Ep 6: Self-Discovery & Personal Growth Through Freelancing

Freelancing can be an incredible journey of self-discovery. Just being 100% responsible for your clients, quality of work, income source, and business growth, you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process. As you do so, you may want to continue finding opportunities for personal growth instead of getting caught up with the cycle of work or getting comfortable. We talk about our own way of doing this while managing our workload.

Transcript

[Prologue]

Jeannette Goon  00:00

Freelancing has been exciting because of how much I get to explore different industries, different kinds of work, different kinds of people.

Sarah   00:07

It shifts the perspective from always depending on my environment or my circumstances, to recognizing that, hey, this is happening, because I signed up for it. If I’m not proud of it, I need to be better at making decisions. How do you think we can ensure that we keep growing as people and developing in our careers?

Jeannette Goon  00:22

I think one of the big questions I asked myself was, “What does growth look like to me?”.  If you don’t know how you want to do that, it’s quite hard to figure out where you want to go and what next steps you’re going to take.

[Start]

Sarah   00:40

Hi there, it’s Sarah and Jeanette. Welcome to Solo Sync, a podcast for the curious solopreneur, where we discover simple solutions to keep enjoying what we do together.

Jeannette Goon  00:49

Today, we’re going to be talking about self-discovery and personal growth through freelancing. To be honest, I didn’t quit my job with the intention to keep freelancing. I mean, I didn’t have a plan to say… go back to work after a year or something like that. But I also didn’t think that more than five years later, I would still be jobless every half year. So I do find myself casually job hunting, but somehow never managed to find anything that I want to stick to for the long term. I found such a thrill and being able to work for myself. But more than that, freelancing has been exciting because of how much I get to explore different industries, different kinds of work, different kinds of people. Suddenly, the frustration I used to feel when working full time made so much sense. You know, I didn’t get that kind of diversity in work. Through freelancing, I discovered that I’m the sort of person who loves range, variety, the possibility of being able to constantly experiment and learn new things. What about you, Sarah? Do you think you learned more about yourself through freelancing? 

Sarah   01:44

Yeah, definitely. Freelancing has helped me be more grateful. Overall, it’s helped me take ownership of my career decisions in my life. When I was still in a full time job, I found that it’s very easy for me as a full-timer to say, oh, why is my company not doing more for me? or do they not understand the work hours that I have to go through? How much effort is being done? Why am I not getting compensated? And it wasn’t just me, it was the people around me as well. It was just so easy to take things for granted. But being a freelancer has helped me realize that everything that I’m doing now, every single job that I get, is something to be grateful for. And it’s something I personally said yes to. So there’s a difference. It shifts the perspective from always depending on my environment, or my circumstances, to recognizing that, hey, this is happening, because I signed up for it. And I need to be proud of that. And if I’m not proud of it, I need to be better at making decisions,

Jeannette Goon  02:41

Right? You have more control over work life and what you want to do with it, right?

Sarah   02:47

I think what I really enjoy about freelancing is that it helps me realize what I really enjoy doing versus what I may not enjoy doing as much even though I can do it. So I think… I don’t know if it’s a personality thing. But as a full-time employee, I always felt obliged to say yes, or I’ll do anything. Because at the end of the day, you’re just paying for my time, and I didn’t feel empowered to say no, that’s not my scope of work, but I need to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Overall, it’s helped me just feel more comfortable and confident in who I am. I used to feel that there’s something wrong with me, why do I keep needing to change jobs? Why do I get bored so easily? Or why is it my interest seems to be everywhere. And I guess back in the day, people would kind of say, you know, “That’s just not very responsible take on life,” or “Get your act together, you’re already an adult.” You know, I used to have that kind of attitude thrown at me. 

Jeannette Goon  03:44

Or they’ll say you’re so millennial.

Sarah   03:46

Yeah! Like, okay, that doesn’t help. What I do about that now, you know? 

Jeannette Goon  03:51

Yeah.

Sarah   03:52

But I think since starting freelancing, and being able to see that, hey, I’m able to make ends meet, save, and do what I love. I have nothing to apologize for at all. It’s just a different life entirely. I found my zone, my comfort zone. 

Jeannette Goon  04:07

Yeah, that’s so true. Because when you’re working for someone else, there’s just a lot of things that you may not enjoy doing. And you really don’t have the autonomy to say, No, I don’t want to do this, because it’s all part of the job, right? And you learn to sort of suck it up. You want to deal with it.

