“It is said the warrior’s is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way”. – Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
In the day of the samurai, warriors were more than just tough dudes slinging swords around. Part of a young warrior’s lessons included the learning about the written word as well as warfare.
The pen and the sword were reserved for nobility. Many young men dedicated their lives to perfecting techniques in both areas. These activities were more than about fighting or writing poetry; they were the foundation of discipline. They provided balance between the body and the mind of a well-rounded individual.
Two Swords or One?
A freelancer must have discipline. As a freelancer, you must progress towards deadlines without someone looking over your shoulder to make sure you get the job done. You have to know how to budget your money and your time. You also need to gain experience and expand your horizons.
Musashi used to warn his students against having a favorite weapon. Preferring a bow, a sword, or any weapon in particular meant limitation.
The same applies to writing. Don’t limit yourself to writing only what you know. Step out of your comfort zone to tackle a subject you’ve never written about before or a type of writing you’ve never tried to master.
Skill, Talent, and Then Some
You may have unswerving focus, talent, and strong writing skills, but if you can’t gain a client’s trust, you have nothing at all. Your success always depends on what your clients think of you and your services.
If you’re arrogant, irresponsible, sloppy, or so laidback that you constantly miss deadlines, you’re screwed. Your attitude is your worst enemy – or your biggest asset.
If a client really likes the way you stay in touch, deliver on time, and do everything you can to make him or her happy, you might end up with repeat business simply because you’re wonderful to deal with – even if your work is borderline acceptable for quality.
Have a Strong Strategy
The focus of Musashi’s Ground book is on strategy. If you’re planning on taking the plunge into freelancing, you’d better have a strategy. Diving in without any water in the pool is a sure way to crack your head.
Be smart. Make sure you understand that working for yourself takes twice as much discipline as working for someone else.
Also, keep in mind that not everyone can work from home. When one company I worked for sent everyone home to work, some people tried to beat the system. They’d leave their IM on to make it look like they were busy, when they were hard at work being couch potatoes.
Others understood how to stay focused and get the work done. It was business as usual, just from a different location. Those people were the ones that were good, strong workers, and they kept their jobs. Some even moved on to better jobs, like me.
Plan your strategy for success. Our e-book, Writing For the Web, looks at the skills, talent, and a few other extra ingredients to create an indispensable freelance writer.