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:

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.

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.