The best business advice I’ve received is …

I’ve been having a particularly rough month, both in business and my personal life. The ones close to me are in need of therapy – mainly because they are responsible for my therapy. They have seen me rant and scream and whine so much that I honestly think they should seek professional help … and detox. I am eternally grateful for having them in my life.

My dear ones have told me the same thing in many different ways. I’ve been told to stop beating myself up, to be patient, to focus on my successes. They’ve told me how well I’m doing and how proud they are of me. They are surprised I’m not as satisfied with myself . But yesterday I heard words from a mentor that expressed the thought more clearly than ever before. He said four words:

Be kind to yourself.

I’d never thought of that before. The world is full of talk about kharma and being good to others, and even Dr Phil says you should treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. But for me, the lesson I need to learn is to treat myself the way I treat my friends. I’m constantly worried about keeping them happy, making them smile, trying not to offend anyone. I’ve been described as ruthlessly blunt, but even then, my words are measured. The people who think I’m brutally honest … well … they’d probably die if they heard my thoughts unfiltered.

I was talking to friend once, and he asked me what I think of his writing. I tried to be gentle and diplomatic … without lying of course … but he asked me to stop protecting him and be frank about it. I refused the first and second time, but when he insisted, I spoke softly for maybe 20 seconds. He stood frozen for a minute. Then he walked away and didn’t talk to me for four days, after which he called to say I was right, and didn’t write again for a month. Never mind that everyone else loves his work and begged him to resume. He did, eventually, and I still read his stuff, but he knows not to ask for my opinion.

As harsh as I am on others, I’m ten times harsher on myself, which is why I’m bored and depressed. I expect a whole lot more than I’m doing, and it’s almost impossible to measure up.

This morning, I read this beautiful article by Steve Errey. He says the reason people are unsuccessful is because they start a business for the wrong reasons, and have the wrong measures of success. That’s why when they achieve the results they wanted, they feel hollow and empty. This surprises them, a lot. They got what they were working for, so they don’t understand why they’re upset. And that’s how I feel right now. I have everything I wanted, but I still feel unfulfilled.

In the article, Steve lists the main reasons why people start freelancing, and he explains why they’re the wrong reasons:

  • To blow other people away with what you’ve built
  • To earn yourself some great money
  • To impress your peers
  • To bring about a better lifestyle
  • To be your own boss
  • To work on your own terms
  • To feel successful; to feel like you’ve “made it”
  • To finish it, because you already decided to build it
  • To take vacation time when you want
  • To be respected by your peers, mentors, family and friends

Steve says these reasons are wrong. That’s why after you succeed and tick every one of them off, you still feel things aren’t okay, and you wonder why. I sometimes look at successful people, and I wonder whether deep down, they feel as hollow as I do. I haven’t heard anyone complain, so either they hide it really well, or no one else feels like this, so there must be something wrong with me.

Steve says the only reason to start a business is that you love it. That way, every day you do it, you’re a success. I know that I love writing, so perhaps the easiest way to start feeling whole is to focus on that. I should stop thinking about how much more I want to earn, or how trying my daily grind is. I should instead focus on knowing that I’m writing, and loving it, and that oh, somebody’s actually paying me to do it.

By the end of October, I will have made Ksh 486,705 freelancing. My expenses were Ksh 30,255, and that’s not counting rent and electricity, because I mostly work from home. None of that sits in my bank.

Some of that money comes directly from Elance and GAF, some comes from offline clients who give and receive instruction [and completed projects] via email, some comes from people who see my pro-bono blogs and hire me for paid work. 2% comes from clients referred by friends and family, but the bulk of my income has been generated by the online profile I unconsciously started building in October 2007. It was on blogger, had a green banner, and its url was Don’t bother clicking, I deleted all evidence online. Well, almost all *cheeky grin*

I keep detailed records of how much I earn, when, where, and how, but this is the first time I’ve totalled everything up, and I’m blown away. But I realise the warm feeling I have inside is not because of the amount I’ve made. Well … okay … maybe it is a little because of the amount I’ve made.

I haven’t felt the imapct of these earnings, because I haven’t mastered the art of cash flow management. Some of those clients took as much as 3 months to pay up, so I ended up accruing debts and by the time the cheque came through, it went straight into other people’s pockets – and it still does. The only treats I’ve given myself are a vacuum cleaner, an almost orange two-seater sofa, a yellow carpet, a three-month gym subscription, and a perm for my baby girl. Oh, I also went to Pizza Inn at 9.00 a.m. one Tuesday. I was the first customer, and I bought two Hawaiian King Size pizzas, came home, locked myself in my house, and ate them all by myself. *Happy sigh* The rest of the money went on food, fees, bills, and debts. So no, I don’t feel wealthy.

My friend’s advice is to be kind to myself, to look at myself as others do, and to feel my jaw drop as I realise that I’ve made close to half a mill, and that I’ve mostly done it while sitting in my house wearing pyjamas. Steve Errey wrote another article on LIfehacker, listing 63 ways to gain self confidence. Number 7 stood out for me. It says:

Look at a great win or success you’ve experienced and give yourself credit for your part in it.  Recognising your achievements is not egotistical, it’s healthy.

Half a million in 10 months is not bad for a girl who discovered email in December 2000 and is still the reigning queen of technobofia. If I can do it, you can do it too. Just remember the words of Steve Errey – do it for the right reasons, or at the end of the day, you won’t feel good at all.

Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through

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  1. Excellent post crystal. I wish I could send it to myself 10 years ago 🙂

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