Sarah   04:22

You want to be a team player as well. 

Jeannette Goon  04:24

Yes, totally.

Jeannette Goon  04:25

I think for me, what I really discovered (I’ve been doing this for years), I finally discovered this year that I really, really enjoy doing research. That’s the part of my work that I love the most, that I look forward to. I’ve managed to deepen that more this year. I suppose this whole self discovery thing, it’s not just some, “Woooo, I’m spiritual” and stuff like that. It’s also something that I think contributes to our growth as people. So that’s actually one thing that I really miss about working full-time, you know. Amidst all the stuff that I didn’t enjoy doing. One thing that I really miss is actually my bosses.

Sarah   05:03

Tell me why.

Jeannette Goon  05:04

So I had a couple of really amazing bosses. And they were both women, by the way. So the whole “lady boss being a bad thing” is a total sexist stereotype. These two bosses, they were amazing! They helped me grow in my career. And it wasn’t just work, you know, we socialized as well. And they really taught me a lot about what kind of person I could be at work and in life. And people have said that I’ve been really fortunate because it’s really hard to find good mentors. But as a freelancer, that kind of guidance and mentorship can be even harder to find, especially if you’re the type of freelancer that doesn’t interact with people very much, anyway.

Sarah   05:37

Yeah. So then, in that case, how do you think we can be more intentional about personal growth as a freelancer? Like, how do you think we can ensure that we keep growing as people and developing in our careers?

Jeannette Goon  05:48

I think it’s about understanding yourself. And that’s where that self-discovery component is an important thing. For me, I’ve discovered that I really want to keep getting better at what I do. And that’s writing, even after everything else I’ve done. I’ve, as you know, I’ve dabbled in quite a number of things. But I always find myself coming back to writing. There is a craft to it that I really enjoy. And for the last couple of years, I would say that I felt that I’ve been stagnating for a while. Although I’ve tried to, you know, try other things like coding, data science… I even did a UX design course and picked up water coloring as a hobby. I still had this feeling of dissatisfaction because I wasn’t growing the area that I wanted to the most. So this year, I kind of decided that,  I’m going to sign up for this eight week writing fellowship and start a Master of Research course. And I did this because I felt like it was something that would help me grow in a way that was more structured, which I felt I needed. And that was my way of being intentional about it. And in order to get to that there were some questions that I needed to ask myself. What about you?

Sarah   06:58

Well, I think on the same note, taking on new challenges really helps push yourself to grow, even if you’re afraid, you know. That’s the thing. Take it on, even if you’re afraid because sometimes you can really get very comfortable doing what you’re already familiar with. So there’s less opportunity for growth in the area. So I agree. And I like how you’ve just been doing a few different things. Yet, they are things that can also help you focus. The other way to keep growing is to try improving what you feel you’re already halfway there at. For me, that’s time management. It’s also how I speak to clients and build a relationship. I really struggle in that area sometimes. I want to say what’s on my mind, and then I say it, and later I’m thinking, Oh my gosh, Sarah, maybe that sounded too rude! Was there, you know, a more politically correct way of phrasing what you were trying to say? But I just keep trying. And the idea is to be intentional about it. And thank God for the people whom I work with, they’ve been so gracious. Hopefully I haven’t offended too many people! But for me it means treating it like an experiment. If Method A doesn’t work, try Method B and keep track. And that’s how you get better at doing things. But you need to be aware of what you’re doing in order to treat it like an experiment.

Jeannette Goon  08:07

And I found that one way that has helped me become more aware of how I want to grow as a person is to ask myself a series of questions. I didn’t actually verbalize this before. But as I’m thinking about it now, I think one of the big questions I asked myself was, what does growth look like to me? How do I want to grow, right? Because if you don’t know how you want to do that, it’s quite hard to figure out where you want to go and what next steps you’re going to take. Is that something that you find yourself doing as well, when it comes to experimenting, and all that?

Sarah   08:41

For the longest time, I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to keep growing and to reach my goals. In fact, I think I took that approach, like for a good deal of my life. And I found that when I couldn’t reach my goals, I would take it really badly. There was a stage in my life that I was just so overwhelmed with how many goals I had not achieved at a certain age. And I know that maybe at that time, it’s because I was having the wrong perspective towards goal setting, you know, but I took it really badly. And it took me quite a while to get out of that state of feeling like a failure. And I don’t want to go back there. So what I’ve started doing is, I’ve changed my whole perspective on life. And I tried to stay away from really massive goals as well. Also because with the pandemic, it’s made me realize that life is just so unpredictable. And what if we don’t get to achieve all our goals? Are we then failures? We can’t be. But for me, I feel that instead of being goal-oriented, purpose-oriented makes more sense. But that’s just how I deal with it. And I think that everyone has a different way of looking at it.

