There is no single recipe for freelance success.

As a freelancer or entrepreneur, it’s only natural that you follow the career of others in your field, particularly those who have done extraordinarily well.

I do it myself.

I watch other copywriters, other web writers and other coaches who appear to be more successful than I am.

There is nothing wrong with that. It makes good business sense to track the success of others, and to learn from them.

However, there is a difference between conducting some careful business intelligence and trying to make their dream your own.

In particular, watch for those folks who offer to teach you how to follow in their footsteps and automatically become as successful as they are.

It doesn’t work that way. It really doesn’t.

The ingredients for success are different for each and every person.

There is no secret recipe that anyone can follow. The truth is, any given “success recipe” is unique.

I have built my own career in a way that is unique to me. I have done it in ways that work for me. I maximize my gifts in certain areas. I look for ways to overcome my weaknesses in other areas. My character is well suited to certain ways of promoting my business, and poorly suited to others.

Also, my values are different than those of other people. I’m not saying they are better, but that they are different.

I have a dream for my future that is unique to my own life and circumstances.

My vision for how things can unfold over the months and years to come is built from my accumulated experiences as a freelancer over the last 30 years.

If I were to analyse what I do, and then publish my own recipe for success, there is certainly no guarantee that it will work for you or for anyone else.

I’m not saying I can’t publish some guidelines and best practices based on my own experiences and success as a freelancer. I have done that, and I believe they are genuinely useful.

But If I were to tell you that you too can achieve exactly what I have achieved, in the exact same way I have achieved it, that would be less than honest. And when I see marketers make wild promises to people just starting out as freelancers, telling them they just have to follow a one-size-fits-all “success recipe”, I think that is less than honest too.

So how can you figure this out? How can you separate factual advice from subjective advice?

Well, let’s look at an example.

If I were to advise you to pay more attention to social media, that’s pretty good advice for almost all freelancers. There are a ton of studies and reports I could turn to in support of my recommendation. Social media engagement has become a best practice for freelancers.

But if I were to tell you to focus on Twitter more than on any other social media site, that’s subjective. It’s part of my success recipe, but might not be part of yours. Your character and style might be better suited to the creation of videos you can publish on YouTube.

Next time you listen to some guru tell you that success is just five proven steps away, be wary. Pause and think about whether those steps are genuine best practices, suitable for anyone, or whether some or all of them might work great for the guru, but wouldn’t work so well for you.

Bottom line – there is no single success recipe.

First, build the foundation of your recipe with proven best practices, then add your own unique mix of herbs and seasoning to make it work for you.

NOTE: As I mentioned in the article – “I’m not saying I can’t publish some guidelines and best practices based on my own experiences and success as a freelancer. I have done that, and I believe they are genuinely useful.” For more on this, check out my program, Marketing Confidence.

8 thoughts on “There is no single recipe for freelance success.”

  1. Awesome post! I know that when I started out freelancing, I was always looking for step-by-step “how to’s” on the subject. Now I realize that it really is about deciding what goals you want to accomplish and building your practice around that.

  2. Great post, Nick! Can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought into the “buy my book (guide, audio series, etc) and you’ll be as successful as me” promise.

  3. You’re right Nick. If we took all the advice of every wanna-be guru on “10 steps to build a better blog”, we’d end up with 550 steps, with energy & time wasted on half-completed steps in all directions.

    What’s needed is what’s most desired, and most lacking, in this info-bombarded world:

    Clear distilled insight. Focused on desired results.

    Until we do it for ourselves, how can we do it for our readers?

    Maybe a good successful blog is like a literary dose of ADD medication!

  4. Very timely post Nick. I know what you say to be true for me, however I admit that sometimes I can still get tempted by the ‘sales talk’. The word ‘unique’ is a good one to remember, because it applies to every one of us.

  5. Nick, your article is spot on. I suspect your understanding of this is one reason why your coaching is successful. You are not operating from a formula you try to impose on an individual. You are guiding each person according to what they need and what fits their unique situation, style and talent.

  6. Alan, thanks for the kind words. But the absence of a single success recipe does make it harder for every freelancer to find their own path. It can be frustrating, even for me. : )

  7. There’s not blueprint for success at anything, but there are specific principles which can be applied to create success in anything. It’s like Ralph Waldo Emerson says: “The man who understands principles can choose his own methods, while those who try only methods while ignoring principles are sure to have trouble.”


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