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Hi, I'm Zach (@Bluetidepro). I'm a front-end web designer from Indianapolis that now resides in Chicago. I'm a passionate creative that has lots of things to share....

Day 1/2: What my dog taught me about freelancing

Note: It takes to read this post.

If you know me in real-life, you probably already know that I love my dog, Abby, more than anything. She is a member of our family and truly is “man’s best friend.” Well, the other day, I was thinking about just how amazing Abby is (as I often think about) and I realize I have actually learned a lot from her and her simple lifestyle. She has taught me many life lessons on how to be content as well as a loving person. I took those life lessons she taught me and realized they go hand in hand to being successful in the freelance world. It may be a first to compare a dog’s lifestyle to freelancing but I think after you read each lesson, you will agree, dogs really do exhibit the ways to rule at freelancing. Day 1 of this two part series will cover lessons 1-5.

Disclaimer: Poor/cheesy puns will be throughout the lessons! Watch out! ;) haha

Lesson 1) Daily routines are key

There is nothing more my dog Abby loves than routines. She likes to get breakfast early in the morning, carrots in the afternoon, and dinner at 6pm SHARP! Dogs love to wake up at the same time, eat at the same time, go on walks at the same time, and even poop at the same time. A routine gives your a day structure and a solid foundation of the days timeline. This is key when you are in the freelance world. If you do not have a daily routine, your day gets lost and your productivity can suffer. While you work as a freelancer, you have to play the role of boss, marketer, developer, designer, salesperson and many other roles. These roles can get complicated fast if you do not have a set routine in the day of when you play each role. For example, maybe you design/code in the morning then, in the afternoon, you make some sales/client calls and then, finish off your day working on some social marketing. Without a daily routine you may end up focusing your efforts in the wrong places. Daily routines and time management go hand in hand while you work as a freelancer.

Lesson 2) Bark at any sign of trouble

My dog, Abby, is known to bark at squirrels, chipmunks, mail carriers, kids, and pretty much everything else but it’s all because she is protecting her home and barking at what she thinks might be trouble. This is a great lesson for any new freelancer to learn so that they don’t get caught up with “bad clients.” Let’s face it, not all clients we get can be an easy walk in the park (haha). You have to learn how to see these trouble signs and walk away from a project or not take a project from the start, or take another route by being vocal about any issues that come in a project way before they get worse.

Lesson 3) Know your “yard”

One-thing dogs know like the top of their snout is their yard. They have routes they stick to around the yard and they know where everything is supposed to be. This lesson could be a bit of a stretch to freelancing but I think this applies to what your specialties are in freelancing. Are you mainly a front-end designer or strictly a Ruby developer? You have to know your “yard” or your specialties when it comes to selling yourself in the freelance market. I’ve personally found that you get a lot BETTER business and clients by focusing on what you are best at rather than branching to far from your “yard” (what you know) and speaking yourself thin. When you spread yourself too thin, you get sloppy at what you’re best at.

Lesson 4) Learn new tricks

About a year ago, I sought to teach Abby (my dog) how to shake her paw when you asked her to “shake.” It took lots of practice but after about a month she had it down to a science. Although, every time she shakes her paw now, she demands a treat (haha)! Just like Abby learned her new trick, to be a successful freelancer you have to learn new tricks of your trade. You have to follow design/dev bogs, read developer news (Hacker News is my favorite), and follow some of the “big dogs” of Twitter to keep up with the trends of your field. If you don’t take time to learn new tricks, you will get lost in the shuffle and put in the “doghouse!”

Lesson 5) Follow your instincts

It sometimes feels like dogs have a sixth sense or something that allow them to feel trouble or danger coming their way. It’s crazy but I think Abby (my dog) sometimes knows before it is going to storm! Your instincts in the freelance world will arguably guide you more than anything. This a great lesson for working with clients. Clients will sometimes do weird things but you have to follow your instincts on how to react. Just like lesson 2, you have to listen to your instincts and know when a project is going south or just isn’t working out. Don’t ignore these feelings in the pit of your stomach.

That’s the 5 lessons I have for day one. I will post lessons 6-10 tomorrow so be sure to check back!

Lessons 6-10 here →

Also, leave a comment of your freelance pro-tip!

Thank you for reading!

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