Jeannette Goon  09:43

Yeah, that’s true. I think I’m not the best goal-setter as well. My goals tend to be more fluid. I just want to be happy and do more of what makes me happy this year! 

Sarah   09:53

Yaa! I know what you mean! 

Jeannette Goon  09:55

And I read somewhere actually that if you’re constantly failing or setting yourself up for failure, you actually develop a sense of body chemistry that promotes more failure. I don’t know how true that is. Apparently it happens in the animal kingdom with lobsters or something like that! 

Sarah   10:10

You’ve really been going deep into research!

Jeannette Goon  10:14

For me this year growth was about writing. That was the thing that really makes me happy all the time. And that’s what I set out to do this year.

Sarah   10:22

What is it about writing that you want it to grow in specifically?

Jeannette Goon  10:27

I guess there was something about my writing that I felt was lacking. I’ve always been a science student, I never studied the humanities. And whenever I read books, or articles, by my favorite writers, I found that they always spoke about things in a way that I couldn’t achieve with my current skill set. I didn’t have the right vocabulary, I didn’t have the right concepts in my toolbox. So I think that’s what I wanted to make sure… that I could add to my writing as well, developing that kind of conceptual thinking. 

Sarah   10:54

Yeap. 

Jeannette Goon  10:54

I guess there are many ways to go about this kind of growth, right? Once you’ve set your goals or figured out how you want your growth to look like, that’s when you can sort of figure out how you’re going to go about doing it. For me, I felt like I needed something with more structure. And I think that it’s about figuring out what works, and then sort of like pursuing that as well. Right?

Sarah   11:15

Yeah. Also, I do realize that I’m quite driven by the big projects that I’m working on with my clients. So let’s say I’m working with Client A on a script, and it could be like long form script, and I feel I really want to improve in that area. So during that period of time, I am reading up about how to improve in script writing, and reading up about story flow, you know? And so I find that having these short bursts of projects to push me to improve in a certain area works for me, rather than the overall generic thing where I sit back, and I notice in my life, there are these missing pieces. Of course, there is that, and those would be more like my personal management, finance, time management… But when it comes to other skills that can be applied to benefit someone else, it really is quite client-driven, I feel. Because it takes up so much of my time, you know, and so the urgency is there. And so my focus goes there. 

Jeannette Goon  12:13

Do you find that it’s also helpful because you’re working with people who can give you feedback?

Sarah   12:19

Yeah, it does. Having that community really helps, rather than just studying it on my own. Which is great, but maybe that’s just half the picture.

Jeannette Goon  12:28

Yeah, I think one of the reasons I decided to do a Master’s was because of that one-on-one consultation time that I get with a supervisor. And I found that kind of structured feedback that was missing, because I don’t work with people anymore, right. And sometimes I don’t get the kind of feedback that I need, I feel, to improve. 

Sarah   12:48

Hmm, that’s really interesting. I mean, it’s why we’re doing what we’re doing now. Because freelancing is not a solo journey. Maybe for introverts or people who just prefer working solo, you might think that, oh, finally, I found this comfortable spot where I can just do whatever I want, take it or leave it, you know. But the truth is, you need to ask yourself, am I compromising on this area of growth? And you will always need people around you. And I like how you’ve been very intentional in putting yourself into a mentor kind of relationship, so that you always have someone to give you feedback. And you’re not afraid to hear that feedback as well. That’s something I need to learn.

Jeannette Goon  13:25

Yeah. But I do think you’re in a really great working environment as well, because you’re working with other freelancers who sort of like have more experience as well, right?

Sarah   13:34

Yeah, I am very grateful for that. It can get challenging because sometimes the freelancers whom I work with, they don’t have the same skill set as I do. While it’s really fun to learn something new. Sometimes we do have like, disagreements on how things should be done. Because that person is coming from such a different perspective. And I’m coming from, you know, my perspective. It’s like a completely different industry. But I guess that’s where trust is important. And if you can trust somebody, you’ll be able to learn to receive their feedback with grace and not be all insecure about it. And honestly, that’s something that I still am working on up to today. Okay, so maybe that’s a goal, to learn how to receive feedback without getting insecure and sensitive! Like for me, that’s a huge thing. I need to learn, and I want to be better at it.

