My friend Magda asks:
When I blissfully escaped working in an office, I jumped into translation.
But that’s not where my heart is.
I have been “secretly” designing for some time. Recently, I showed some of my work to someone and she wanted to buy them and she ordered for more.
I really want to try this out and I’m doing my best to make it work.
My big question is how do you present yourself to others while you are still evolving? For example do you wait and then start blogging? What do you say on your call card? Are you cautious with what you tweet?
I know it’s too soon for me to have my own site but even in the case of a blog what picture do you give out to people?
Don’t worry about any of this.
And forget about trying to ‘evolve’. Clients don’t want to hear about evolving.
Your best bet, for now, is to be two Magdas. Or even three Magdas. Most of us have two or three personas jostling inside us anyway.
You can be one Magda to one client, another Magda to another client. That is fun. And no one needs to know the difference.*
Try all the Magdas you want.
You want to design? You like design? You have a customer? You are farther ahead that most. (Customers make a business.)
On Twitter, be DesignMagda. Or MagdaDesigniste. Talk about design things there. Follow design people. Or better, follow people who buy design.
Then do a website or blog. You can do it for free, or for very little money, this afternoon. Don’t worry if you don’t have much to show yet. Show what you have. Start right now. Put up something new as often as you can. Re-design that bottle of shampoo you used this morning. You have a friend with a fascinating name? Design their stationery just for fun. Comment on designs you like, fix designs you hate.
Make it and put it out in the world. (Don’t worry, the world will not notice at first, so you need not be embarrassed. We can crash and burn in obscurity.) Don’t over-think, don’t over-plan.
The very act of publishing the site will teach you more than months of planning. It will show you what you like, what you’re good at, what you must do to be wonderful. (You may also find, “I like thinking about design, but I hate designing.” That is good to know. You discover such things by trying.)
I have websites in my head that I have been thinking about for years. That’s an embarrassing waste. Doing is better than thinking about.
While doing all this, you can also be TransLaterMagda on Twitter, and on the web. Different twitter, different web site, different Magda.
See which Magda gets the most attention. Or which Magda you like better. Or which Magda makes more money.
On one site, you have your photo with hair up, with glasses, facing right.
On the other site, your hair down, no glasses, facing left.
Go to moo.com, and create two sets of call cards. It will cost you 50 euro or so. In four days, you can have two new yous in your mailbox.
Don’t try — at least right now — to be one Magda who designs and translates and also plays the piano. That confuses clients. Keep your personas separate.
Perhaps you work on design on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And on translation the other days.
Or you translate in the morning, design in the afternoon. In the evening, you play the piano.
Or maybe you pay the rent with translating, but thrill your soul with design.
If you think of something else, try that, too.
After a month, you may find you don’t need to translate any more. And you’re designing all the time. Or vice versa.
I know, the gurus say you need to focus. That you will dilute your energies by trying too many things at once. “It is better to dig one 10-meter hole than 10 one-meter holes.”
In freelancing, that’s wrong.
It is better to try things. It is better to diversify, find other streams of income, more than one path to glory.
Think of it this way: You do have a focus. It is on freelancing. You are solely and intently focused on making your own way in the world. You wake up every morning thinking of that. That’s your focus.
How you do it, that is just detail.
So try things. See what customers respond to. See what makes you excited. Of the things you’re trying, one will take on a life of its own. Go that way. Forget the others.
Don’t wait for perfection. Don’t wait until you’re ‘qualified.’ I don’t know what that means, anyway. Put it out there now. You can always fix it later. Or delete it or improve it.
Also, by trying many things, you may cause a spark by rubbing two different fields together in unexpected ways.
Perhaps you design T shirts with famous French quotations — or rude sayings — translated into Dutch.
Or “You need a website for your band, your company, your pickles in Hungary? I will translate AND design a specialized web site for you, uniquely tuned to the Hungarian culture.”
Invent a Magda. See what happens.
* Readers have told me that in the Netherlands you can only have one freelance business at a time. Perhaps that means only one web site? Only one Twitter username? What if your website had two sides: Magda Designs, Magda Translations? Perhaps I shouldn’t be giving advice for people in the Netherlands.