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The Write or Die Chick: Be About Your Business in 2012

Make this the year you follow your dreams and your goals to be independently successful.
I am not built for a 9-to-5. For the longest time, I thought something was wrong with me because of it, and I’d scold myself for being too restless, too non-conforming, too daydreamy. “Look at Kimberly over there at her desk all hard at work,” I’d bark at myself (in my head, of course, not out loud like an extra in Cuckoo’s Nest). “She’s content to wake up, come in every day, earn her check, and go on home. Why can’t you?” My pep talks fell on my own deaf ears. When I stopped trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole and just accept that I’m not cut from the corporate cloth, I started to understand myself a whole lot better, personally and professionally. 

I’d never knock other women who’ve climbed the corporate ladder and made inroads into the careers they’ve set their ambitions on. Without them, as a matter of fact, I couldn’t do what I do. But Lord knows I’m too much of a free spirit to sit in an office or a cubicle all day. I wanted to build something of my own instead of working daily to grow someone else’s empire, stress myself out over someone else’s vision, invest my talents into someone else’s bottom line. But I never really thought of meshing being a writer and being an entrepreneur together.

I’ve always had a passion for words, but my big dream was to be on staff at a magazine because I thought that was the only reasonable aspiration for somebody who had a way with words. But when I figured out that just about everybody needs a writer at some point, from hospital newsletters to political campaigns to affianced couples who don’t want to write their own wedding vows, I became more than a freelancer scrambling for assignments. I became a business woman. The Write or Die Chick is the fruit of that realization.

I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination — it sounds clichéd, but I learn something daily about how I can be a better master of my operation. I wore God out praying for a chance to work for myself. I know He was probably like, “OK Janelle, I know already” because I reminded him every day I had to get into my car and drive to a job that I was thankful for but miserable at, that I wanted to be a successful entrepreneur. Now that it’s here, I don’t take the opportunity lightly. 

It’s a new year and plenty of sisters have business goals on their list of things to accomplish in 2012. So, here are some things I’ve learned over the years that apply not only to my field but any profession:

•    Don’t be afraid to turn down jobs, assignments or clients because you’re scared to miss out on an opportunity. Not everything that comes across your path will be for you. I have a bad habit of trying to be all things to all people but sometimes you have to step back and ask yourself, “how does this fit into my greater strategy?” You’re passing up a check, yes. But the time and energy you’ll be investing to earn it may not be worth it in the long run (heck, sometimes even the short term). 

•    Outsource tasks to other professionals. You might think you’re saving money by being a do-it-yourselfer. Sometimes you have to. But I, for example, am not a numbers person. At all. So it would be downright foolish for me to sit with a spreadsheet and jack my whole budget up because I didn’t carry the one in a multiplication equation. I’d rather place my confidence in someone who gets it right and focus my energy on what I do best. Besides, strong support systems help build strong businesses.

•    Protect your downtime. If I let myself, I can work seven days a week, sometimes 14, 16 hours a day. When there’s a hard deadline on the table, those are the breaks. But I have a daughter to raise too, and friends, family and a man who like to see me now and again without me being preoccupied. Disconnecting from work regularly, even if it’s your passion and life’s purpose, will actually make you better at it. 

•    Don’t underestimate prayer in business. Just like you trust God to guide your decisions in your personal life, you need that same direction professionally. Grace is more than necessary when you’re your own boss, chasing folks down for past-due payments, handling staff, clients and consultants and dealing with all kinds of personalities. Plus, prayer will help you be a creative problem-solver, which is what you need to be in business, and keep you humble so you don’t develop a Kanye-sized ego.

Before I close, allow me to pray real quick for the aspiring entrepreneurs and the ladies already on the frontlines of being self-employed.

Dearest God,

I thank you for women abandoning the security of the corporate world to chase their dreams. Thank you for making them adventurous, bold, unsettling. Now stir up the talents and skills you’ve placed in them to be shared with the rest of the world. Help them to think big and not limit themselves to what their colleagues or checking accounts may say is “reality.” Renew them in their journey, restore them creatively and professionally, surround them with the resources they need to push into a new level of success. Remind them to reach back and help another sister in her journey. And, after they’ve “made it” and reached the goals they’ve worked so hard to check off, let them never forget where they came from and most importantly, what you’ve done for them. In your name I pray, Amen.

Now, go girl! Handle your business.