Jeannette Goon  14:17

Are we going to discover that at the end of the day, for personal growth, you need interaction with other human beings? 

Sarah   14:23

Haha! I’m afraid so, Jeannette!

Sarah   14:26

So how do you balance ensuring that you’re able to grow but also generating personal income?

Jeannette Goon  14:34

That’s a super important question to ask yourself, right? Because even as you’re pursuing all these different modes of personal growth, income is obviously one of the most vital things especially if you don’t have a full time job. And you know, you’re not doing freelancing as a side hustle. Freelancing is your Thing, you know. That’s the only place you get income. For me… so I’m supposedly studying full time, but I still definitely need to generate that amount of income every month, and possibly increase it. I found that one thing that helps, is having passive income. So if you listen to the previous episode where we talk about finance and how to make sure you have some kind of investments going, you know, doing things like that was helpful to me. I also plan my time very tightly. If I can, I usually try to plan my meetings to the minute and I’ve started doing stuff like ordering catered food, it’s cheaper. I don’t have to think about what I eat. A lot of brain energy I find, goes to making decisions. 

Sarah   15:28

Yeah. 

Jeannette Goon  15:29

And, and this sounds like hustle porn, but I mean, I don’t believe in hustle porn, but I found that, you know… 

Sarah   15:34

What is hustle porn??

Jeannette Goon  15:36

Ohh like, you know, people who are always on about productivity and about optimizing their schedule, and talking about how they have a full uniform, because they don’t want to make decisions anymore, because it takes up too many minutes in the day? 

Sarah   15:51

Right, right, right.

Jeannette Goon  15:52

Yeah. So that’s the whole, you know, I wake up at 5AM. And I’ve worked till 1AM kind of thing. 

Sarah   15:58

It’s so annoying. I sometimes feel people show off too much. 

Jeannette Goon  16:01

Yeah, yeah. So that’s the porn part of it. You know, they find pleasure in uh… 

Sarah   16:05

… being like the king hustler.

Jeannette Goon  16:07

Yes.

Sarah   16:08

Right? 

Jeannette Goon  16:08

Yes. Or like sharing, sharing that process with other people, you know, and talking about it. 

Sarah   16:12

Oversharing? 

Jeannette Goon  16:13

Yeah.

Sarah   16:14

Because we do need to learn, but sometimes it’s just too much, right? 

Jeannette Goon  16:17

Yeah, it’s too much! But I have found certain things about that process, you know, like minimizing the amount of decisions you make. Having a uniform, I’ve considered that! So I found that these things have been helpful in really ensuring that you have enough time to learn and also work.

Sarah   16:34

So you spend time making decisions that matter, and less time on decisions that don’t matter as much.

Jeannette Goon  16:41

Yeah, at the end of the day, I guess, if you’re working at home, nobody cares what you’re wearing.

Sarah   16:46

Unless you need to do a Zoom meeting call. Then just make sure you know, it’s decent.

Sarah   16:50

All right. And I guess the takeaway is that freelancing or starting a business will definitely be a growing experience. If you want to be more intentional about it, you have to ask yourself a couple of questions. How do you want to grow? What do you enjoy? And even maybe what… you know, do you need a course? Or do you want to design your own syllabus?

Jeannette Goon  17:11

You need to know what’s available out there? Is there anything you can sign up for or pick up on during work itself? And then how can you learn without giving up income? I really like your method of learning while making sure you have an income as well, which is to learn on the job. That’s such a brilliant way to do it. And if there is the opportunity to do that, I would definitely take it too.

Sarah   17:33

Yeah, and I think that’s why I say take new challenges because I think you’re excellent at time management. I’m not. So I don’t have time to go do another course while I’m working. My work is my course.

Jeannette Goon  17:44

Yeah, but I think that’s your way of being intentional about it as well. 

Sarah   17:47

Yeah, you’re right. 

Jeannette Goon  17:48

So thank you so much for listening to this episode. Show notes are on our website as usual at http://www.solosync.xyz,

Sarah   17:57

And if you’d like to get in touch with us to suggest a topic for an upcoming episode, you can always email us at hello@solosync.xyz. 

Jeannette Goon  18:06

You can also follow us on Instagram for more updates. Our handle is @solosyncpodcast.

Sarah   18:11

Thanks for listening. See ya!

[Featured image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash]