It's Time to Say Goodbye

The world around us is always on the move and constantly changing. It can feel like no matter how fast we run, we are always falling further behind. We have more opportunities and commitments and offers than any other previous generation in history. Focus seems to be a challenge because so many things in the world are competing for attention.  I don't know about you, but there are many days where I feel like Dug, from the movie UP.

Dug is a dog who is very smart, but who is easily distracted when he thinks he sees a squirrel. Dogs like Dug want to chase squirrels because they are moving targets that draw their attention. It's second nature to lose focus and chase that bushy tailed rodent. Like Dug, entrepreneurs or creative types can get enamored with chasing the squirrel -- the shiny new object or idea that is so compelling that we lose all focus on anything else. This chasing mechanism can be detrimental to our families, our health, our work, and our sanity. We might even spend all of our time chasing after "squirrels" only to discover that at the end of our day -or our life -  we never even caught one! I don't know about you, but this scares me because I don't want to come up empty-handed in life.

I've had two great friends in my life, Cory Miller and Dustin Stearman, who have had the guts to tell me honest feedback that I needed to hear, but that I chose to ignore at the time. What is ironic is that I've been in business with both of these guys and that they said the same exact thing even though it was many years apart. They told me that my biggest problem wasn't coming up with successful business ideas, but that I had too many of them and because of it, failed in execution of those ideas. What they pointed out to me was that I chase too many squirrels.

This advice was difficult for me to hear at the time, and in some ways, it still is. I am a creative person who likes to explore, but I know that if I don't say goodbye to some sacred squirrels, I'm gonna come up empty handed. This week I've finally decided to put on the "cone of focus" so that it will blind me of the other ideas and opportunities around me.

Goodbye to Many Things I've Known and Loved

Giving up so that you can go up is never an easy decision. Walking away from lucrative opportunities to partnerships to ideas you're passionate about is painful. However, there are moments in life when we realize that we've gone as about as far as we can go on our current path. You have simply reached the end.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that I'm called to a very big mission and that it is God's will for my life. To be honest, I'm scared and fear what is in front of me. I'm not sure it's going to work out and whether the people in my life will support the vision. I have to let go of what I've known and what has provided some degree of safety. I have to walk a completely new path that is unfamiliar to me, regardless of the cost. There is no other way.

I'm saying goodbye to using this website, personal blogging, and domain names I've owned for 10 years. It seems trivial, but in many ways it's not. I'm saying goodbye to freelancing and being the solopreneur, so that I can build a business that provides job opportunities for others. I'm breaking outside of WordPress and a community I've enjoyed being a part of, so that I can make a bigger impact for military veterans.  I'm leaving behind relationships and partnerships that I hoped would work out so that they will not distract me from the mission. I am finally taking the advice of two great friends and going "ALL IN" this time and hoping that I win the game. 

Hello to Happy Joe!

My heart and passion for helping military veterans is so intense that I can't stop thinking about it. There are many causes that I've contributed to over the years, but this one calls me every single day! I can't sit back and watch great people struggle and suffer, especially when they've already given so much to protect our way of life. While I might not be able to save every veteran from the hardships they will endure after their faithful service to our country, I can save some.

Happy Joe is going to put smiles back on the faces of our veterans and their families. We are going to provide jobs and training that help them make a great living. We will advocate for the benefits they deserve and have earned the right to. We will partner with the best companies and organizations so that we can extend our reach and impact for America's heroes. That is my promise to them and to you.

There are some incredible plans in the works for Happy Joe. We are going to bring together for-profit business ventures to fund the non-profit organization. We don't want to have to ask our friends and families for donations every single day, so we are going to do all we can to become self-sustaining in 2015.  We will have a new web media business that provides jobs and benefits for veterans, in addition to another for-profit business, so that we can fund the free training and mentoring at HappyJoe.org.

My creative and web design services will be redirected to the new business site soon. It's all to support one cause and one mission! So for now, this is it ... my final blog post at JamesDalman.com. I appreciate all of you who have tuned in over the years and been a part of the family. Thanks for reading!

UPDATE!!

A few people have asked so I thought I should clarify. I am launching a for-profit branding & web media business that will provide job opportunities and benefits to military veterans. I will no longer be a freelancer -I will be leading a company that can go farther than I ever could go alone. I'm sorry for the confusion!

Why You'll Never Be a Professional Freelancer

When American Idol first appeared on American television, I thought the idea was interesting but that the show would never last. Three judges watching dozens of hopeful recording artists in a competition seemed boring. Who would watch such a show? Apparently I did -- along with many other millions of Americans! The show was a huge success.

The real reason I enjoyed American Idol had nothing to do with the competitors, but because of Simon Cowell. At first I thought this British guy was absolutely rude and uncaring, but over the seasons I was drawn to him. What I learned was that Simon wasn't always trying to be crass or hurtful towards contestants; Simon was just being completely straightforward and honest. He was ripping the band-aid off of the wound so that it would hurt less. There is something to be said for people who can shoot it straight and tell the truth. If I were attempting to be a professional singer and I sucked at singing, I would want you to tell me. Even if it hurt.

There are times in our lives when we need to hear the truth. We need to understand the realities of our situation and we have to be honest with ourselves and the people around us. This may suck at the time, but it can be very beneficial in the long run, especially if it keeps us from chasing a dream or a career that may never happen. We only have so much time on this planet. We should want to make the most of it.

Today I am ripping the band-aid off for some of you. I am not trying to be mean spirited or discourage you from becoming a professional freelancer. What I am going to do is be brutally honest. I've now coached and worked with hundreds of aspiring freelancers, all who hope someday they can make a living doing what they love to do. Unfortunately most of them will never succeed at these dreams. As Simon would say, "I don't mean to be rude BUT...."

Why You'll Never Be A Professional Freelancer

You make too many excuses. There are ALWAYS plenty of reasons why we can't do what needs to be done. It could be because of money, time, equipment, training, family requirements, health problems, bullying, or the monarch butterflies in China. Maybe you're the person I used to be -- the victim. A victim blames every failed circumstance on the people around them. If you can't get beyond the excuses that are keeping you from achieving success, then you will never achieve success. Travis Mills has many valid reasons to not be productive with his life, but he is kicking ass and taking names. Now tell me what's your excuse?

You ask for too many bailouts. If you live in the United States, then you've likely seen the ideology amongst some Americans that they deserve a bail out. We have people on the street corners panhandling for money to communities crying about the injustices of their situation and asking the government to give them financial assistance. I know of many freelancers who rely on family members or friends to help them out financially in time of need. I'm not saying it's wrong to get help from time to time or to even ask the people you love to invest in your business, but there comes a time you (and they) need to let go. Freelancing is a tough lifestyle and until you can become FULLY dependent on yourself, you will never make it.

You aren't putting in the effort. Work is a four letter word my friend. It's a dirty word that so many people don't want to do. I hate to tell you this, but there is no magic bean that you can easily plant, water, and grow into a cash tree. If you want to make it in any business, then you are going to have to sacrifice your time to make it happen. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your freelancing business. It's taken me over 20 years to have overnight success. Maybe you will be "lucky" but probably not.

You spend more time playing than working. I have a love and hate relationship with technology. The value it can provide is priceless, but it can also suck your life away. I've known designers and developers who spend countless hours on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, SlackChat, Skype, forums, and membership sites instead of being productive on tasks that would actually get them business. While connecting to potential clients via these tools can help you build your business, you aren't going to do it by talking about the latest memes, animated GIFs, or stupid criminal videos. There comes a point when good old fashioned work and knocking on doors is the only way to get projects that will pay the bills.

You invest more time in learning than doing.  Just like playing on social media all day long, reading the books or blogs of the people you love can be detrimental to making a living. I love learning from the experiences of other people and I am a voracious reader. Education is valuable. But there comes a time when you have to do it. Spending hours of your day watching videos or reading blogs is never going to help you become a professional freelancer. There comes that point when you can only learn by getting in the trenches and fighting your way through the battles.

You don't charge enough for your services. I've heard plenty of freelancers complain that they don't make enough money on their projects. Let me very clear and upfront. It's not your client's fault that you're broke; it's your fault that you're broke. There are plenty of resources to help you learn how to sell on value, how to price your services, and how to find the perfect clients. The reality is that you are in business to make money and a profit. Period. I love how Cory Miller responded to Brian Krogsgard article about PostStat.us yesterday. Don't apologize for making money and don't make excuses about it either. #BOOM

You don't know how to run a business. OK, this might not be your fault because so many of us don't know all the details of running a business. Hell, I'm still learning! The truth is that professional freelancing is more than just you doing great work that you enjoy, for clients willing to pay you for that great work. You have to set your business up legally, pay the IRS their damn taxes, invoice clients for the work that you do, put away a portion of your earnings for retirement or health insurance, and wear 100 other hats throughout the course of a day. You need to learn how to run a business and fast. The best resource I've found so far is Thrive 15. I wish this would have been available when I started out.

