The gentle spiritual path: Walking the path

Walk the walk

Ever heard the saying: “She doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk”?  It is a compliment. And deservedly so, because people who actually do what they think, believe, and say they are going to do are not the norm.

Thinking or knowing something is not the same as understanding, doing, and becoming what you think and know.

I was a college and university professor for some 25 years. Over the years I found my students becoming less and less interested in “walking the walk” than in “talking the talk”.  It was not their fault: The higher education system puts thinking and knowing on a much higher pedestal than doing and becoming and quite simply, thinking and knowing something is much easier than doing it and actually becoming it.

For example, which is easier: Thinking and knowing how to ride a bicycle or doing it and becoming a comfortable and natural rider of bicycles?

Of course it is easier to think about pedaling so that you move forward and moving your handle bars to balance yourself, than it is to actually get on a bicycle and learn to balance while pedaling and moving forward and become natural and comfortable at staying balanced while riding.

Another example:  Is it easier to learn what Jesus said, did, and suggested we do, or to do it? In other words, is it easier to think and know spiritual ideas, concepts, and principles or to practice them and “become” them?

Is it easier to think “Love thy neighbour as thyself” or to actually “love your neighbour as yourself”?  Well, duh! Of course it is harder to actually do it! But which one will result in your being unconditionally loving?  Thinking the words or practicing the idea?

My favourite bumper sticker of all time:

“What would Jesus do?”

It is quite profound to me because it prompts a simple and powerful question:  In everyday life,  in all you do and with everyone you meet, are you doing what Jesus would do?

Or are you just thinking about what the “right” thing to do might be?

Walking a gentle spiritual path is simply the choice to proverbially stand up and walk. To actually take one step after another. Every day, right now, in this instant.

A wise teacher shared that it is just the choice of love in every moment.

Another wise person said it is the choice to always be kind to yourself and to everyone and everything.  All the time. Right now. This instant.

Same same.

Fed up with thinking and knowing because it hasn’t gotten you very far along the path to peace and actually runs you around in circles where you find yourself right back at the beginning, no further ahead for all your thinkingness?

Choose to do and become. Right now. Commit to yourself the simplest commitment:  To do and become that which your soul is pointing you towards.

Walk the walk.

Freelancing after University: Overcoming Pricing “But, but, but…!!!” objections

 

Freelancing means learning new stuff: Up front as you begin, and continually as you build professional skills at everything from communicating by email to pricing your services. “What should I charge clients?!” is one of the biggest challenges I have seen freelancers struggle with. It causes many to feel really uncertain, distressed, anxious, and in many cases, really unsure about themselves and their abilities!

Pricing services causes this much emotional trouble? Really??

Yes, really. And it is because there is a ton of stuff going on in our minds about what different prices mean. During 15+ years of being in school and in our part-time and full-time jobs, we learned to be great employees. However most of us never learned to be great at employing ourselves. So we don’t actually have a mental model for what our work is worth and this causes us uncertainty when faced with the challenge of pricing our services as a freelancer..

Pricing challenges are in our heads

I have heard the following many times, including in my own head when I started out freelancing my training, consulting, and coaching services:

  • “But I couldn’t charge clients that much money. I would feel guilty!”
  • “But I don’t know how much work it will be, so I must charge per hour!”
  • “But I don’t want to lose a customer by charging too much!”
  • “But I am not very experienced, so I should charge a low price!”
  • “But what if I can’t deliver on the promises I make for that package price?”
  • “But every customer is different. I can’t charge a package price!”
  • My favourite: “But I wouldn’t pay that much, so I couldn’t charge that high for a package!”

Can you think of one or two more that are not on this list? Our mind spawns “But…!!!” objections to seeing things in a new way and changing how we think because we are human beings. It is just the nature of our minds to find reasons to reject things that are too new or big, particularly when we don’t have experience at something (ie freelancing!) and a solid mental model to work within.

Let’s break these “blocks” down analytically, then look at the deeper stuff in our heads that may be driving these beliefs and blocks. This will give you the understanding you need to either blast through them or dissolve them with courage and the decision to see yourself and your freelancing work in a new way.

Analytical Tear-Down

As a freelancer you are really running your own business. You must charge prices that reflect not only the value of the work you do (Part 3 of this series will address this), but also the fact that you need to make a living doing this work.

