#040: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together

Freelancing is booming. And the competition has never been fiercer.

But while tens of thousands of independent professionals fight over $5 gigs, many others are thriving.

The reasons for their success vary. But most of these solos have one thing in common…

They’re positioning themselves differently.

You see, what’s really being commoditized in today’s gig economy is the words, the design, the software code, the photography.

In other words, the work itself.

If all you do is talk about your writing — how great it is, how clear and compelling — you’ll do what everyone else is doing: focusing on the features of your product.

But what if you talked about your unique perspective? Your experience writing in a certain field. Or your background in the accounting industry.

Or maybe it’s your 12 years of bedside nursing. Your 15 years’ experience as a high school teacher. The 2 years you spent backpacking and working odd jobs in Spain and the South of France.

That’s hard to duplicate. Because you’ve just added your DNA to the discussion.

You’ve added your unique story.

My guest for this week’s show is Pam Slim, author of the new book, Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together and Escape from Cubicle Nation. And in this discussion, Pam expands on this important idea.

She explains the importance of searching deep within your background to find the golden nuggets that will help you attract better clients. And she’ll give you some ideas on how you can look beyond just the work stuff and find and communicate your gifts, passions and purpose more effectively.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

For many years, Pam worked for a financial services firm in training and development. In 1996, she went out on her own as a freelance consultant.

People would ask how she made the leap from the corporate world to consulting. As a result, she became interested in coaching others on making the leap. She started a blog, which turned into a book: Escape from Cubicle Nation.

Now, she’s written a new book called Body of Work.

Tell us about the premise of your new book

The purpose of our lives is to create a body of work that:

  • Represents what we value and believe in
  • Solves problems we care about
  • We’re proud of.

Pam was driven to write the book because after working with hundreds of people, she found that there was a “religion” of freelancing. According to this “religion,” working for yourself is the only way to be free. Working for “the man” is always bad. But that’s too simple.

You miss out if you focus only on work modes. Instead, choose the type of work that allows you to create your best stuff and gives you your best life. At different stages in life, you’ll want different things. No work mode (i.e. freelance or corporate) is inherently good or bad.

Consider what’s the right fit for you at this time. Focus on what you’re excited about creating. When you do, more opportunities open up.

What do you say to people who’re not happy in a traditional job but struggle to transition to freelance work?

Sometimes you just have to push through it. While you’re working full time, you may have to reduce your cost of living so you can put money away to develop your freelance business later. If you’re not side hustling while working full time, your income will probably drop when you leave your corporate job to work freelance.

Seth Godin talks about this in his book The Dip. It’s a short book that describes that period of time when we’re halfway between things. Making the transition can be very frustrating.

So set goals you want to achieve in a specific period of time. Push hard and see what happens. No one likes to be in side hustle mode for long. It’s too exhausting.

How do you encourage people to focus on more than the mechanics of their work when striking out on their own?

There are a lot of writers, designers, etc. out there. So you have to look beyond your core skills to differentiate yourself. If you don’t define yourself from both a branding and value perspective, it’s much harder to get hired.

Take the time to answer questions about yourself, such as:

  • Who you are?
  • What’s important to you?
  • What components of your work are most interesting to you?
  • Who do you want to serve?
  • What problems do you want to solve?

Make links between your skill and experience “ingredients.” These help you differentiate who you are. They become a foundation for the type of work and clients you want to go after.

Look at your work holistically, then use these elements to tell your story. Sharing your story makes you interesting.

Why are people reluctant to share their story?

Sharing makes you vulnerable. Everyone has a different level of comfort on how much personal information to share. We’re taught, especially in the corporate environment, that it’s not appropriate to share personal things. But you need to bring out elements of yourself that will connect you with your ideal clients.

What would you like for this book to do?

Pam wants the book to get us excited about our craft and thinking about what we want to create. What gets you excited? What do you want your legacy to be?

In the book, Pam talk about the skills you need to get there, regardless of the work mode you’re in.

She wants to shift the conversation from “Everything’s bad, everything’s changing” to “What can we do about it?”

Where can we learn more about your new book?

Learn more about Pam’s new book on her website: Pamelaslim.com/bodyofwork

To learn more about Escape From Cubicle Nation, visit: Escapefromcubiclenation.com.

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Thanks again for your support!

Till next time,