When you look at the truly successful people in the world, they generally have several virtues in common. Dedication. Aggression. A work ethic. But most importantly they have a sense of entrepreneurship that drives them beyond simply being satisfied working for someone else in one specific job. Successful people are defined by their ability to adapt to multiple markets and make the most out of every single opportunity that presents itself.
I recently had someone tell me that the measure of my success was based purely upon luck. Said individual (I’m not going to name names) is someone who wrote for a fairly well-known third party broker in the global freelance community, and their post was referencing how they had recently been fired from their “freelance” position where they had been writing for the past 5 years, and that all of their hard work went up in smoke because the company who fired them owned their content, and the writer in question had essentially been ghost-writing for them for 5 years, drawing a paycheck. This writer complained that it was unfair, that they were being forced to start over from scratch because they no longer had material to present to potential clients because it was all ghost written.
For the record, this is not related to the recent b5 Media thing. Totally different company, and this was a few weeks back, although the recent fiasco with that company is yet another reason why diversity is so important.
In any case, I left a comment on their blog post to the effect of, “You make your own path in life. You either choose to succeed or you choose to fail. With a global pool of job opportunities to choose from there is absolutely no reason why you should be struggling to find work.”
It doesn’t matter if you were ghost-writing for 5 years or not. 5 years of writing experience is still 5 years of writing experience, and even if you can’t claim the articles themselves you can still show on your CV that you wrote as a work-for-hire author for X company for the duration. It’s a matter of public record, after all. Paychecks were written, pay stubs and IRS statements prove that you did in fact provide them with services for 5 years.
At any rate, I was talking about my own success in the same thread, and the writer in question threw up a comment that I was simply lucky with my success, because their lack of success was apparently proof enough that since they were having a hard time finding work anyone else out there who wasn’t in the same boat as them was simply “lucky”.
There is no luck involved. There is only perseverance. No one but me is putting in the hours behind the computer desk. I am the one who writes the queries, makes the phone calls, answers the e-mails, handles the bookkeeping, writes all the content, edits all the content, moderates the blog, updates the website, makes the network connections, and puts in the time. I am not relying on other people. I am not relying on luck. I rely on my ability to get out there and make it happen. I rely on a multitude of different markets for my success. I write for print, I write for online sources, I write for third party content brokers, I write for traditional clients. In short, I have my eggs in half a dozen different baskets.
Are you lucky because you choose to work for a variety of clients around the world rather than put all your eggs in one basket? Is Richard Branson simply “lucky” because he chooses to spread his wealth between 10+ different companies around the world? Is Bill Gates “lucky” because he chooses to expand Microsoft in more than one direction, instead investing in search engines, IE, media player, MS Word, MS Office, and beyond?
The importance of diversity is that it keeps you from getting into the same situation as the writer I am discussing. They put all their eggs in one basket and when that basket finally gave out, they lost everything. They never planned for a rainy day. They never looked ahead, diversified with new clients, or got outside of their comfort zone.
I’ve referenced AIG, Enron, or the people who invested with Madoff in other posts, but the simple fact of the matter is that no matter which job you look at, no matter where you are in the world, there is always the chance that the company you are working with could go under, suffer through financial difficulties, change ownership, fire you, strip your life savings out of your 401k and leave you screwed after 20+ years of working for them, or so on and so forth. No job is truly safe, and the only way to plan ahead for such issues is to diversify.
It’s great to have a niche. Use it. Be profitable at it. But don’t limit yourself to one niche, because like it or not anything can happen, and if something does happen you need to have prepared for the worst in order to make the best out of a bad situation. Looking at my own success in particular, I am not lucky. I am simply diversified, with my fingers in a lot of different pies so that if one opportunity fails I have several others to fall back on. I freelance write, I help my wife with her crafting business, I write fiction, and I just recently started a spec-fic zine with its first issue out in March. With my wife in particular, as you can see from her bio page here, she not only writes for clients, but she also does translations, owns a crafting/design company, works as a cosmetologist, and teaches TOEFL classes on the weekends. We also have plans for 5-6 other ventures over the next year or 2, including property, construction companies, a cosmetic clinic, a vineyard, and more.
Luck has nothing to do with success. If you truly want to succeed you will find a way to do so. Your success is the result of hard work, diligence, and motivation. It is not the result of other people or some magical, mystical force that parts the waters ahead of your footsteps. You are the one who is bringing in the paychecks. You are the one putting in the hours every week. You are the one making the phone calls, writing the e-mails, doing the PR, the HR, the editing, the cold-calling, the querying, the hiring and firing. And if you are successful, you and you alone are the reason for that success, no one else. And the reason you are doing so is because you are willing to diversify, to move beyond the 9-5 job at a single company, to work for many instead of one.
Whether you choose to write freelance and invest in real estate on the side, or write for print, third party content brokers, and do translations all at the same time, or any other variation you can think of, the only way to guarantee your success is to make sure you are diversifying your investments over several different sources, rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket. Should that company ever fail, you could be out in the rain with nothing but eggshells in your hands.