Four things to internalize to help you overcome pricing beliefs:

1. Your package prices must include all the time you use for:

  • Finding clients.
  • Proposing a package to them.
  • Waiting for them to decide if they want your services.
  • Doing the work.
  • Communicating with your client before, during, and after the project. Yes, the time, focus, and effort it takes to think about the work and communicate with clients about it.
  • Invoicing your client.
  • And your package price must include time for you to do your accounting, banking, learning new tools and skills, networking, etc.

You are not just charging a client for the actual hours of work you do for them, but also for all the effort and time before, during, and after the client work is done that contributes in some way to the overall value you offer.

Can you see why you can’t just charge by-the-hour for the “work” you do?

2. Employees do a narrow set of sub-divided tasks in a physical workplace that has all its costs paid for by the employer. As a freelancer you do a wide range of tasks for a project and for your freelancing business. And you must include a cost for your “overhead” – everything that goes into your business life: Your “office” space, transportation, accounting, billing, technology, internet, and more.

Again, can you again see why you can’t just charge by-the-hour? Employees have to pay nothing to do their jobs and are usually trained for a narrow set of tasks. You, on the other hand, must pay for everything and do a wide range of tasks! So you must charge more for the services you offer.

3. Your freelancing client needs a solution, as discussed in Part 1 of this series. You must deliver that solution. If you do not charge a high enough price your client will not believe that you are “professional enough” to do it. To them, their work is “high value” and is usually something they can’t do, which is why they need an external freelancer. You must charge them for this “high value”.

4. The MOST important fact to internalize: You are NOT the client. What you would pay or what it would be worth to you is irrelevant to your pricing. What your client will pay for a package of services that provides a solution to them has nothing to do with what you would pay.

This is so important that I will give you an example:

Let’s say you know how to build web sites. You could whip up a WordPress template-based web site, including putting in some stock photos, pre-written content, and doing some CSS tweaks in…oh, about 4 hours. If you were to charge a client $1,250 dollars for a “web site package”, you might say to yourself “I can’t charge that because I wouldn’t pay that huge price for the work myself! That’s over $300 per hour!!”.

Do you see the problem? Your client can’t build web sites easily and quickly. In fact, they don’t know WordPress at all! And they don’t have the time to learn how, nor do they want to learn how. The simply want a nice looking web site. To them, $1,250 is GREAT value for the relief of not being able to do it themselves, for having it done quickly by you, and for a professional looking site that you could do better than they could do it!

Give yourself the biggest pricing gift of all as a freelancer: Remove yourself from the pricing equation. The prices you charge clients have nothing to do with what you would pay. The prices you charge are only, and always, about what your client perceives as value to them.

A real example:

Summary: Use this “analytical tear-down” to push as many pricing objections out of your mind as you can! This is war – a war against your own mind, which wants to keep you focused on a preprogrammed “employee” mental model. Win this war and you are well on the way to being a successful and well-paid freelancer!

The Deeper Stuff in Your Head

This part is actually shorter but likely harder to deal with than the analytical tear-down. You see, deep in our minds are fears, traumas, and uncertainties that affect our confidence, willingness to learn and grow, and ability to make decisions and make stuff happen. Yes, we all have them, but few people talk about them. Thinking about that “buried stuff” makes us squirm. Talking about it makes us feel even worse.

So how might we resolve a conflicting message we perhaps heard all through our growing up years from a parent who said:

“The only way to success is by getting a good job! You MUST get a good job or you will be a failure”.

This is an example, only, but our subconscious is littered with learned “truths” that are both not “true” and linked tightly to our emotional states.

This is where courage comes in: Freelancing takes courage. Offering to help a client is about you stepping out strongly in the world as a independent professional. It takes courage.

Whenever one of the deeper beliefs, traumas, and uncertainties arise to your conscious mind and begin to sap your confidence, enthusiasm, and energy, are you willing to find the courage to challenge it?

For example:

“I choose to believe that I can be successful as a freelancer, for however long I choose to. Other people’s beliefs about a job being the only way to success is their truth and their reality. My truth and reality are different. I can and will be successful at freelance work.”

I make it sound easy, and for many of the things in our head it is actually very doable to “blast through” and re-write your ingrained beliefs. However, there can be stickier and more challenging beliefs, traumas, and blocks to transcend, and there are techniques for dealing with these. If you are stuck with one or more sticky challenges, hire a good coach to help you get free of it.

Every freelancer faces a number of barriers in their own mind that must be overcome in order to be successful. Are you willing to overcome what is “in there” in your own head?

