When I quit my staff job at now defunct I.D. Magazine, there were plenty of people lining up to tell me why a solo writing business would never work. But nearly a decade later I’m the one being solicited for career advice.
Every three weeks or so an email or voicemail shows up asking me how exactly one makes a living as a freelance writer. And since plenty of people have given me help along the way, I always respond. I share tips and resources and even meet people for coffee or lunch.
But it’s what happens after these exchanges that’s given me the biggest business lesson. At least half the advice seekers never say “thank you.” I’m not expecting singing telegrams or hand delivered chocolates. A simple email thanking me for my time will do. And if you invite me out to lunch or coffee to pick my brain, it would be nice if you offered to pay (unless you’re a student, unemployed or a struggling recent grad). Surprisingly, I’ve found that the younger the advice seeker is, the more likely they are to say “thank you.”
And that made me think: How often do I really say “thank you” to all the people I interact with on a daily basis? Clients. Vendors. Colleagues. Office mates. It’s a simple gesture that helps build relationships, but it’s easy to forget this common courtesy in the daily whirlwind of deadlines, meetings and life. So I’ve decided to stop complaining (well, mostly) about other people not expressing gratitude and instead challenge myself to make “thank you” the two most important words for my business.
How often do you say thank you? And how often do people say it to you?
Listen to BTW: [audio:http://iliseb.audioacrobat.com/download/979cf12c-8282-709c-e098-a26f94571517.mp3]
If you’re not sure if you can do a solo business — whether writer, designer, illustrator, photographer or any other endeavor — check out “Do you have what it takes to be a freelancer?” and see.