Advice: How Becoming Your Own Teacher is the Secret to Success as an Independent
I won’t lie: Entering the independent workforce with no prior experience is scary, to say the least.
Though more people than ever are dodging traditional careers in favor of forging their own path with nothing but a laptop, the first few steps on that journey can be daunting. As a newbie independent, this is something I struggled with at the start. I couldn’t help but feel too unqualified, too wide-eyed to establish a name for myself in any marketplace, even if they were open to everyone and anyone regardless of experience or education.
With those doubts in mind, I went looking for help. I researched dozens of successful independents I looked up to, wondering what secret helped them push past this initial barrier of uncertainty. As I watched every podcast, interview, TikTok, and YouTube video I could get my hands on, I found myself hearing the same piece of advice repeatedly.
Without a doubt, what they said has drastically changed my career and the way I view myself: You don’t need to rely on anyone else to teach you the things you’ve dreamed of learning. If you want to gain experience and turn that experience into success, you have all the power in the world to earn it on your own.
After years of believing I needed a conventional 9-to-5 to be successful, it was difficult to wrap my head around the fact that I didn’t need a manager, coworker, or a college professor to teach me the work skills I wanted to develop.
As a writer, I’d never drafted a professional blog post or press release before becoming an independent. Sure, I’d written random pieces here and there on my own for fun or a college course, but the fact that someone was paying me to do these things was intimidating. How was I supposed to know what I was doing without an employer guiding my creative process?
Well, after looking back on that advice, the answer to that question was simple: I make my own process however I want.
Of course, there was only one way to achieve that goal and still find success as an independent: I needed to become my own teacher.
Using the Gift of the Internet
With this path in mind, I set out to take on everything I wanted to learn but had never been taught.
Was I having trouble figuring out how a press release was formatted, let alone written? Not a problem. I could choose from about 20 million articles online detailing the best tricks, tips, and practices for drafting a press release that glimmers. The same went for whatever else I wanted to offer as an independent, from blog posts to website content to e-books. Anything I could ever learn in my life was a single Google search away.
This realization made it so much easier for me to get my foot off the ground and start selling my services with confidence. Before I’d even spoken to my first official client, I already had a portfolio of “pretend” blog posts and other writing work I’d used as practice. I didn’t need to wait for a business to approach me to gain the experience I feared I’d missed out on; instead, I could write for an imaginary client, and it would still be just as valuable as a writing sample from a real buyer.
Now, this wonderful piece of advice isn’t solely for writers. I know of countless self-taught designers, music producers, and other creatives who built their portfolios alone, even if their work samples were made for an imaginary company and not a giant corporation like Microsoft. At the end of the day, a client just wants to know that new independents can do the work — and do it well.
Believing in Yourself
That powerful advice was nothing short of a revelation: one I can confidently say changed my career path as an independent for the better. Realizing that I’m the only one standing in the way of the success I dream about has opened the door to a world where conventional limitations no longer exist.
As an independent, if I want to learn a new skill to widen my offerings and increase earnings, I’m more than capable of doing so on my own. This self-sufficiency is an ideology I was not used to in the beginning. See, you can’t exactly complete the journey without first believing in yourself. (Much easier said than done. Trust me, I know.)
Still, once you do get over that hump, there’s nothing holding you back.
Our careers are a blank canvas, and we’re the ones holding the paintbrush. No one else can tell us what is right or wrong: We have the freedom to believe in our instincts and let them guide the process. That is what I love most about being an independent.