My Toddler Taught Me this Trick

Welcome back! I hope you’re enjoying this week’s series, which is focused on “hacking” your way from a day job to a successful freelance business.

Monday we talked about the “chicken entrepreneurship” approach to launching your freelance business. Tuesday I talked about tapping your network. And yesterday I shared my “Forrest Gump” hack.

Today I’m going to share one of my most powerful mindset tricks. Almost every successful freelance writer I know has used this, whether they realized it or not.

And frankly, I’m surprised it’s not talked about more often.

It’s the “baby steps” hack.

This simple trick is about taking baby steps rather than focusing on huge overnight wins. When you do that, each of the resulting small victories builds on each other, just like compound interest.

Let me explain through a simple analogy.

Say it’s nighttime and you’re driving to a friend’s house 30 miles away. As you pull out of your driveway, you turn on your headlights. What do you see?

I’m guessing about 30 feet of road. That’s about as far as your headlights will reach at any given time.

So, how will you possibly get to your friend’s house if you can only see 30 feet in front of you?

The answer is obvious. As you drive, you’ll start seeing the next 30 feet. And then the next 30 feet, and so on.

The point is that just because you can’t see miles ahead of you doesn’t mean you can’t get to your friend’s house safely. All you need to see — all you need to focus on — is the immediate, 30-foot stretch of road ahead of you.

Yet, what do many of us do when we’re going after a big goal like launching a freelance business?

We want to see every single stretch of road between where we are and our ultimate goal. And if we don’t see it (which is often the case), we get anxious. And anxiety leads to fear, which is not the best state of mind to be in when you’re prospecting for clients.

The baby steps hack is all about focusing on small actions every day that will build on each other to create a big result.

So, rather than trying to go from a full-time employee to a full-time successful freelance writer in one week, you instead break it down.

You Focus on Today Only!

And you do that by asking yourself, “What small action can I take today to get me closer to my goal?”

That’s it!

In fact, that’s your assignment for today — decide on one simple action you can take TODAY to get you closer to your goal.

Maybe it’s to buy a domain name for your website. Or to write your homepage copy. Or to make a list of 10 colleagues you’re going to contact this week.

Whatever it is, focus on doing that simple thing. And forget about tomorrow.

The small victory of completing that simple task will give you the motivation and momentum you need to take the next step. And then the next one after that.

Baby steps. It worked when you were a toddler. It will work again today.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear them. Please post them in the comments area.

And tomorrow, I’m going to share what I think is the most revealing (and perhaps most surprising) hack so far.

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Published: June 19, 2014

10 Responses to “My Toddler Taught Me this Trick”

  1. Wonderful analogy, Ed, thanks for these tips.


    FabianJune 19, 2014 at 9:21 am

  2. Be it baby steps or networking -- if your preferred niche has no geographically local presence, and as a beginner in this business you have no portfolio, what do you tell those with whom you are networking? (A question, obviously, than a comment.)

    GeorgeCJune 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm

  3. Ed, I'm enjoying and learning from each hack one this week. But today's baby steps? Well, let me put it this way - if I were a nail, your hammer just hit my head. Metaphorically speaking of course :):)
    After reading this I regrouped & picked one step from a long list that I can do today that will bring me that much closer to becoming a full-time freelance copywriter. And now that long list does not look so overwhelming either. Thank you!

    JudyB-RaleighJune 19, 2014 at 2:43 pm

  4. Here I sit aged sixty seven learning and learning. This article regarding small steps will resonate with many. Perception of time is the enemy to many including yours truly.
    Go back in time and ask this question, 'if I had started a two year course ten years ago, would I have finished it'?
    If I struggle today through lack of knowledge, who can I blame?
    There is no time like the present to ask the following question.
    If something in my mind is stopping me and next week I get that sorted out, will I still have a reason to stop myself from succeeding?

    Still tryingJune 20, 2014 at 6:08 am

  5. Amen to that! I can remember watching my son cry for ten minutes, take a deep breath and go back to doing what he was doing before and thinking,"I need to do that!" and moving on from there. I waited two years to start my blog, "" and have been on a roll since, did the web site, editing and posting material and waiting to hear back from the agent I recently queried. My motto, "If not now, when?" We all have to start somewhere!

    Guest (Cathie R Eisen)June 20, 2014 at 12:03 pm

  6. Thank you! I am feeling so overwhelmed trying to read everything, do COS, write my website, create samples, work full-time, and see my family. It's a relief to hear that my small efforts are really enough.

    GraceJune 20, 2014 at 5:03 pm

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