A mind free of “But, but, but…!!!” is a key part of freelancing success!

Action: Do this right now

Stop what you are doing. After reading each of the following questions, focus on something in the distance with your eyes for a few minutes. What comes into your mind? Can you analytically blast through any objections or courageously declare to yourself that you won’t be held back by deeper stuff?

1. What beliefs make you feel strong and confident? (feel free to write these down if it feels good to do so)

2. What beliefs and “truths” other people told you make you feel weak and scared?

3. Can you find the courage in yourself to face the negative stuff in your mind and decide not to have your emotions, thoughts, confidence, and motivation be impacted by it?

Be strong!

Freelancing after University: Hourly pricing or “packages”?

Being familiar with jobs that pay an hourly wage, most university graduates thinking about doing freelancing “gigs” after graduation (short term contract assignments) first think about how much they should charge per hour for their work. For example:

  • Ghost write blog articles – “I will charge $15 per hour.”
  • Do social media postings for small businesses – “$18 per hour.”
  • Landscaping and lawn care – “$14 per hour.”
  • Photography for a friend’s engagement party – “$20 per hour.”

Offering hourly pricing is the biggest mistake I see most new freelancers make

Charging by-the-hour for your work, or accepting a by-the-hour contract that a client offers you, is seriously problematic. Here’s why:

1. You have no idea if the per-hour rate is an accurate match to the value you will provide. So what do you do? You default to what you would have been paid as a wage earner. Worse, you price based on what you think you are worth per hour.

What happens? You grossly undervalue your worth and the value you will offer. You under-price…often by 2x, 3x, 5x, or 10x too little. “I earned $14 working at a restaurant, including tips. I will charge $16 an hour to my clients because now I have a degree. Phewwww!! That was easy!”

2. You are thinking like an employee. A freelancer is not an employee. A client wants help with something, a problem solved, or something built for them. They do not want an employee. That is why they are hiring a freelancer!

What happens? If you price on a hourly rate, your client will be confused and uncertain because they don’t know how many hours the help, solution, or building of something will take. They aren’t thinking about hours and hourly rates. They are thinking about getting something done. Your job is to help them get this done, not confuse them! See the problem? A confused and uncertain client is not a happy client who trusts you and your work.

3. You think you don’t have enough experience. As per point 2., most clients really only want to know if you can get something done for them and how much it will cost to do so. That’s it. “YES / NO” and “$_____” – one single number. Your lack of perceived experience lowers your confidence and results into defaulting back into “employee” thinking.

What happens? “I will price at $12 per hour to compensate for my feelings of lack of confidence. That way, my client will not expect much from me and if I fail, it won’t cost them much.”

Result? A good client will automatically think: “$12 per hour !?!?! Ummm…no thanks. This person is like a fast-food worker. I will find someone else to solve my problem – someone who can clearly get it done!”

And the result for you? “Clients won’t even pay me $12 per hour!! Nobody wants me. I must be really worth very little to clients and employers. Back I go to the minimum wage job I did last summer!”. Pricing on an hourly basis can quickly degrade confidence in both yourself and in the freelancing path itself!

Successful Freelancing: Offer “solution packages” to clients

Instead of thinking about “hours” and “price per hour”, think “solutions” to clients in the form of “packages” that:

  • help them do something better, faster, or in a new way.
  • solve a problem for them.
  • build something for them.

A re-framing of the examples at the beginning, from a “package” approach:

  • Ghost write 12 blog articles that will engage your social media audience – $1,100
  • Build your business’ social media “followers” by 100% of current levels. – $2,500
  • Keep your lawn cut & edged and flower gardens weeded until September 30th – $1,400
  • Photography for your engagement party – $400

Can you immediately see that two things have changed?

1. You have offered clear solutions to clients needs. The wording is definitive of a resolution of something. The client will feel relief just when reading the proposal. “This person will be able to solve this for me. Good!”. They may not yet approve your package price, but better they are a relieved potential client than a confused and uncertain one, no?

2. Your prices are now closer to, and more indicative of, the “value” your client will experience as an outcome of your work on their behalf. They are happy because the price clearly indicates that you will take this work seriously and you can do a good job with it.

Can you see how much more money you will make by offering packages instead of charging per hour for your work?

