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Success means playing the long game

Image by Peter Fischer from Pixabay

“They’re good with your rate.”

I honestly couldn’t believe those words when I saw them. They’re good with it? I thought for sure they would pass.

Let me jump back – way back. In the middle of 2018, I was in the midst of a full-blown professional crisis. I had quit copywriting because of a struggle to keep consistent work and went all-in on my wood shop. And while the wood shop was quite successful, I had mismanaged it so badly that I was working 60-hour weeks and still wasn’t covering our bills.

One night, while lying in bed, I opened up my Feedly and began reading a recent blog post over at an author’s website. He had taken guest posts, and a man who took up ghostwriting for a living and did very well wrote one of them.

Intrigued by the concept, I reached out to this guy and struck up a relationship. Eventually, I paid him thousands of dollars I didn’t have to get ghostwriting clients from him. By September 2018, I was working steadily, and by spring of 2019, my income stabilized once again.

The year 2019, I learned that ghostwriting just wasn’t for me. But taking that break from copywriting allowed me to refocus my efforts, and I landed steady work that really took off. By January 2020, I was done ghostwriting – and I thought I was done with this guy (let’s just call him “Brad”).

Brad then reached out, randomly…

In May, I believe, Brad emailed me to say that he had some copy work that he needed done. Knowing I was a copywriter and having a previous relationship with him, he figured it would be worth asking for a quote.

I worked up a quote for him for the project, which wound up being in the neighborhood of $8,000. Unfortunately, he was looking for something closer to $4,000 for that job.

In the past, I would have engaged in negotiation and probably tried to get him closer to $5,000 for it. But I stuck to my guns. I didn’t have a pressing need for the work, and I deemed it to be a poor fit. No worries.

In mid-June, Brad reached out again with another job. I cut him a discounted rate, but it was an even bigger job than before. By the time I worked up the quote, I told him it would cost over $10,000 and would take me at least two more weeks than he likely wanted.

In my head, I assumed that would be it. And I clarified that these were the parameters I will work with. I didn’t want to waste my time with these back-and-forth conversations, and I didn’t want him to waste his time either. I needed to set expectations that would allow us both to work more efficiently.

Weeks went by, and he didn’t respond. I figured that was it.

“They’re good…”

Last week, he emailed me to say the client was good with the rate and the timeline.

With a vacant look in my eyes, I pushed away from my desk and stood up. This is extra money on top of what I’m making right now. We’re doing fantastic, and now I will get this gig? In our efforts to work towards debt freedom, an extra $10,000 is jaw-dropping.

I wandered down to the living room and paused the TV that my wife was watching. “I think I just paid off the van.”

I explained the situation to her, and she burst into tears, saying, “Just thinking about where we were 2-3 years ago… it’s just so different. I can’t believe it.”

She’s right. A few years ago we were embarrassingly poor and overcome with debt. Today, we have a clear shot at paying our debts off completely very soon.

And it’s because we played the long game.

Patience pays off, panic doesn’t

In various times, I’ve scrambled to address my business failings.

I’ve applied at jobs. I’ve gone out and tended bar. I’ve tried selling things. When my business stumbles, I panic.

None of those steps have ever turned into anything significant. They’ve never gotten us closer to our goals. And they are short-term solutions to long-term issues.

If I wanted to be successful, I had to be patient. I had to play the long game and understand what matters – what are my goals? I wanted to write for a living, so I developed those relationships.

My biggest client today directly results from maintaining a seven-year relationship that seemed to go nowhere for years. This job from Brad directly results from maintaining a two-year relationship that appeared to be at its end months ago.

And Brad says he’s got other clients ready to go for me.

If you have an audacious goal, be patient. Trust the process. Build relationships and keep maintaining and developing them, even if it feels like you’re going nowhere.

I’m in the most unbelievably successful time of my life. But every bit of it is because of steps I took 2-7 years ago. I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t started cold emailing finance companies in 2012. And I wouldn’t have cold emailed finance companies in 2012 if I hadn’t taken on a spec gig with a finance company in 2011 (“spec” means I didn’t get paid for it).

Working for yourself is a hefty goal. Doing so successfully means having the patience to fail for years. I’ve been doing this for over a decade and am only now reaching a point where things may be steadily successful from here on out, as long as I play my cards right and do exemplary work.

Successful people don’t have everything handed to them. Successful people don’t always make the right choices.

But successful people don’t quit. I’ve learned that the hard way. And I intend to keep pushing ahead and not quitting, because I have faith that things will continue to be great.

Therefore, I’m still publishing books

Just like my success as a copywriter today is because I didn’t quit for 10+ years, my success as an author will be because I am not quitting.

I’ve made mistakes and continue to make them. But the biggest mistake would be quitting.

I’ve been publishing fiction for 5 years and haven’t turned a profit yet. As long as I keep moving forward, it’s not a failure.

Success is a long game, no matter what you do. I’m playing the long game. How about you?