A Pioneer Nation Follow Up

I spent a few days at Pioneer Nation, a small conference geared towards entrepreneurs here in Portland. I heard a few comments over and over again, to the point that I wanted to bring them to your attention:

It’s so amazing to talk to people who get what I’m going through. My family just doesn’t understand.

Being willing to make the leap into running your own business isn’t easy. Even if no one in your family is ready to jump off that sort of cliff with you, t’s crucial to find a community of support — hopefully with people who you can talk to on a regular basis, rather than once a year. Going it alone isn’t impossible, but if you’re going to do something as demanding as starting a new business, why make the process harder?

I know what I need to do. I’m just having trouble doing it.

I’m pretty sure that this is an ongoing problem for most entrepreneurs; I know it’s something I suffer from on a regular basis. For most of us, the next step is pretty obvious: Maybe we need to launch a product, send a proposal, or set up a marketing campaign but we haven’t. Part of the problem is usually finding the time. It’s a legitimate problem, by the way — there is a hard limit on how many hours you can work in a day. But part of the problem is often that we’re a little afraid to move forward, especially if we feel overwhelmed by the successes we’ve already had. I don’t have a solution for this problem, except to power on through whenever you have a rush to move forward. Just do as much as you can, when you can.

I have to think bigger!

In my line of work, I have to tell a lot of my clients that they need to think a little smaller — that their budgets won’t support the high-minded plans they’ve been making. But at Pioneer Nation, several people told me that they’d realized they need to think bigger. Part of that may have been the audience; it included a lot of people who were shooting for businesses that would first and foremost support their lives. But part of that is also that it’s tempting to focus on what we know we can accomplish with the resources we currently have, and let the big opportunities pass us by. But it’s good to think big and chase goals that seem a little audacious. Otherwise, we can’t tell what we’re capable of.

Pioneer Nation was a great conference, both to present at and attend. I just want to take a moment here to thank Chris Guillebeau and the legions of folks involved in putting Pioneer Nation on. Great job! I look forward to seeing where you take it next year!

NaNoWriMo’s Value to a Freelance Writer

Freelance writers spend most of their time writing, so, on the surface, it seems like NaNoWriMo might not be a useful tool. However, there are a couple of factors that make NaNoWriMo very helpful to freelance writers.

NaNoWriMo is a commitment to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That means,  you’ve only got to crank out about 1,700 words a day to keep on track. In the grand scheme of things, that isn’t too many. If you’re willing to put in a couple extra hours a day, depending on your writing speed, NaNoWriMo can help you crank out a novel without slacking on your regular work. It’s not a schedule you’d want to keep up all year round, but one month is enough to help you prove a point.

Furthermore, most freelance writers aren’t writing books. NaNoWriMo offers a chance to work on a novel, which can help you expand your writing abilities (and maybe wind up with something worth selling at the end of the month). It has a concrete deadline — one of the hardest parts about writing on your own projects is that all deadlines are self-imposed, and very easy to move. It can be frustrating to work without external guidelines.

There is also a sense of community for writers doing NaNoWriMo. There are online forums and in person meetups. Your NaNoWriMo friends can keep you on track and help you feel less isolated.

I think this serves as my announcement that I plan to do NaNoWriMo this year. I’m working on an outline the next couple of days, but I think I already have a pretty solid idea.