In the first example – ghost writing – you might have taken 24 hours to write 12 blog posts. By charging $15 per hour you are “earning” $360. By offering a package of 12 articles for a fixed price of $1,100, you are now “earning” nearly $46 per hour for the same 24 hours of work. A 300% increase in your earnings! And if it takes a bit more than 2 hours to do each blog article because you don’t have much experience? Who cares! You can take longer because you are getting paid so much more on an hourly basis. By focusing on the solution and not the “hours” and “price per hour”, you will not only free yourself from pricing stress but also do a better job for your client, resulting in an increase in experience, confidence, and income for yourself!

Action: Do this right now

For whatever service/solution you are thinking of offering:

  1. Can you think of a “package” solution that you could offer?
  2. Are there other freelancers you can google who offer packages similar to what you could offer?
  3. Are there businesses offering packages similar to what you might offer?

Gigs or a job after graduation?

Why you should seriously consider getting “gigs” before seeking a job after graduating university or college.

New graduates, and their parents, typically consider the end of university and college the ideal time to seek a job as the launch point of a successful career. Reading and hearing that many graduates end up doing “gigs” – short to medium-term projects that they get paid for as contractors – causes many grads and their parents distress. Why? Because a “job” is secure and “gigs” are not, despite what the pay might be. Gigs come with no employee benefit plans, and unlike a job, have a defined end date.

Let’s decode this:

A full-time job = “safety”. Why do you want safety? So you can invest in a house, buy a car, and start a family. This is the life path your parents wanted and expected.

And for the tens of millions of immigrants to the U.S. and Canada over the last century, life here was also the escape from war and persecution. What did they want? Safety. So again, having a full-time and preferably unchanging job was an intense relief, or at least very, very desirable.

Gigs = “opportunity”. Why might you want opportunity? Because you are probably not trying to emulate your parents desires and life expectations – at least not immediately after you graduate university or college. And you most likely are not a refugee from a war or serious persecution. And if you have significant student loan debt which is causing you a sense of urgency to earn money, you hopefully know that there are many ways to make ends meet right now – not just through a traditional “job”.

And most importantly, you need opportunities because the world of “jobs” has changed so dramatically that even if you did try to jump directly into a stable, full-time job after graduation, you would likely find it a long and challenging journey getting there. Worse, you might find that after the euphoria of getting the job, your heart sinks when you realize what you have actually gotten yourself into. Change, stress, little structure, and scarce guidance and support are the norms of today’s busy corporate, government, and even small business workplaces.

Gigs are an “Opportunity”… to do what?

If you choose to do gigs after university or college – at least for a while – you gain some tremendous advantages over those who choose to seek jobs first:

  1. Gigs = experience that you can put on your resume. Even short-term gigs add significant value to your experience by showing potential employers what you can do.
  2. Gigs = the opportunity to define your preferences. You have been in school almost all your life. How do you know what kind of work you like to do? And what kind of a setting would suit you best? And what kind of people you would enjoy working with? Try a variety of short and medium-length gigs and you will quickly define your preferences. Really quickly. Remember: Your parents’ preferences when they were your age were usually quite different than yours will be today. Why? Because they grew up in a completely different world than you have.
  3. Gigs = building confidence. You get to succeed at real world work, which makes you feel good. And you can make mistakes, too, without long-term implications: You gain resilience.
  4. Gigs = an opportunity to learn. Yes, learn. Not the kind of learning you did in university and college, but for gaining the mindset, confidence, and professional skills you will need to be successful in the dynamic, fast-paced, technology-enabled, team-oriented, and intense world of work today.

What your parents don’t realize and media and governments are not telling you:

Those easy-to-find entry-level jobs of the past where you could learn the “professionalism skills” you needed in order to step into a high-skill role don’t exist anymore.

Where did the entry-level jobs go? Well, every time you use your phone or laptop to do online banking, visit a government web site, book a concert ticket or flight, check the weather, or send a message, you are using the replacement to entry-level jobs. Automation, in the name of cost savings, efficiency, and improved customer service has removed most of the traditional opportunities you had to gain the mind frame, confidence, and skills you need. Entry-level jobs that still exist today are being eliminated as quickly as organizations can automate them.

Now, you must leap a big gap between university and what employers need from you. There are few stepping-stone entry-level professional jobs where you can learn how to meet employers needs.

And no, a job in a fast food restaurant is not an entry-level job that will give you the professional skills you will need.

Choosing to do professional gigs after you graduate university or college, a real example of which is the image for this article, can be a smart part of the rapid development of a successful career.

