelancers can learn from Han Solo. I’ve taken the best of both writers’ ideas and combined them here for you.
Lesson One: Have an ally who will support you no matter what
Han has a furry sidekick named Chewbacca—his faithful copilot who was a gentle giant (for the most part). As a freelancer, you probably work by yourself most of the time, which can be isolating. It’s a great idea to find some of your own sidekicks who can support you when you are down and cheer for you when you are up.
When you work with other people, you can poke your head out of your cubicle or your office and ask for advice. Not so easy when you work at home by yourself and your only sounding board is the dog that sleeps under your desk.
Whether your allies are other people in your industry that you can commiserate and celebrate with, or just some friends or family members that can lend an ear and a hug—it’s important to have that support system.
Lesson Two: Be a mentor—you might get paid back later
Had he not rescued Luke Skywalker from near-certain death on the ice planet of Hoth, Solo himself would have remained frozen in carbonite, used as a wall decoration by the villainous Jabba the Hutt. Mentoring a Jedi can be a good way to become a legend yourself. —Matthew Herper
I have learned so much from my mentors—things I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. I have been used as references for many interns who I have worked with over the years, and it makes me happy that I have helped these newbies and that I can continue to follow their budding careers.
Many people think becoming a mentor creates new competition for them. While this could be the case, I don’t think it’s a good enough reason for not mentoring. Helping to shape a young person’s career path can leave you feeling like you’re on top of the world. Plus it gives you lots of karma points.
Lesson Three: Trust what you know
Learn from your experiences so that you don’t make the same mistake twice. And when you have successes, analyze what made them work so well and use the data again and again.
Lesson Four: Know your limitations
Han knows he’s not built to lead an entire Rebel fleet. And you should too. The temptation to go legit and trade in the freelancing life for a regular paycheck and a long slog might come up sometimes, but if you aren’t built to work that way, it won’t pay off in the long run. Trust your instincts and keep it loose. —Dave Thier
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You might think you can pull a few all-nighters to get the jobs done, but studies show that mistakes are made and quality is compromised if you aren’t rested. Plus, how many all-nighters can you pull before you end up becoming really sick? Your immune system can’t take little sleep and lots of stress for weeks at a time.
Know what you can and cannot achieve, and stick to it. You chose to freelance for a reason—and I’m pretty sure working 60-plus hours every week wasn’t one of your reasons.
Lesson Five: Protect your reputation
No one is perfect—especially Han Solo. We all make mistakes, but your mistakes can cost you a great client. Be the person your clients can turn to when they need something done right. No one wants to work with a wishy-washy, unreliable freelancer. And when you do make a mistake, own up to it and fix it.
Had Han paid Jabba the Hut the money he owed him when he had it, and rebuilt his reputation with the overgrown slug, he wouldn’t have been encased in carbonite in the first place.
Lesson Six: Shoot first
Don’t sit around and wait for clients to contact you—shoot first! You need to be aggressive and reach out. Submit your pitches for work in a timely manner and follow up. Don’t just send an email and wait. You need to remind your clients that you are out there and ready to work with them. Sending out an email newsletter once a month and following up after a project is finished are two ways to make sure your clients know you are thinking about them even when you aren’t under a contract.