Are you being realistic about your success?

Owning a business. Doing the work you love. Working on your own terms. They’re all things worth falling in love with and pursuing.

But as with any great love story, there’s a real drama. We’re talking about love triangles, heartaches, and challenges. Fulfilling the dream of running a successful freelance business isn’t for the faint of heart.

You’ll meet many freelancers along the way. Some will make it. Most of them won’t.

Which one will you be?

Whether you freelance part-time or full-time, you’ll do yourself a favor by keeping it real with yourself as you build your dream freelance business.

Let’s discuss a few reality checks that will keep you sane.

Reality Check #1:
The Timing Of Your Success

Before you skip this reality check, read a little bit more. Chances are you think you’re keeping it real with yourself. But you’re probably not.

You’ve heard it before:

Success doesn’t happen overnight.

Do you know what else is true?

Success won’t happen on the day you planned for it.

Unless you make moves perfectly and with perfect timing.

For most freelancers, success will take longer than expected. On rare occasion, it happens ahead of time but even then, few are prepared to keep it long-term.

The reality is that the kind of change you’re aiming for takes time.

It was in the book Essentialism, written by Greg McKeown when I first read a quote that said something like:

People overestimate what they can do in 10 minutes and underestimate what they can do in 10 years. —Greg McKeown, #Essentialism Click To Tweet

Side note: I’m almost sure Greg McKeown wrote it. I couldn’t find it in the book or on the internet. Bill Gates and Tony Robbins have said similar things too. Kudos if you can find it for me!.

Keeping the big picture and the ultimate goal in mind is necessary.

But I know too many who get overwhelmed by the big picture and end up doing nothing.

The big picture should be your compass, your true north, not your demise.

A better strategy is to focus on what success looks like for the day.

No, not the week, nor the month, nor the year. Just for the day at hand.

One ancient scripture reminds us:

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. —Jesus, Matthew 6:31 Click To Tweet

And if you want a shorter tweetable link, then tweet this:

Win the day. —@LuisCreates, Mighty Introvert Click To Tweet

I promise that if you win on more days than you lose, in time your dream will unravel into a reality.

Reality Check #2:
The Cost of Your Success

Think about that one relationship you stayed in way too long. You knew it wouldn’t work long-term but failed to end it timely.

You eventually ended it but why did it take you so long?

Uhh… I’m not here to read about relationships.

Fine. Then let me ask a few equivalent questions when it comes to freelancing.

Why has it taken you so long to leave your 9-5? Why has it taken you so long to choose and double-down on a niche? Why haven’t you gone through that online course you bought to improve your business?

You might be tempted to hide behind time constraints. Or maybe family chaos or lack of financial resources.

But they’re excuses. Of course, they are very real and make life a bit more difficult but everyone has real excuses.

Want to know the real reason?

The short answer: Real change is never easy.

The longer answer? Glad you asked.

To make real change happen, you’re required to leave your comfort zone. To jump higher than you’re used to, to run faster than you have before, to lift more than you thought possible.

It’s perfectly natural to feel unsure, anxious, or straight up scared as ever during change.

Seeing the titans of your industry might not help–especially if you’re constantly comparing yourself to them.

It’s also worth mentioning that change feels unsafe. After all, success isn’t guaranteed.

The reality is that you’ll probably doubt, lack confidence, and second guess your decision to freelance more often than you care to. This is especially true early on.

I find that for most freelancers, the fear reaches a high point right after the first dip.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of “The Dip”, let me explain it as best as I can and quickly.

You’ll have Dips. We all do.

The Dip is a concept coined by my teacher, Seth Godin. He even wrote a short book describing the concept in detail. You can get it here.

The dip is the crash you feel after being on a high. You build, build, build, and then things get tough and threaten what you’ve built so far. Something stands in your way and prevents growth.

It’s that phase when you can’t seem to run more than three miles, even though you’ve improved so much from when you could barely run a single mile.

It’s the struggle you experience after the honeymoon phase of a relationship.

It’s that plateau you reach after you’ve been freelancing part-time but can’t seem to sell enough to go full-time.

Get the idea?

That’s the dip. And it’s the cost of the real change you’re looking to achieve. We call that change success.

Here’s a graph from Seth’s book:

You can see more charts here and here.

If you ever hear Seth talk about The Dip, he’ll tell you that there are actually two major dips you’ll go through before you achieve your end goal.

Can you avoid dips?

It would be nice if we could but nope!

The dips are where real change happens. They’re where you grow the most. Conquering major dips is what separates the professional from the amateur. They’re a necessary part of your journey and transformation.

The struggle is real because the change is real —@LuisCreates Click To Tweet

Knowing that major dips will come is certainly an advantage, though. There’s nothing worse than getting caught off guard by an unforeseen obstacle–especially if you were already second guessing yourself to begin with.

Let me guess, your next question is:

How can I conquer my dips?

