I am feeling really pumped today because I’ve received four new contracts in the past week. And some of them are really exciting ones that will not only take advantage of current skills but also push me to develop new knowledge and expertise.
Freelancing is forcing me to believe in myself and to put myself forward. There are no fallback positions. If I don’t get out there and promote myself, I won’t make any money. It’s a multi-faceted process. I have to clearly identify my skills and interests in my own mind. Then I have to work out ways to tell people about my skills and emphasize ways in which I can help them to succeed. And once I get a contract, I have to sit down and actually do the work – even if it takes me outside my comfort zone.
I have to be prepared to invest in myself by buying books or taking courses. I can’t rely on other people’s judgment of my abilities. I have to be persistently optimistic, always reaching for the stars. There is no steady pay cheque, no statutory holidays, no boss to tell me what to do. I am completely and entirely responsible for my own destiny.
And I love it – but it is often challenging. And as a result, I could really emphasize with Clay Shirky’s Rant about Women. Shirky says that we live in a world where skill at self promotion “produces disproportionate rewards, and if skill at self-promotion remains disproportionately male, those rewards will as well. . . . In these circumstances, people who don’t raise their hands don’t get called on, and people who raise their hands timidly get called on less. Some of this is because assertive people get noticed more easily, but some of it is because raising your hand is itself a high-cost signal that you are willing to risk public failure in order to try something.”
Shirky goes on to say that there is a price to pay for self promotion: “It’s tempting to imagine that women could be forceful and self-confident without being arrogant or jerky, but that’s a false hope, because it’s other people who get to decide when they think you’re a jerk, and trying to stay under that threshold means giving those people veto power over your actions. To put yourself forward as someone good enough to do interesting things is, by definition, to expose yourself to all kinds of negative judgments, and as far as I can tell, the fact that other people get to decide what they think of your behavior leaves only two strategies for not suffering from those judgments: not doing anything, or not caring about the reaction.”
Shirky’s post has received a lot of negative feedback. And it’s true that he presented his argument very forcefully. I don’t want to be seen as a self-promoting narcissist or a pompous blow hard. But I am passionate about establishing my business, and I’m not prepared to abandon those dreams and play a traditional female’s supporting, caretaker role.