Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: Freelance Work Ethic

There are a lot of websites out there. And it seems as if half of them are shouting at you to quit your job and become a full time freelance writer, designer, developer or whatever happens to be the flavor of the hour.

I’m not afraid to tell you, as I’ve told you before, that not everyone is cut out for it. There are many people who need to be coached. There are many more who lack the motivation to survive as a self-employed individual. And still others, frankly, don’t have a talent which is marketable in the freelance economy.

I could type a list of 100 traits every self-employed person must have, but I’ll save that for a later post. Instead, I want to remind you of one important characteristic every successful freelancer has: work ethic.

The Work Ethic of a Freelancer

As a freelancer, you don’t have an on-site coach who will take your hand and remind you about that Thursday deadline. There’s no one to tell you, “no, you’re doing it wrong.” The only person who will tell you is the client.

You’ve got to just do it.

This morning, I came across a social media post by a colleague.




How true is that?

In the corporate world, every hard worker has a hundred lazy co-workers. That one person who shows up to work on time, does her job and goes home with a sense of accomplishment is suddenly the employee of the month. She’ll get her accolades and earn the jealous glares of others at the water cooler.

As a freelancer, you have no one to outshine but yourself.

There are a thousand other people competing for that project. If you don’t have a work ethic and a desire for greatness, it won’t be your name on that byline.

You’ve Got to Earn Your Freelancing Trophy

In a world where “everyone gets a trophy,” it’s easy to do the bare minimum. When you work for yourself and you create your own paycheck, that’s just not an option anymore.

In my years working in “the real world,” I’ve always been pegged as the one who goes above and beyond. However, that’s not always been true. There were days when I showed up for work and did, literally, nothing. Once I brought an adult coloring book to work at my sales job and just shaded in purple dragonflies all day.

Still, I did my job. My tasks were always complete, my sales were always high and my quotas were always met. I took on jobs that management should have been doing and I reached out to clients when it wasn’t a part of the job description.

Was I the perfect employee? Hell no. I showed up late plenty of times. I called out sick when I was just fine. And I most certainly played on Facebook when I should have been making cold calls.

Now I work for myself. I can play on Facebook if I want to. I can show up a few minutes late if I wash my hair twice in the shower. And I can color.

But I don’t. Because I shouldn’t. I have work ethic, and a pride in my personal brand. And that pride dictates that I show up for work on time, do my job and end the day with a sense of accomplishment.

Aspiring to Greatness

That same colleague who posted on Twitter this morning also posted an article which sums up the parts in a nice, coherent whole. You can read the article here.

In her post, Robin Bull states,

Because we go just a little above and beyond, clients are happy. They come back. They tell their friends. Business grows.

Your work ethic as a freelancer isn’t just about doing your job. There are plenty of would-be freelancers out there who will make you look good by doing the bare minimum. They’ll probably get a few repeat clients, but they won’t earn any trophies.

To earn your awards and accolades as a self-employed or freelancing professional, you’ve got to go above and beyond the job description. If you lack the work ethic it takes to excel, you likely won’t do well as a freelancer.

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