Good question.

Another nice thought would be if we could conquer each dip with a proven formula, which brings me to the next reality check.

Reality Check #3:
The Formula To Your Success

If we continue the thought of accepting the fact that you’ll have dips, then the next reality you must face is that there isn’t a “one-size fits all” solution to your dips.

Every dip, every challenge, and every problem will have a different solution. And to add to the complexity of finding your solution, what worked for someone else probably won’t work for you–at least not identically.

This is good and bad.

The Bad

You’ll be confused half of the time. You’ll fail often. You’ll feel defeated and you just might quit.

You’ll scavenge the internet for resources. You’ll spend lots of time and money on things like courses, seminars, and workshops so you can learn how to survive your dips and grow more.

Most of it won’t work.

Sometimes, it will be because the content is crap. Other times, it’ll be because you’re failing to read between the lines. You’ll focus on the wrong things. Or you’ll simply lack the discipline to follow through and trust a certain process.

Your stress might go up the roof. You won’t have time for fun and if you do, you might overindulge to relieve your stress (hello hangovers, stress bellies, and procrastination ??).

But it’ll only be temporary before you’ll have to face your dip again.

Dips have a way of weeding out those who aren’t fit or ready for the kind of success they’re aiming to achieve.

You might be wondering why we’d ever put ourselves through that kind of process. Why self-inflict that kind of emotional and sometimes physical pain?

As another ancient scripture teaches, “we are put into fire, refined like silver, and tested like gold”.

It’s simply the process of greatness. It’s the cost of real change. The kind of change that matters.

Now, let’s discuss the good:

As you spend all that time, money, and energy in trying to conquer your dip, you’ll realize that you’re not spending at all. You’re making an investment.

It’s not about earning a certain amount of money. It’s not about achieving a certain goal or results. And it’s not even about the destination you’ve aimed to reach.

Whaaaa? Then what’s it all about?

The investment you’re making is in yourself. It’s about who you become to achieve the results, to reach the destination, to earn the money.

At the end of the day, that’s what really matters.

You could be given the success you seek on a silver platter… But could you keep success long-term?

This is when who you are makes all the difference.

Who you are makes all the difference. —@LuisCreates Click To Tweet

And the great thing about investing in yourself is that like with any great investment, it compounds over time and exponentially grows.

You’ll be more equipped to handle future dips. More experienced and definitely more confident in yourself, the process, and paying the cost of change.

And although there isn’t a one-size fits all kind of formula for success, I do have one solid piece of advice that will make all difference.

Ready for it?

Reality Check #4:
The Fuel For Your Success

If you’re serious about turning your dream freelance business into a reality, then you’ll need fuel to keep you trotting along on your journey.

Your first instinct might be to assume it’s creating new habits. You’ve heard people tell you the fuel is having a better attitude. And many others will tell you the fuel is to work like crazy.

I disagree.

I’d say all those wonderful things are simply describing the vehicle of success, but not the fuel.

Those habits, attitudes, and work-ethics are all part of you become along the way.

You can have the best car but without the proper fuel, you won’t make it.

So, what’s the one thing you absolutely need for success? To conquer your dips? To create real change?

A strong enough reason.

Without a strong enough reason, you won’t and cannot survive certain dips. Remember, dips have a way of weeding out those who aren’t ready.

Let me ask you something:

Why do you really want to build an epic freelance business?

Don’t be too quick to answer. Because chances are whatever answer you give, might be too weak.

Some common answers that aren’t strong enough for major dips?

“To make more money.”

“To travel more.”

“To work on my own terms.”

“To have more freedom.”

Daaaaang. Did I just take all your go-to fluffy answers away?

Don’t get me wrong, all of the above are valid reasons. They’re just not strong enough reasons. They will only get you past the shallow tiny dips.

You need to dig deeper to survive the kind of dips that make or break you.

Why do you want to make more money?

Why do you want more freedom?

Why do you want to work on your own terms?

You get my point.

Explore deeper reasons. And then ask why again, and again, and again, until you’ve gone so deep that you’ve realized something important about yourself.

Something you somehow knew deep inside but could never express it in words. But you’ve expressed it in other ways. Something that made you feel joy, shame, anger, or sorrow before.

Dig until you find a reason that brings clarity to other situations, issues, or challenges in your life (past or present).

Once you find a strong enough reason, then you’ll have equipped yourself with the greatest weapon one can have in pursuing a dream:


A strong enough reason is the fuel that will drive you to success. —@LuisCreates, Mighty Introvert Click To Tweet

Any hiccup, obstacle, or challenge will be small compared to your super strong reason that drives you on a daily basis.

Let’s see these reality checks in action while I simultaneously brag about a friend.

Case Study: Aaron Hankins

I have a friend named Aaron. When I met him in early 2016, his dream was to work for Nike as a sneaker designer and innovator.

