Don’t Conquer Them, Don’t Overcome Them, Don’t Do Anything With Them.
My conversations with entrepreneurial freelance linguists around how they started their businesses are always very colorful and varied. Some come from successful legal, medical, or even corporate careers and make a switch over to translation and interpretation in their specialty, others grew up multilingual and continued their studies to become professionals, and many others just simply want to be in a growing billion dollar industry.
No matter the reason linguists and business experts step into the entrepreneurial language world, the decision to become one’s own boss and essentially ‘run the show’ is a bold move and comes with its set of mental obstacles that we often refer to as fears.
My journey into entrepreneurship was rocky yet also very clear. Let me explain.
I never had a problem getting traditional employment, and I was lucky to work across a range of sectors. But, I knew deep down inside that as long as I was working and giving my time to someone else, my vision and efforts were always secondary, and my salary and time were to be negotiated on preconstructed terms that over time, little by little, began to seem arbitrary.
I started thinking, like many of you bold entrepreneurial linguists have; what if I did it this all on my own? took control of my time and finances? showed the world my expert skills? really made a difference in communication?
But then, the fears came crashing and my vision became paralyzed.
So, I sought out advice. On my quest to seek advice and counsel from professionals in the translation and interpretation field, but also in other sectors, I was encountered with the same messaging over and over; “conquer your fears”, “be stronger”, “your fears are not real”. As much as I tried to conquer, be stronger, or convince myself my fears weren’t real, they seemed to grow.
I am here to tell you that the first step to your personal and professional success is not to conquer your fears but to simply leave them alone.
I realized that conquering or overcoming fears does only one thing: put the focus on fears. Guess what happens when you focus on something? You make it grow. Also, there is the added knowledge that fear is simply a physical manifestation of a deeper insecurity, that you will require a lifetime to overcome, accept, and heal. Do you have a lifetime to get started on the professional life that you want? No, you don’t.
Today, I challenge you to leave your fears alone.
In my journey, I developed and hold strong to five guiding principles that taught me to leave my fears alone and shift focus. My hope is that they will guide you as well.
MY 5 GUIDING PRINCIPLES
1. Your Fears Don’t Go Away. So, Sit With Them, Daily
Going back to my conversations with entrepreneurial freelance linguists, they often cited the biggest challenge to getting starting was not landing clients, rates, or even the quality of their language skills, it was simply the challenge of finding the right time to get started.
If you are waiting until you ‘feel more comfortable’ or ‘are at a better spot’ to take steps towards building your business, you are simply emotionally manipulating yourself, and it’s important you know that.
My biggest fear when deciding to go freelance and build a business was that I would make no money and that I wasn’t good enough. Guess what? I still think those things and there is still a version of myself that tells me that every day. I don’t fight with it or try to change it. Instead, I sit and listen.
When you begin to sit and listen, you slowly realize that this ‘failure version’ of yourself is simply a part of your conditioned mind that wants you to stay put, lower your expectations, and not ask for much. Once you realize this and go into the position of the observer or witness, you can make a choice about who you want to be, instead of your fears deciding who you will be.
A good friend of mine and highly successful freelance entrepreneur told me that it is never wise to solve a problem from the standpoint of the problem.
Getting rid of your fears by thinking about them, trying to conquer them, or change them, will only trap you more.
Helpful exercise: Start every morning writing down two to three things that you fear most that day about your freelance career. Read them out loud, sit with them, then throughout the day be aware of when they pop up, and the activities you are performing when they do. That’s all.
2. Try To Be A Different Person
Ok, this one sounds a little crazy, but bear with me. Here is the deal: when we reach significant moments in our lives that ask us to make bold decisions, such as, starting our own business, we often revert to the person we were before to try to make sense of it all.
It is a natural coping mechanism that helps us recognize ourselves in the midst of change.
I am of the opinion that the person you were the second before you made the decision to take control of your professional life and autonomy will not help you, but rather, ensure you fail.
So, you need to be a new type of person.
For this, I wouldn’t recommend taking advice or looking for examples in the general population. The general population, may (and will most likely include) your family, your old-time friends, and your community. They will certainly tell you they are super proud of you and your bold decisions.
But, never forget that they most likely remain and operate under the fear paradigm, and therefore, cannot help you much. In fact, most people are still locked in a cycle of giving away their power.
Instead, use the unlimited resources you have online and think of people that you feel exhibit behavior, values, and lifestyles that are attuned to what you’d like to achieve. Read up on these personalities. It really doesn’t matter how much money they make or what they do, the connection you feel with them just needs to be on-point.
I did this by connecting and reading up on successful UN and EU translators and interpreters, successful comedians, actresses, lawyers, and even Oprah.
In reality, it doesn’t matter the industry, that is a detail. It matters who they are as a person, as in, what is their philosophy? how do they deal with conflict? what do they put as top priorities? what are their values? what have they sacrificed? what kinds of practices do they follow to keep them grounded and on-task? Read about these individuals, then take their best qualities and make them yours.
Don’t think or over-intellectualize this process too much, just do it and you will see the effects instantly, even if it feels unnatural and ‘unlike you’ at times.
Perhaps you need to be a bit ‘unlike you’ to achieve new things.
Helpful exercise: Try to embody a new bold quality or perspective weekly. Identify it, deepen it, and be it.
3. Don’t Talk About Your Business So Much
One of the most misleading pieces of advice translation departments and even business programs at universities give is to talk to and tell everyone about your new freelance career or launched business. Wrong. I know from personal experience that over-talking about your business, your goals, your vision, etc., can have the opposite effect.