For many new graduates, “gigs” may not be an option: They may be necessary. A good necessary!

The author: Paul Kurucz is a former university faculty who now coaches graduates to more quickly and confidently leap the gap between their studies and successful careers.

Teaching reset: “How do you want to use technology in the classroom?”

Every so often I do a reset of my teaching habits in order to see if I am in synch with my MBA students. They are mature adults with years and sometimes even decades of international work experience behind them. I want to be sure I am current with their professional realities. It is time again for a reset, so I used the beginning of the new term to ask them how they wished to use technology during our class time together.

I love turning the tables on my students and inviting them to take ownership of their learning process. Many are delighted with the invitation and eagerly embrace the opportunity. Others are unsure, as their previous learning experiences have been largely out of their control. Empowerment takes a bit of getting used to, as a Japanese student reflected to me at the end of the class.

I had expected the discussion of technology in the classroom to take a maximum of 15 minutes. It would be simple, right?  Use smart phones or not? Easy. Laptops or not? Easy.

Not so.  Each of my three sections of students took over an hour, with one section going to 90 minutes. Clearly, the topic touched on real concerns they had about the use of technology in the classroom and the workplace.

Some fascinating insights emerged:

1.  Personal use of technology is now the accepted norm in the workplace.

The old world of separation between work and personal life is over.  Not only is it unenforceable, but it is simply impractical. Even just 10 years ago the assumption was that when you were at work you were working. Only emergency personal communication was expected by your employer. You should be focused on your work when at work.

Now? While some old-school dictatorial type managers can still be observed in the wilds of the workplace, they are an endangered species.  It is now the socially and professionally accepted norm that you will flow between work and personal smoothly and without significant concern.  Only when you are clearly not getting your work done or are disturbing others with your personal interactions will a concern be raised with you.

This is the world of work.  Students feel that the classroom should be the same as the workplace:  Technology for personal use should be just fine.

2. You are always connected and reachable.

Again, even just 10 years ago when someone in your personal sphere wanted to connect with you they would hesitate if it was during working hours: “Is this important enough for me to ask for your attention?” might go through their subconscious.

Now? Send a text message. Initiate an online chat. Or call. Anytime. You are expected to be reachable 24×7 to friends and family now. For any reason.

3. Everyone must develop their own discipline.

My students were most vocal about this. Do not restrict our use of technology in the classroom or workplace. Let us learn the hard way to discipline ourselves. When we fail in our studies or in meeting our goals in the workplace, we will learn when to put the phone into silent mode and close personal windows on our laptops so that we can focus on what we have to get done.

The Pavlovian urge to check text messages must be overcome by the individual. They need results oriented feedback before they will begin to discipline themselves.

Personally I question this, but mostly for self-preservation reasons as a professor.  When a student fails in their studies their first reaction is that it is not their fault. Blame is projected outward and the blame gun is pointed directly at the professor.  And in this era of “the student is a customer mindset” of institutions, the student must be placated, if only for institutional marketing reasons.

4. Our classrooms and workplaces are 100 years out of date.

This is my personal favourite. We have “Master” centric classrooms with mechanical layouts that encourage students and workers to think and act like robots being prepared for 19th century factories when they graduate. Desks all lined up in the classroom so the teacher is the authority. In the same way, cubicles in the workplace de-humanize employees in the workplace. Yikes.

We brainstormed what the 21st century classroom and workplace should look like.  Tables with wireless charging built into them.  Groupings of tables so that teams can work together face-to-face to solve problems and construct things.  Wireless projectors so that students can easily project what is on their smartphone to the whole class. Continual, natural, and individual-driven use of technology, all the time. Co-working, an emerging evolution of the workspace, is an example of how positive change is happening in the real world, where technology is fully integrated into the physical place people work.

Ahhh….I love the smell of empowerment in the classroom.

But then I asked them:  “May I use my smartphone during class?”

Their reply:  “No! Not you. We paid for you to be here and teach us.”

Clearly, there are still some limits on the use of technology in the classroom. Well, limits on my use, anyway.  And of course, they don’t see the irony:  “Teach us, but we won’t necessarily be listening, engaging, or learning from what you are doing. We might be busy focusing elsewhere with our phones and laptops.  But keep going.  We paid you to do this, so do it anyway. And make sure that we get good grades, too.  Oh, and thank you for doing all that. ”

They are polite.  I give them that.