He stated that dream publicly and often. It was his way of creating accountability for himself. He knew he’d feel like a fool if he deviated from his dream–especially after committing to it publicly.

Guess where Aaron works now??

Yup. You guessed it. He’s a sneaker designer/innovator at Nike headquarters.

But let’s talk more about how Aaron was able to make his dream a reality through the lens of the reality checks we just discussed.

The timing of his success

If you meet Aaron, you’d find it easy to assume that he had overnight success and/or that’s he’s been working at Nike forever.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Aaron first applied to Nike in 2003 right after college. He received his official offer from Nike in late 2017.

We’re talking about 15 years to make his dream into a reality. 15 YEARS!!!

I’d bet money Aaron had planned for success much sooner than that!

I wonder how many dips he had during those 15 years. Probably more than we think.

The cost and formula of his success

I can’t speak to what Aaron did before I met him in 2016. All I can speak of is what he did after since we’d check in with each other occasionally.

Aaron networked with Nike employees. He visited Portland frequently (while living in Los Angeles) to feel the city he would move to when he got a gig working for Nike.

He visited the headquarters. He applied to every position he qualified for.

Aaron was an aerospace/mechanical engineer.

When he started having interviews with Nike, he realized where he was falling short. He went out of his way to get the experience he needed to become a better candidate.

He paid for courses on the design and development of sneakers. He was persistent, relentless, and tenacious in achieving his dream.

You have to know that some skills came more natural to him than they would you. And the inverse is true too. There are things that may come more natural to you than him.

His formula for success was unique and it took him 15 years to discover it.

Every dip moved him closer to finding his formula for success.

It goes without saying that Aaron has some serious drive. What fuels him?

The fuel to his success

As I mentioned before, Aaron and I would check in with each other every few months. And the more we dug into why he wanted work for Nike, the deeper and stronger we realized his reason was.

You see, Aaron absolutely loves to inspire people.

There were two instances (that I know of) when Aaron felt the most fulfilled in his life prior to working for Nike (and becoming a father):

  1. When he lost appx. 120 lbs. (I have a sister who weighs less than that!)
  2. When he traveled to 30+ countries before he was 30. And all within 5 years.

Those are worthy accomplishments to mention.

But do you think Aaron felt fulfilled because he could fit into smaller sized clothes? Did Aaron feel fulfilled because he stepped on foreign soil?

No. It wasn’t about his destination and it wasn’t about how great he felt like as a thinner man. Of course, those great feelings but don’t confuse feelings with fulfillment.

Don't confuse feelings with fulfilment —@LuisCreates, Mighty Introvert Click To Tweet

Aaron’s fulfillment was due to who he grew into in order to achieve those results.

He found fulfillment because his feats were so darn inspiring to others.

He equipped people with belief that they too could achieve a dream if they simply got serious enough about it and got to work.

Inspiring others literally drove him to lose weight and traveling the world.

What do you get when you pair up a love to inspire others with a love for sneakers?

A Nike employee you’ll never forget. And he goes by the name of Aaron Hankins.

Inspiring others was and is his fuel. It’s a strong enough reason for him to survive and even conquer anything that stood in the way of him and his dreams.

That’s what a strong enough reason will do. It will tower over any dip you face.

I visited Portland recently and Aaron gave me a tour of Nike. It’s not every day that you get to step into another person’s fulfilled dream.

I think it’s safe to say that Aaron will continue to inspire people on a global level through sneakers.

So the next time you buy a pair of Nikes, they might just have been designed by Aaron’s hands ?

You can follow Aaron’s journey on Instagram or Twitter. Send him a message letting him know you read this article.

Have you been keeping it real with yourself?

Maybe one or more of these reality checks made a difference for you.

If so, I’d really enjoy knowing about it.

Shoot me an email. Or even better yet, leave a comment below to share with other readers. Let the magic happen.

  • MatthewCarey
    Posted at 22:40h, 17 July Reply

    Luis, thanks for this great post. I really love the way you dig into the concept of the dip and focus on the importance of having a reason.
    Aaron’s story is inspiring and I hope you’ll keep us updated on the Nike chapter of his career!

    • Luis Vazquez
      Posted at 12:59h, 18 July Reply

      Thanks @MatthewJCarey:disqus. I’m wishing you, your reason, and your dips the best!

  • Alexa
    Posted at 16:54h, 18 July Reply

    Yass! Aaron is such a great example of someone with a strong guiding light. I totally dig #4 too, having recently started pushing through a dip i really felt that! So many excuses, shiny object syndrome if you will. I literally threw every obstacle in my own way, it was easier than just buckling down and deciding I wanted to thrive.

    Thanks for writing this, it was like a mirror!

    • Luis Vazquez
      Posted at 19:44h, 18 July Reply

      Aaron is the man! And I know allll too well about distracting shiny objects. Smh.

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