Are You Self-Confident Enough to Take Serious Business Risks?
By Chris King

Recently, a friend of mine, who is also an independent professional, called to ask me about my method of making proposals for the web sites I design and develop. He wanted to know how I broke down the various parts and actually the steps I took when designing and developing. As you can imagine, I was curious to know why he was asking me this. He explained in the following way. He had attended a mini-seminar I had given called, "How to Establish a Professional Presence on the Internet," and had been spurred on to start work on his own website when a writer friend called to see if he would help with the designing and developing of a web site for his clients.

Rob's reaction was to say, "Sure," because, as he told me, "what better way to learn how to do it than to have a project?" And, he is right, even though at first I thought that he has a lot of gall writing up a proposal for a task he has never performed. Then, thinking it over, I realized that he is quite computer savvy, has been involved with print publishing in the past and has a good eye for design. But, even more than that, my friend Rob has a strong enough attitude of self-confidence to take on the risk of entering unknown territory and committing to tackling a brand new area of business without trepidation. In this article, I will discuss the ways to and needs for us - as free agents, independent professionals and freelancers - to take risks, but risks that we have enough self-confidence to be able to turn into successes.

Why should we, as free agents, independent professionals and freelancers take risks? All of us have our comfort zones - areas that we have worked in and with successfully. I am suggesting that we consider tackling new areas. If you are like I am, you are often asked by a current client or someone who knows you and your professionalism to work in a brand new area or on a brand new project - quite different from those you have done before. Should you say, "Sure," like Rob did, or should you stick to what you do best? Entering a brand new territory can be scary, eat up valuable time that could be used for other money-producing projects and put us at an uncomfortable disadvantage. On the other hand, however, it can be exciting, open up a whole new area of expertise for us and keep our days filled with learning, experimenting and moving ahead.

Some questions to ask yourself before embarking on risky business:

  • Do I have enough confidence to take this risk? Only you know the answer to this and you must be honest with yourself before taking on a risk that may lead to failure (failure is OK as a learning experience, but I would worry about taking a client's money and then failing). I suggest using the old test of dividing a sheet of paper into two columns and labeling one the "Pros" and the second the "Cons." This sheet will be for your eyes only, so don't hesitate to truly question every entry.
  • What will I gain from taking the risk? Will you learn something new that will further your business skills and help your career jump to a brand new level? Even though you have listed the pros and cons, make sure that you go back to your lists and decide if there will be a long term gain for your business by taking the risk. And, if not, will what you learn help any part of your career and/or life? If you are like I am, I tend to say, "Yes" and "Sure" quickly and easily. Give yourself enough time to consider the options. And, I also suggest being open and honest with a client by saying something like, "I haven't actually done a project like this before, but have the confidence that you will be more than pleased with the results." It must have the potential of being a win-win for everyone involved.
  • Is this an area that interests me enough to devote the time, effort and risk? As you probably know already, most projects take a lot longer than we think they will - even if they are in areas with which we are already familiar. Do you really and truly want to spend the extra time, or are you only thinking of the income? As a presenter I was asked by a business woman who belonged to several business organizations to consider giving talks on recent business books. She knew that I am a voracious reader along with being a lively speaker and that she could get me lots of speaking engagements. It was tempting, but after thinking it over, I said, "No," because the thought of giving book reports didn't offer enough excitement. I am much more inclined to use examples from many different books in my presentations rather than reporting on one.
  • Am I willing to ask for help if I need it? One of the reasons that I know Rob will succeed with his risky website project is that, besides having the smarts and background experience, he is someone who is willing to ask others for help and advice. I also feel that if he would get into a real bind, he would be willing to pay a peer to help out and being involved with other technology oriented people, he has enough contacts to call upon in an emergency. Make sure that you know people who would be willing to answer your questions - even online (for example, I belong to several online forums where experts can usually point me in the right direction).

There are other self-imposed risks to take to further our business success. What do I mean by this and how can we go about these risks? What I am talking about here is to think of possible opportunities that we think would help our business grow and also would like to explore.

Following are some examples of risks you might consider:

  • Studying for and taking a test for Certification. In almost every area of expertise, there are Certifications. One doesn't always need a Certification to work in these areas, but I feel that working toward, achieving and then maintaining a Certification not only affords you the knowledge and expertise, but also gives one the credibility that always helps with clients.
  • Speaking to groups about your area of expertise. Most organizations and/or businesses are always searching for speakers for their meetings. If you create a lively and interesting presentation (not about your services, but about the problems that your business addresses and how to solve them) and then offer to speak to their group, they will be delighted. For example, I give my presentation titled, "How to Establish a Professional Presence on the Internet." Within days of giving this talk, I usually receive several phone and e-mail inquiries from potential clients. If you want to learn more about preparing powerful presentations, visit
  • Writing articles for trade organizations and/or the Internet. If your business is already freelance writing, then this step will be easy for you, but for those who find writing and sending out articles to be daunting, this will be a risk. Take your time - and, if necessary - take a course in writing at a local college or community center. Pick a helpful topic in your area of expertise (again a solution to problems), write a succinct and well written article that you offer to newsletters and businesses that could use your services.

Remember that even though taking risks can bring out the FEAR in us, they can be rewarding and FUN too! Let me hear from you about the risks you have taken and how they have paid off. I love getting your FEEDBACK!

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