As a sometimes MMORPG gamer, I like to imagine my experience bar filling up as I complete projects and develop my skills. Here are some of the lessons I've learned thus far as a budding freelancer.
1. The fake it till you make it method works if you consciously fortify your confidence. As Henry Ford once said, "If you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." There are countless resources available (sometimes for free, like this one!) that can help you feel more confident in the skills you want to claim. After landing my first client and getting down to the work of presentation development (chartered territory, thankfully), I found myself doubting my abilities nearly every step of the way. How dumb did I sound on that call? Did I quote too low? Am I doing good work? Instead of asking questions that you cannot answer, ask only, "Is this something I want to do? Yes?" Then do it and read up on how to do it better until your work is awesome and you feel awesome.
2. Keep it simple. You can apply this clichéd philosophy to pretty much everything in life. In regards to business, keeping things "simple" (or simplified to their lowest common denominators) improves almost every situation: phone calls, emails, meetings, contracts, content, design, style, money, intent. Keep it simple, sister.
3. It's okay when your customer disagrees with you. Although I think I know some things about writing and design (cue the Socratic paradox), sometimes customers aren't going to be on board with my opinion no matter what. Part of me feels compelled to insist on a particular recommendation that I know will serve them best. But my clients' perspectives will not always jive with mine, and that's okay. While I may not subscribe to "the customer is always right," I do subscribe to, "the customer deserves to be happy." When a client wants to do something that contradicts my sensibilities, I state my case and move on.
4. Being yourself pays off. It's true that your personality can be a big part of what you offer, especially if you're going to be in constant communication with your clients. Being yourself will attract people more like you, and working with people more like you motivates you to be more productive, and therefore happy. I know it sounds fluffy, but authenticity is the best tool for building a solid reputation and doing good work. People can sense inauthenticity like cats can sense allergic friends; it's a good thing to get over whatever's keeping you from being yourself.
5. Say yes. Don't lose an opportunity to insecurity or fear. My first three freelance projects could have gotten away from me had I not been ready to embrace the unexpected. Client #1: a business veteran; I needed to exert my authority or risk weakening my credibility/my client's trust. Client #2: proposed I do a project that I had never done before. Client #3: had turned down my initial proposal, but then came back to me later.
Soon I expect to have a lot more to share about networking experiences. Until then, I'll keep making my way to Level 2.