Hello Planet Earth,
If you’re like most people, you’re probably content with your 9-5 job. Getting up in the morning, putting on some fresh office threads and getting through your drive time commute are all things you’ve probably grown familiar and comfortable with.
Your job performance is probably spot-on, whatever your duties may be, and you probably feel secure with your bi-weekly pay cheques. It’s probably a good life you live.
Or is it?
If you’re anything like me, you can probably remember a time back in grade 10 Careers class when the teacher asked you some pretty common questions like, “what do you want to do when you grow up?” or “what kind of hours do you want to work?” and the often asked, “what are you most passionate about?”
I remember all the students in the class being split into little groups where we’d huddle together and share some thoughts and ideas. Back then when I was 15, I remember a lot of the students fantasized about being ‘entrepreneurs’ or ‘freelancers’.
We didn’t really know what those words meant back then because most kids’ parents were the typical 9-5 corporate office workers.
But the allure of being your own boss peaked the interest of every 15 year old, even though none of us had mentors at the time to guide us towards any kind of self-made success.
I mean, what high school teacher would know anything about being self-employed… or any university/college professor for that matter?
I personally didn’t meet any entrepreneurs who would take me under their wing and show me the ropes of how to make a job for myself, instead of trying to find a job like everyone else.
I’m 26 now and have been working in my career for the last 3 years and at the end of last month I did something crazy…
… I quit my job working in the marketing department of a telecom company without any other job offers from another employer.
You see I didn’t need any other job prospects. Over the last 3 years, I spent my evenings and weekends doing various different types of copywriting and design freelance work for a handful of ongoing clients.
I got to a point where my freelance work was presenting more interesting opportunities for my career than my regular day job. Quitting my 9-5 to free up more time for the more interesting freelance work was a no-brainer.
So now I’m going to share with you the 4 skills I developed over the course of my career so far that’s allowed me to quit my corporate job and take on the world on my own terms!
Let me start by saying this: when I was in university I realized that all the wealthy and successful people I knew, the people making 6-figures or more, were all terrific communicators. Whether it was with writing or speaking, they could all communicate clear and concise thoughts and ideas. The kind of ideas that are worth being sold and ultimately worth good money in return.
Copywriting is the craft of writing persuasively with the intention to sell. Because of that little insight I realized in university, I went on to study Advertising Copywriting in a 1-year post-grad college program.
You don’t have to go to school to get an education in copywriting, but I firmly believe having copywriting as one of your skill sets to be an invaluable tool. The better you can write, the more money you’ll be able to make.
There are some great resources online if you wanna improve your copywriting skills. Copyblogger has a membership site, it’s free to sign up, and you’ll find a ton of great informational resources from them. Everything from articles about headline writing, email subject lines, to how-to guides for writing you own books and reports.
With strong writing and communication skills, it’ll help improve and amplify the other skills listed below.
Once you’ve got a piece of writing put together the next thing you’d need to figure out is how you’re going to layout your copy on a print document, webpage, banner sign etc.
You don’t need to be an award-winning designer to get work for yourself.
Just having a solid foundational understanding of layout compositions, colour theory and typography are enough. If can use Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign you’ll have the tools to solve any design problem.
Kuler can help you decide on colour swatches for your design projects.
TypeEd is a wicked resource for learning everything about typography. I recommend signing up to their email newsletter as they share different tips on typesetting and typographic design.
Learning computer programming languages was something I tried avoiding whenever I could when I was in university and it’s something I regret doing while growing up.
Since I started my career it’s become more and more clear to me how valuable learning to code is not only useful now, but will continue to be useful in the future.
Again, you don’t need to be a master at web development or programming, but a solid understanding of HTML and CSS will give you the ability to build websites, landing pages, and graphical emails. All of which are projects business owners will pay good money for.
Codeacedmey is a great place to learn how to write code online. It’s a membership site and when you create an account you can take their online courses for free.
HTML5up is another resource you can download free creative commons licensed website templates from.
If you’re going to be doing work on the web in this digital information age we now live in, it’s also a good idea to wrap your head around content management systems (CMS) like WordPress. Something like 25% of all websites on the internet are built on the WordPress platform.
Be a Cool Cat
What I mean by this is people have to like you. The clients you’re going to do work for need to trust you and have faith you can deliver on what you promise.
You need to adopt a style and tone of professionalism. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to dress in suits, just don’t dress like a trucker.
You also need to pay attention to the way you speak. There is a lot of jargon when it comes to copywriting and design. Heck, some business people might not even know that when you’re using the word “copy” that you’re taking about the written words on an advertisement or web page!
It’s important to learn to speak to people in a way that they’ll be able to understand you.
Know this, if you’re talking to someone and they don’t understand the design or web development terminology you’re using, it’s not their fault for not knowing. It’s your fault for not communicating in a way that they can understand you simply.
Design is about taking complex ideas and communicating them in the most simple and effective manner possible. You need to embody this principle not only in your work, but in the way you interact with others.
I was having lunch with one of my clients the other week along the Toronto harbor front. We were just making small talk over some beer when he started to compliment the way I dress and the way I speak. He told me that I gave him the strong impression that I was a young professional who was hungry for success, and that he was happy he fired his last freelance contractor and found me instead. This particular client was a successful middle-aged real estate renovation specialist, so it was cool that he could see these things in me.
I’m not saying you should be fishing for compliments during your client meetings, but you need to understand that people will want to work with you for reasons beyond the actual sit-down-computer-work you do for them.
Quitting your job and working for yourself requires that you build and nurture your own professional contacts. People work with people they like, so if you can be a “cool cat”, people will see you as a subject matter expert and a trusted advisor.
There you have it! Those are the 4 skills I developed over the course of my school education and early career that helped me quit my 9-5 job and take on the world alone; copywriting, design, coding, and being a cool cat (professional communication skills).
Are you a freelancer or entrepreneur? What skills do you have that you believe are vital to your success? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
Until next time…
Keep rockin’ in the free world!