Keep going

He’d been waiting for me.

“I say! Laddie!”

The Lord Todd of Trumpington waved his walking stick at me from across the First Court of Christ’s College, Cambridge.

Actually, he’d been waiting for anyone. To aid his recovery from an altercation between his kneecap and a paving stone, his doctors had instructed him to take a tour of the Court each morning. Accompanied, of course. Which was where I, the next undergraduate to walk through the gate at the time, came in.

I forget what we talked about during our laggardly lap of the circular lawn, except his parting words:

Keep going

Since he was a Peer of the Realm, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, and a former Master of the college, I doubted whether I could keep going as far as he had in his long life. But keep going I must. As must we all, if we are to reach the end of our days without the galling realisation that we haven’t made of our talents what we might.

As a freelancer, it can be difficult to keep going sometimes. Not that the freelance life is so bad that you want to do yourself a mischief, of course, but it can be hard to keep your longer-term goals clearly in view. As with any enterprise, there’s a constant balance to be achieved between getting the work done and driving the business forward. When another job offer at a decent price drops into your inbox, it can be tempting to accept – even if that means postponing your professional-development or marketing project yet again.

When you’re self-employed, the person responsible for keeping you going is you. But that doesn’t mean you’re all on your own. Sure, you could hire a personal coach, although that might not be for everyone. Or you could team up with some friendly colleagues – but they mustn’t be that friendly, as they might need to crack the whip occasionally, to keep you going. As you’ll keep them going, too, en route to achieving your respective targets.

Christ's College, Cambridge

Christ’s College, Cambridge

Without this kind of support system, you risk drifting along, content with the status quo or with the odd easy win that falls into your lap as your experience incrementally grows. Until you realise some day that you could have done more. That you could have done better. That you’d just been marking time.

So find someone (or two) to help you keep going. Keep them going, too. Allow yourselves to pause now and again to admire the view, to see how far you’ve come.

And then get going again.

7 thoughts on “Keep going

  1. Magda

    Hi Oliver,
    That’s so true. Support is essential to keep going as long as there is trust. It is good to have someone to turn to when the (freelance) going gets really tough, whether because you have too much work or to talk about any issues you need some help with. Support can be a lifesaver as long as it doesn’t drain you out. I know people who are incurable givers and, sadly, for leading a sane freelance business, not everything’s got to give. On the other hand, to give is to learn.

    Reply
    1. Oliver Lawrence Post author

      Hi Magda and thanks for commenting :). When I went freelance and moved to a house out of town in a foreign country several years ago, I was concerned about isolation; one of the good things (in the end, the only good thing 😉 ) about my previous job was the office banter and mutual support – where was that going to come from now? With the growth of social media to complement the in-person events organised by professional associations and others, there’s now more opportunity than ever to connect and to establish real professional-support networks. Not just to be one of many in an online group, not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course :), but to have quite a close-knit team ethos to keep each other going. It’s easy to lose sight of the long view when you’ve only one pair of eyes.

      Reply
      1. Magda

        You are welcome, Oliver.
        I also went freelance after I moved to a new small town within the same country (same as you!) but still I knew absolutely no one and for me translation was a totally new experience. I am now convinced that if it wasn’t for the support of that close-knit team, as you say, coupled with online resources and networking, things would be very different.
        What’s missing is attending conferences and events due to lack of time and lots of responsibilities but I will “get there” some day.
        Thanks for the great content, by the way!
        Alla prossima.
        M.

        Reply
  2. Alessandra Martelli

    Hi Oliver,

    great piece of advice for solopreneurs of all sorts. No matter how experienced you are, having a close network is essential to keep going – by discussing issues and celebrating achievements, or for getting that boost of motivation and enthusiasm we all need at times.

    However, as Magda wrote, it’s important to select your “partners in crime” wisely. To me, this also means partnering only with people who also share my professional values and standards. In my experience, this makes you feel more comfortable when discussing critical decisions, or practical/ethical dilemmas with customers or projects.

    Enjoy the weekend,
    Alessandra

    Reply
    1. Oliver Lawrence

      Ciao Alessandra
      Absolutely, being choosy about who enters your inner circle is pretty vital. While it can be good to be part of a large group of translators, e.g. on Facebook, I’m not sure if I’d want to share too much with hundreds or thousand of people that I barely know. A more close-knit arrangement can complement that very well.
      All the best
      Oliver

      Reply
  3. Desiree

    Hi Oliver,

    What a perfect article to stumble upon on a Monday morning. I was just getting ready to work through my to-do list but the resistance to starting is palpable! One read of your article and I remember that I just have to KEEP GOING. Thanks for that!

    Reply
    1. Oliver Lawrence Post author

      Hi Desiree
      Thanks for reading :). Often the simplest advice is the best; the trick, of course, is to keep following it in practice ;).
      All the best
      Oliver

      Reply

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