Focus on long-term goals, and choose some scary ones.

At this time of year, I always spend a few days reflecting on the year that just passed, and thinking about the year to come.

This year, before thinking too much about what’s to come in 2021, I looked back further than just last year.

In fact, I looked back at the last 10 years.

In particular, I wanted to take a look at the new ventures and projects I had embarked on, and see which of them worked out the best.

Two main takeaways…

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It’s not always easy being upbeat on demand. It may even feel a little fake. But…

Upbeat group showing forced positivity

Whether I’m speaking on a stage, giving a live webinar or producing video-based training materials, I often encounter the same criticism…

“Nick, you don’t sound upbeat enough!”

And here’s a quote from a review for one of my courses:

“Lots of good stuff worth thinking about. I did find Nicks voice a bit ‘sleep inducing’ but otherwise clear. Thanks.”

Ouch. That’s not good. Feedback like that I take seriously.

In fact, before recording a lesson or lecture, I usually go through a series of physical, voice and mental exercises… all designed to give me a little more of an upbeat feel when I speak.

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Successful people don’t dabble.

don't dabble, be an expertGenerally, I’m not a big fan of dissecting what “successful people” do.

The promise implicit in “doing what they do” is that you’ll become successful too.

I think the road to success, however you choose to define it, is more complicated than that. A path taken by one person may not be the right path for you.

So let me qualify my headline by saying, “When I find myself dabbling, it’s a sure sign I’ve wandered off my own path to success.”

In other words, this is what’s true for me. It may or may not be true for you. (But I suspect it might be.)

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Take total responsibility for your freelance career.

No excuses for freelancers.The life of a freelancer isn’t always easy.

We have our ups and downs.

Maybe we lose a big client. Or that big prospect we thought was in the bag slips out of our grasp at the last moment.

Meanwhile we’re complaining about all the new freelancers entering the market, and pushing prices down.

Or we’re moaning about how the companies we’d really like to work with don’t seem to be hiring freelancers.

And then there’s that client who wants to renegotiate our fees, downwards.

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Follow your own dreams, not someone else’s. (And be sure it’s an amazing dream.)

Follow your dreams.I have written about this before, but as it’s early in the year I wanted to tackle the subject again.

As the New Year gathers steam, we feel inspired to set new goals, maybe move forward in new directions, and take on fresh and interesting projects.

That’s all good.

But there is a caveat.

Don’t be lured into taking on someone else’s goals, directions and projects. They may be a perfect fit for that person, but not so much for you.

Let me explain.

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Fire your two worst clients, twice a year.

Fire your freelance clients.I spent some time with a fellow freelancer recently, and he showed me a spreadsheet of his recent and current clients.

Better still, he showed me how profitable each of those clients were.

I have created spreadsheets like these myself, and was fascinated to see how similar his was in terms of the spread of profitability.

Let me explain.

On his spreadsheet he had a couple of really profitable clients, several middle-range clients, and a couple of clients that were barely profitable at all. His mix of clients was very similar to what I have seen in my own career as a freelancer.

So I asked him the obvious question, “The two least profitable clients take up way too much of your time for too little reward. So why not fire them?

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