This includes you getting very tired of only talking about your business, assuming you will get family approval and support (you might not and this could cause you to fall-apart during your groundwork phase), and also getting into the habit of talking instead of getting actual work done.
The last point is crucial and I learned it the hard way.
In my first business, my business partner and I would talk about how we felt about everything. Guess what? None of those conversations, which would take 90% of our productive physical and emotional energy led to any concrete actions.
Does it really matter what color goes on that PDF? As long as it aligns with your chosen branding, no not really. Does it matter how you feel about certain sectors? No, it matters if those sectors will pay for your services or not, and how much. Does it matter if your mother is approving of your decision? No, because she probably doesn’t even understand what you are doing.
Instead, you should be asking questions like, do I have a valid service/product? how much can I charge? how can I best utilize marketing techniques to reach revenue goals? how can I bring real value to clients? Those questions really matter for your reputation and bottom line.
The guiding principle here is to get out of the habit of explaining yourself, which many times, especially at the beginning of your career, is one of two things; either it’s a vanity fest of self-indulgent whining on your part or it’s an attempt to get approval or reassurance over your decision from others.
Or worse, it’s both at the same time.
You can overtalk all you want, but know this: it is a huge emotional and time investment, and remember, you are now on your own watch and time is finite.
Do talk about your business to potential clients, to a personal business coach, and in your marketing efforts, but keep the conversation at the dinner table to light topics. You will find the less time you talk about your business and imagined roadblocks, the more solutions will come your way.
Helpful exercise: I call this one ‘catch yourself’. As in, anytime you catch yourself over-explaining or complaining about something that is not going well in your business, stop immediately, and write it down on a notepad. Then, look at it the next morning and see what fear it is projecting back to you. Sit with it and see if there is any immediate or long-term action you can take to solve the problem. If not, let it be for the time being and go back to it when a solution comes your way, and one will.
4. Get Up Early
This is a simple (or not so simple) mandatory life habit that all successful entrepreneurs and freelancers really need to pin down.
If you’ve noticed, the majority of world philosophies and religions including but not limited to Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, ask believers of their faiths and teachings to get up early, usually around 4:30 am to pray or meditate. I realized the magic of the early morning in a 10-day Vipassana meditation course two years back.
There was something so difficult yet natural about getting up at 4:30 am for ten days and meditating for 60 minutes. I later discovered more morning magic while visiting my family in Iran and seeing my devout aunt get up at the crack of dawn to pray, on the dot, every day.
Now, let’s step back for a moment. There is no need to pray, meditate, or convert to any religion here. But, when you take a look at the habits of happy and productive people, they use their mornings very specifically and usually build some type of ritual around getting up.
Not every morning needs to be a 4:30 am wake-up call, and many choose not to meditate, pray, or do anything particular on getting up, but they do set that clock early and get up.
Challenging your physical and mental creature habits gets you on the right gear for the rest from minute one, it also gets you into the habit of doing things out of the ordinary.
I find my golden hour is 6:00 am, it allows me to get enough sleep the night before, get up, meditate, and really have some time to myself to just sit before I -do- anything. Your productivity and focus also triple when you stick to your morning bell.
Helpful exercise: Try getting up 30 minutes before your usual time during 2 weeks. If 9 am is your usual time, aim for 8:30 am, etc. Then reduce another 30 minutes until you reach your target wake-up time. Begin incorporating rituals, it can be from brewing a particular type of coffee, meditating, journaling, reading the news, or even hitting the gym. You will see instant improvements in your business and overall happiness.
5. Give Yourself Time and Be Nice
I cannot stress this one enough. Let’s face it, anyone who is running their own business or is entrepreneurial by nature is, well, intense. We are personalities that tend to have a lot of energy, vision, and also high demands in every aspect of our lives.
These are key qualities to drive a successful business, but they can also drive you into exhaustion and self-destruction. I learned this after my first business failed.
Realize that when you start a business, you just stepped into a committed relationship with yourself. This means that there will be days where you can’t stand the amount of work and others where you will have fun and feel completely inspired. That’s normal and means you are on the right track.
If you are committed to yourself, make sure to give yourself time and that you are nice to yourself.
For example, if you get up on a Sunday and had a whole list of things you had to get done but are completely exhausted, be real about your energy levels and if it would be smarter to do half and designate the other half for another time. That is ok. Trust your vision, and don’t overwork yourself to show yourself or worse, others how hard you are working.
In reality, when you start a business, you should get into a habit of breaking down all of the slave-habits that traditional employment and education have taught you.
Take advantage of this unique opportunity for growth and be patient, and nice, as you evolve.
Helpful exercise: Anytime you make a mistake (and you will make many) don’t put yourself down or get mad. Take note of it on a Word or Excel document, and put in a viable solution for the next time you are confronted with a similar situation. Read it, and move on to your next task.
Your fears are valid, but you can’t do much about them. They’re just there. The required psychological and therapeutic process for you to figure out why you keep creating thoughts where you are an invalid and unsuccessful person is long, expensive, and arduous.
Know that you will initiate that process when you are ready to deal with yourself. In the meantime, do yourself a favor, leave your fears alone, and incorporate one or all of these 5 guiding principles to get yourself and your business going, starting today!
What about you successful entrepreneurial linguist, what are your thoughts? What guides you on your path to autonomy and success? Comments and perspectives are very welcome!