Entrepreneur and author Tony Robbins answers your lingering questions about started your career as an independent worker.
What are some of the best traits an entrepreneur or freelancer should embody especially when working with clients?
The number one trait an entrepreneur or freelancer should embody is the ability to focus on the client and meeting — or rather, exceeding — their needs in an authentic way. When you’re faced with a challenge with a client, spend 95 percent of the time finding the solution and 5 percent of your time defining the problem. Do not focus on the problem. In the midst of challenge, focus on how to best serve your clients and deliver to them an experience that will make them a raving fan of your work. Satisfied customers will go away — raving fans stay.
Another essential trait is the ability to effectively manage your own psychology. Success is business is 80 percent psychology and just 20 percent mechanics. As a freelancer, you’re dealing with constant rejection and an ocean of dead-end proposals. You’re chasing after clients that don’t pay you on time. You’re balancing the ups and downs of business and your client’s timelines — one month, work is insanely lucrative, and the next you have no income coming in. You have to be able to expand what I call your ‘threshold of control’— or how much you are able to comfortably deal with — in order to thrive and not just survive.
How should a worker keep from being over-invested or falling in love with your product or service that they provide?
If you fall in love with your product or service, then you’re guaranteed failure. Your business is not about you. If you really want a successful business, you’ve got to fall in love with your clients and put their needs ahead of your own. As a freelancer, this is your end client, because that’s who you’re really working for. Your products and services will constantly change over time — competition, technology evolution and customer demands will require that of you. If you get caught up loving your product and service, you’ll develop loyalty to that instead of a loyalty to your clients. You have to dig in and find out what they want, what they need, what they hate, what they fear and what excites them. And then you have to find a way to deliver on that better than anybody else.
For all of those who are self-employed, do you have any tips and tricks for being your own boss and staying self-motivated?
When you’re self-employed, you are in the unique position of being the president, CEO, salesperson, and accountant for your business. You are solely responsible for your successes and your failures — and because of that you must have a system of accountability in place. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most brilliant people on this planet – and despite the level of success they have achieved, they rely on others to not only motivate them, but to hold them accountable. One of the biggest investments you can make in yourself is to hire a coach to help you stay disciplined and identify the gaps that are holding you back from achieving growth in your business.
I also believe in the value of mentorship. The fastest way to accelerate your progress as an entrepreneur is to find a good mentor and model what they have done. If someone else has succeeded on a huge scale and they consistently produce results, then they’re not lucky — they’re doing something different than everybody else and if you sow the same seeds, you can reap the same rewards.
What inspired you to start on your journey of becoming who you are today, i.e. “changing your life?”
I’ve always been fascinated by the patterns that make some people succeed at the highest level, and the patterns that make other people fail. From an early age, I started recognizing patterns not only in my own family life, but in the lives of my friends. By the time I was in junior high school, I was that person who had a solution for everything. If you had a problem, I wanted to help. I took a speed-reading class, and I read 700 books in seven years in the areas of human development, psychology, and physiology. I tried to learn from each book and immediately apply it. I realized that people have within them a force that is so powerful that once they tap into it, there’s nothing that can keep them from creating and giving whatever they envision. For the past 40 years, I’ve been obsessed with helping people tap into those forces – and discovering the difference between success and failure.
What can this contribute to self-employed and freelance workers?
Don’t ever accept mediocrity! It’s all-too easy to fall into the trap of doing just “enough” to get by — both in business and in your personal life. You’ve got to stay hungry, but unfortunately most people’s hunger has a limit. The typical person will, for example, reach a point of financial success in their business and stop striving, or hit a level of physical fitness and ease up on the routine that got them there. The most successful people in the world have an insatiable hunger to do more, grow more, and contribute more.
What is the most important piece of financial advice you can provide for a freelancer?
Start investing now. Literally anyone can start with very little and achieve financial freedom over time. You just have to get in the game and take advantage of the power of compounding. The first step is to create what I call a “money machine,” or a system that will generate income for you for a lifetime while you sleep. It’s like a second business, with no employees, no payroll, no overhead. The only “inventory” is the money you put into it.
But your machine can’t start working until you make the most important financial decision of your life: What portion of your monthly income do you get to keep? How much will you pay yourself off the top before you spend a single dollar on your day-to-day living expenses? The rest of your life will be determined by your decision to keep a percentage of your income today so as to always have money for yourself in the future.