Leadership is often over-estimated.
It is over-estimated because many assume being a leader consumes much of a person’s time and effort. This mentality, however, often defeats leadership.
Many great leaders must have balance, along with a few other key aspects in their lives, to become someone that others want to follow. Becoming a leader within your freelancing industry can be as simple as making sure to incorporate the 3 key elements discussed below into your daily life.
In the freelancing field, leaders are typically those with experience, but you don’t get experience without a lot of education. While a college degree helps, you can learn most of what you need to know to be successful online or from the local bookstore. Keep in mind, too, that those with an education in the industry know when someone does not have an education.
- Read Books: Select a book that has the most current information on social media, marketing, or programming. Then, consider your specific goal for reading it. What do you want to know? Once you know your goal, absorb the content for an hour each day. Attempt to consume one book a week. And most important: put what you learn to use right away.
- Read Blogs: Subscribe to blogs that are enticing to you. Scan its content. Consider why it is enticing to you. Sure, it may focus on material of interest to you, but why does it stand out above other blogs with similar information?
- Read Magazines, Journals, and Papers: Magazines and papers in the freelancing industry are current, unlike books that can quickly become obsolete in this “Information Age”. Scan them. Stay abreast of information in these resources. If these resources hold information of which you were previously unaware, you just uncovered gold.
For more ideas on how to keep your education up-to-date, check out Allie Freeland’s article on Continuing Education for Freelancers.
Once you have established some experience and education, you can start opening up lines of communication. You can’t lead without casting a vision and you can’t cast a vision without communicating!
- Create a Blog: Consider a new twist on an old adage, “You can beat them by joining them”. While diligently working at your own blog, it forces you to take heed of others in the same arena. What are they doing? How are they doing it? How can you make it fresh? Consider the different views of a similar concept. New perspectives on even old information can create sparks. Sparks lead to fire. Fires are always noticed.
- Network, Network, Network: Great minds think alike. Make an effort to meet other great and similar minds, and you’ll be that much more likely to grow a name for yourself. Get out into the freelancing community and make contacts by networking. Making one acquaintance will then make seven acquaintances, which then will make forty-nine acquaintances. Get out of your cubbyhole and go meet the people!
- Join a Community: There are many different kinds of freelancing communities that are specific to your work. Some of these are formal institutions with training and certification programs, while others are just groups of contributors who provide resources for others in their industry. Being a vocal part of these communities can help you step into a role where you lead others.
3. Stay Balanced
This can be one of the most difficult aspects of any freelancer’s life. Almost all of us have been there – we get obsessed with our work and are tempted to hole ourselves up into our office both day and night.
The problem with working around the clock at all times is that it creates imbalance, and imbalance leads to a very lonely and unfulfilled life, which can then leak into our freelancing career as well. Instead, make sure to take time for events and activities outside of your freelancing career, and do some multitasking when you feel the need.
- Get a Life: It’s critical to have a life outside of the freelance community and your day-to-day job. Get outside the walls of your (home) office and intentionally make time for other people and events. This will only serve to enrich your life and make you a better leader and a more fulfilled person.
- Read Other Literature: Yes, you need to read up on the most up-to-date information in your industry, but take the time to get outside the formal literature and have some fun! Whether you pick up a novel and get into another world for awhile or learn about something else, new perspectives, ideas, and philosophies will enable you to have a more balanced approach to your life and industry of choice.
- Use Time Wisely: Make all of your time count. While you are traveling, folding laundry, or running your monthly marathon, pop in an audio series. This kills two birds with one stone. Whenever you can multitask without compromising quality of work/life, by all means take advantage! You are then more efficient, organized, and thus on your way to leading the pack.