When I was younger, in either high school or my freshman year of college, I was always in a hurry. I remember complaining to my dad about a required class that I needed to take. I was annoyed because I thought the class was a waste. I thought it would be a better idea to spend my time taking a class I was interested in, not one that would make me a well-rounded student. I remember my dad asking, “What’s your rush? Why are you in such a hurry? One more class isn’t really going to make a difference. Besides, you will probably benefit in the long run.”

I thought he was crazy. I didn’t agree with him and thought he didn’t understand me. Looking back, I see that he was right. And while he made these comments when I was too young to understand what he was saying, his words are important for those who are thinking about a career in freelancing.

We’re in Such a Hurry

When I started freelancing three years ago, I was in a hurry to make a name for myself. I spent more time thinking about the time I spent marketing my services than appreciating my accomplishments. I thought others would consider me a failure and would judge me by the number of cover letters and resumes I sent. I kept track of the number of replies I didn’t receive instead of the amount of replies I did. I saw the glass as half empty.

In looking back, I should have focused on the positive. I should have been happy with the replies I received. I should have continued marketing to increase the number of positive responses I received, not because I was fixated on the number of packets I sent. I should have beefed up my cover letter, focused on my progress, and been happy with the baby steps.

If my slow start taught me anything, it’s “true and steady wins the race.” It never occurred to me that I would have obstacles to overcome. I didn’t know that the best way to get your toe in the publishing door was by working as an assistant. I never considered the time factor when considering freelancing as a new career. I didn’t even think about how much time it would take to become successful. I just thought it was enough to have drive and determination. I had the entrepreneurial spirit. I thought that was enough.

Use Your Time Wisely

When you are just beginning a new job or even a new business, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Maybe you need to meet new people or maybe you have new tasks to learn. The secret is not to feel like you will never master the new or unknown. The secret is to take one task at a time. Don’t think about what you don’t know. Focus on what you do. Take the time you need to fill in the blanks.

Prioritize

Decide what you need to do first. For me, I talked to successful freelancers. I asked them several questions just to find out how they became successful. I loved talking to them. Each person has a great story. Each one told me that their success didn’t come over night. They shared some of their secrets with me. I learned a lot from our conversations.

Do Your Research

Spend time every week researching. You can research potential clients, successful entrepreneurs, or even research what it takes to be successful. You do not have to spend more time than you can afford, but you do need to spend at least an hour a week. Again, slow and steady is more important than letting yourself become overwhelmed by the amount of research you need to do. Break the research down into manageable tasks.

Take Time to Network

Find groups or individuals that you can talk to. People who are like-minded, people who share your goals. Find a mentor, someone who can show you the ropes. The time you spend networking will definitely pay off in the long run. You will feel that you belong.

Write Your Cover Letter

Take some time to write a great cover letter. Think about what you want to say, make sure to include what you can do for your potential clients. Then, in the final stages, have a successful editor help you edit your letter. Write the letter in stages.

Revise Your Resume

Think about revising your resume. Don’t be afraid to get help writing your resume if you need it. Rewriting the resume may be your hardest task. Don’t get discouraged or give up. Take time to compare your resume with the resumes of other freelancers. As with writing the cover letter, it may be best to write your resume in stages.

Begin Your Marketing

Take time to think about your business cards and letterhead. Decide who you are. Think about the image that you want to present. You don’t need to spend a fortune on your first business cards or letterhead. You can find Web sites that will design them and print them for you. Your design can change over time.

Improve Your Skills

No matter how busy I am during the week, I always take some time to learn something new. I read, work a few proofreading exercises to sharpen my skills, and take the time to learn from those who know more than I do. Learning is one of my lifelong passions. Instead of focusing on what I don’t know, I marvel at what I have learned. These past three years have given me the opportunity to learn because I want to learn, not because I have to learn.

Take the Time to Succeed

Even three years and some later, I still believe that if you have the desire and determination to succeed, you will. As a friend and mentor has told me several times, it will happen if you truly believe in yourself and believe that it will. When I get a little down or depressed, I evaluate my progress and count my accomplishments. I haven’t accomplished all that I want to yet, but I am on my way.

I no longer focus on the amount of time I spend marketing my services or improving my skills. Instead, I keep track of my successes. I have learned to value every step, every small accomplishment. These have become more valuable to me than keeping track of my failures.

Time Is Just a Number

I still have a long way to go. Now, however, I am willing to take the time that I need to become a success. I am no longer in a hurry. I have discovered that each day teaches me something new about me or about freelancing. This, to me, is a testament to time well spent.

As you begin your freelancing career, don’t become a slave to time. Instead, let time work for you. Focus on your accomplishments, not on the amount of time that it will take you to achieve success. If you truly want to succeed in freelancing, you must be more than willing to spend the amount of time needed to succeed. After all, time is just a number.