The year my business turned three, the desire to evolve was planted deep within my gut.
It was June, 2014. I sat cross-legged on my bed, laptop on my lap, as I stared blankly at my inbox. Waiting was a two-week-old email that needed my response. My mind was engaged in a battle between the response I needed to write and the one I wanted to write.
The subject of the email read Referral - Need Writer for Monthly Newsletter.
It would’ve been wise to get back quickly; each hour that ticked by meant the potential client might find someone else willing to take the job. But to be honest, that was my hope. I wanted it to be gone by the time I stilled the anxiety within and replied. It was unprofessional to let it sit in my inbox for that long, and I knew closing the deal would be a much-needed boost to my bank account, but I still couldn’t reply. All logic flew out the window and angst won.
So I let it sit for two weeks.
This incident was not a first. I had begun dancing around client inquiries earlier in the year, but that summer was the first time I was willing to acknowledge it was a problem. Don’t get me wrong - I enjoy my work, and I knew I wasn’t done with freelancing, as I love the freedom it affords me. But the niche I was working in wasn’t what I needed or wanted to do anymore.
Making a change was easier said that done, so I delayed taking action for two more years. I delayed my dream. I didn’t want to give up the income I was generating. I was afraid no one would accept my project ideas. I was afraid I wouldn’t even have any ideas to pitch.
Eventually, I realized I had two options: I could evolve or I could stick to the status quo and implode. I decided to give myself the gift of evolution and the grace to change my mind.
As makers, creatives, artists, entrepreneurs, and business owners, we are constantly bombarded with options and occasionally the opportunity to try something new. It’s up to us to make the choice to grow or to stay stagnant. When you reach that crossroad, and you will, you can either stall at the intersection or you can thoughtfully choose a path and move forward.
To succeed in business and in life, we have to continually give ourselves the grace to evolve. We have to develop the ability to make decisions that move us forward, even when it’s different from where we started or what we initially thought we wanted. When we choose evolution, we are left with the prospect of reinvention, an equally frightening and exhilarating endeavor.
If you’re thinking about evolving your skills and career, consider these points to help you advance as an entrepreneur and into your next best self.
You won’t know what the journey holds if you don’t start. It can remain in your head as a dream or on paper as a plan, but without putting one step in front of the other, you won’t know what might materialize. While I worked on closing down active projects, I began researching publications I hoped to write for, pitching story ideas, sticking my foot in doors, suffering rejection, and working on the next idea. No need musing about what’s possible - find out by starting. Invent and re-invent. Create, edit, and iterate.
Explore Your Craft and Engage in Community
When you explore your craft, and give yourself fully to it, while also engaging with your clients and others within and outside your industry, you’ll discover several possible paths and destinations. Along the way, you’ll also uncover your capacity for growth, creativity, and collaboration.
During my transition, which seems to be ongoing, I began blogging. I attended a creative storytelling conference. I applied and got accepted to a creative non-fiction story program at an Ivy League college and to a fellowship program for social change leaders. Committing fully enables learning, data collection, research, expansion, and elimination as you find what works for you.
Practice Balanced Listening
The biggest lesson I learned on this journey was to listen to my gut as much as I listen to clients and money.
Three years into choosing copywriting over storytelling, I found myself making some money, but I wasn’t happy. When I finally listened to my gut, I gained some clarity and had a breakthrough.
Feedback from clients and your revenue are key indicators for how things are going and how you might evolve your business. They shouldn’t be discounted. But when I listened to my revenue more than my gut, it landed me in an unhappy space.
This journey comes with twists, turns, and several uphill climbs - it’s up to you to decide how to overcome each obstacle. Don’t fall into the trap of agonizing over every tiny detail. You’ve got to be decisive as much as you’ve got to start.
Whether you make a decision in 48 hours or wait another year or two, you will make mistakes and fail. Mistakes and failures are inevitable, and however long or how short it took you to make a decision doesn’t minimize the discomfort of failure. Making a decision didn’t shield me from second guessing myself, and it won’t shield you either. After I wholeheartedly chose my new path, I hesitated and questioned it. But I moved forward.
Just Keep Moving
We’re all on the journey to build, make, and create beautiful things, and to create a worthwhile income while at it. Balancing these sometimes opposing desires requires commitment and flexibility.
Success and growth are a fusion of sound judgment, commitment, and movement. It’s impossible to reach any destination without movement and action. Rest is important, but don’t embark on a lifelong sabbatical. I took about six months to transition, close out old projects, and pitch my first story idea. When you start, keep moving, and when you make a decision, move on it. It’s the only way forward.
AdeOla Fadumiye is a writer and storyteller, and the creator of Pearls from our Fathers, a storytelling project sharing honest stories about fatherhood and fathers from their adult children’s point of view. You can follow her on Instagram.