You hate to do sales. For many people, the idea of selling makes them cringe. It takes risk and courage to get out of your comfort zone to ask potential clients to buy your services. As uncomfortable as it might be, you will must learn how to sell yourself if you are ever going to freelance professionally. You cannot count on clients to just walk in and hand you money. You have to get in front of people and convince them why they should hire you.  If you don't, then your business is dead.

You refuse to quit. WHAT??? Aren't we supposed to stay committed to the course? No one likes to be a quitter or to give up their dream, but sometimes you will need to do something different. Some of you are not cut out to be a professional freelancer and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! You just need to realize that this journey might not be for you or it's not the right timing.

If your family is struggling to survive because you aren't getting enough work, then it's probably time to get a part-time or full-time job. It's one thing if you're single or living in momma's basement, but when you have a family to feed, don't make them suffer because you want to dream. I put my family through hell in the first ten years of my freelancing career because of my desires. This is my biggest regret. There are times when you need to work for someone else (and I have throughout the years) and earn a paycheck. Sometimes you will discover that freelancing sounded like a wonderful idea but you are really better off being a part of a team.

We Can't All Be Professional Freelancers

The romantic idea that freelancing is easy, and that you can do what you want when you want, is nothing more than a childhood fantasy. Being a professional freelancer is a tough road to be on. There will be times when you're in demand and other times when the well dries up. You will have to put in long, difficult days so that you can have your "free time" later. You won't be able to call in sick or take snow days. You will go on a week's vacation and then feel three months behind when you get back. You will often work alone and may only have friendships via Twitter or Facebook. You will have to finish your work even when you don't feel like it. It's not always glorious as some bloggers and speakers make it out to be. That is the brutal and honest truth.

If you want to succeed as a professional freelancer, then you better be prepared. You better realize that controlling your own destiny means controlling the situations that keep you from achieving your dreams. If you can't navigate the problems I've stated above, please work for a company because you will be much happier in the end. Not all of us are called to be professional freelancers. There's no shame in that game.

How Badly Do You Want Success?

I want to be successful. I want to make more money. I want to have better clients. I want to have freedom to choose what I want to do each day. I want to be debt free. I want ... I've heard so many "wants" from people hoping to achieve the destination they've dreamed for themselves. In my profession, the conversations usually surround the dreams of freelancers. Guys and girls who want to work from home and make a great living with their natural talents or skills. They all want to be successful. The problem is that all of them don't want to make the sacrifices or commitments to be successful.

How Badly Do You Want Success?

This is the question I am starting to lead off with when people ask me for business advice. How a person responds will tell me everything. How they answer the question will determine whether they will achieve the success they desire or whether they will fail.

There is a clear distinction between leading with your head or leading with your heart. Your mouth might be saying you want to do something, but your actions, actions that follow your heart, will determine if you arrive at your destination. Let me put this another way. You can talk the talk, but you have to walk the walk.

If you aren't willing to change your verbiage from I WANT to I WILL, you are going to fail.

If you want success, it requires that you act. Even when you don't want to or when circumstances aren't in your favor. You must be willing to set aside the excuses and burn the "I'm a Victim" card. You will have to make sacrifices that you don't want to make or open up yourself to failing a lot. Success doesn't come easy and it doesn't come overnight.

  • Are you willing to get up earlier or stay up later to reach your goals?
  • Are you dedicated enough to turn off the TV or social media toys when you need to be productive?
  • Are you able to tune out what the world around you is doing so you can focus on your destination?
  • Are you willing to give up expensive lattes, fast food meals, or Direct TV to save your money?
  • Are you tough enough to say no to abusive clients even when you need the work?
  • Are you brave enough to get out there and hustle your product or services even when you might fail?

Unfortunately so many people I've tried to coach or give advice to over the years aren't going to ever see the success they could have. They aren't willing to do what needs to be done. They want to press the Easy Button for instant results. They don't want to get their hands dirty.

Stop the Wishful Thinking. Start Doing.

I WILL be successful. I WILL make more money. I WILL have better clients. I WILL have freedom to choose what I want to do each day. I WILL be debt free. I WILL ...

Success begins with will and not with want. You will do what it takes to achieve your hopes and dreams. That's the answer I am looking for when I ask the question of how badly do you want success. Anything else is just wishful thinking and wishful thinking never got Columbus or Michael Jordan or Steve Jobs to their destination.