I heard some great advice once: “Bite off more than you can chew, then chew like hell.”
The quote is attributed to the late-Peter Brock, an Australian race car driver. I’m not sure what inspired Brock, but the sentiment works well for us freelancers learning to go beyond our comfort zones. When we do, we push our limits and can see what we’re made of. We also grow our skillsets, our networks, and our freelance careers.
Here are 9 tips that have helped me go beyond my own comfort zone.
1. Bite Off More Than You Can Chew, Then Chew Like Hell
The minute I heard this, I knew it was a keeper. As freelancers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with to-dos, and throwing something new into the mix can make things even crazier. But, it’s better to be challenged and busy than stagnant and unengaged.
2. Default to Yes
This is a tip I picked up from Guy Kawasaki. His advice to default to yes brings challenges but it also brings incredible opportunities. When concerns were expressed about people taking advantage of you if you always say yes, Kawasaki countered that the benefits you’ll receive from saying yes far outweigh the possibility of someone taking advantage of your willingness.
3. Put Yourself Out There
There’s a saying that 80 percent of life is just showing up. I’ve found there’s a lot of truth to that. When you show up and engage with your community, good things happen. Connections are made, ideas are formed, collaborations are born. When you have an idea for something, take steps to make it happen. Take risks, extend yourself to people, bring your authentic self to your work. Doing so will bring good things your way.
4. Take Jobs that are Just Beyond Your Scope of Experience
If you only stick with what you’re comfortable and familiar with, you’ll never know how much you’re capable of. Take jobs that stretch your skills then do your best work to grow into that new space. Doing only what you’ve always done is a recipe for stagnation.
5. Embrace the Unknown
There’s a certain trust—a letting go—that comes with freelancing. You trust that the jobs will keep coming, that you will adapt to industry changes, that your skillset is valuable and desirable. Embrace this letting go. If you work from a place of fear and lack, you’ll miss opportunities and connections that come your way.
6. Get Proactive In Your Life and Career
Be the person who initiates meetings, projects, collaborations. Don’t worry about someone saying no, or an idea not panning out. Fear of rejection is not a good reason to shy away from an idea or connection. The more you connect people and reach out to your extended community, the more you will learn about yourself and establish your place in your community.
7. Ask Experts for Help
When you’re not sure of your next step, ask someone who’s already doing what you want to do. Just as you can help people who aren’t as far along the freelance path as you are, there are those who are further along than you who can give you tips to avoid pitfalls. An expert may be a professional you’re referred to, or it may be the person sitting next to you in your coworking space. Be open to finding help in unexpected places, and reach out when you find it.
8. Create Big Picture Goals
When going beyond your comfort zone, have a good idea of where you’re headed. What do you want to be doing in one year, three years, five years, 10 years? It can be tricky to look ahead that far and set goals, but it’s important to have an idea of what you want.
One trick that helped me with this was to visualize my best self in 10 years, and work backwards from there. I visualize myself living someplace where I can wear flip-flops every day, have easy access to nature, and have lots of free time to spend with my partner, family and friends. I’d like to be finished with work by noon each day, and be able to comfortably work from wherever we are. I envision spending a lot of time on the road, in either an Airstream or RV van, and helping and teaching people—both at home and on the road. It helps to keep this vision in mind as I work to grow my freelance career.
9. Prioritize Time-Management
You can get a lot more done in an hour, or a day, than you might think. But you have to manage your time and minimize your distractions. It’s kind of amazing how time can just slide away scrolling through social media, or getting sucked into YouTube. Time management tools help keep distractions at bay by giving your work some structure. I recommend the Pomodoro Technique, but there are a lot of other techniques out there that people use and swear by. The important thing is to find one that works for you and commit to it. You’ll see your productivity increase and your comfort zone widen.
Growing your comfort zone is, in a lot of ways, about making a conscious choice to grow it. Don’t let nervousness stop you from doing what you want. Don’t let fear of what might happen if you fail keep you from trying. As Anais Nin famously put it, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”