All things in life seem to come full circle, now, Thankful For a Million has done the same. Monday, I was thankful to feature an interview with Scott Gerber on entrepreneurism. Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to share an interview with Dyllan McGee, the Executive Producer of MAKERS: The Women Who Make America. And, Today, I’m pleased to have an interview with author, speaker and blogger Courtney Martin. Martin isn’t only an entrepreneur, she’s also featured as one of MAKERS 100 women! Martin’s works are varied and insightful. She’s written, Do It Anyway The New Generation of Activists, given a speech on activism at the TEDWomen Conference in 2010, received the Eli Wiesel Prize in Ethics and has contributed to news publications from The New York Times to Glamour.
Recently, Martin wrote an article, “How I Became My Own Mentor in a Freelance Economy.” This was the first article of 2012 that resonated with me. She is hopeful in her discussion of being a freelancer. And, as someone who’s successfully been able to support herself writing books, op-eds, speaking and blogging, she has extremely valuable advice. Martin, 32, has shaped her career by pulling little bits of information from every experience. She continues to fearlessly pursue her passions despite being without a roadmap.
I was beyond thrilled when Martin agreed to do a Q&A. Below, she discusses being an entrepreneur, developing a personal statement and successfully coping with the inevitable instability of a freelance lifestyle.
In your article, “How I Became My Own Mentor in a Freelance Economy,” you said that the life of a freelancer suits you. What advice would you give to those who’ve found themselves having to become increasingly entrepreneurial, even though it isn’t in their nature?
My first advice would be that people look at the circumstances, which are forcing them to become more entrepreneurial even though it’s not in their nature. Are they trying to work in a field that doesn’t fit them? Are they trying to achieve someone else’s definition of success? We face real, worthwhile struggles in life and sometimes these struggles are critical for our growth. Other times, we continuously hit our heads against the wall because we haven’t taken the time to step back and look for the door. For those who determine that they want to become more entrepreneurial, even though it’s not in their nature, I would advise breaking down the big, intimidating concept of entrepreneurship into component parts and then tackling them one at a time. Maybe one week, you challenge yourself to do an environmental scan of your field. The next, you challenge yourself to make one key relationship with an influencer that you think can help further your work. The next, you ask someone who you deeply respect to mentor you.
At what point in your career did you realize that having a personal mission statement would give you a clearer sense of where you wanted to devote your energy? Have you ever had to commit to something that didn’t fit your plan?
I’ve never committed to something that I found morally repugnant, but I’ve certainly done plenty of work that didn’t make my heart sing. I think that part of developing a career and growing up requires humbling yourself, doing work that may not perfectly match what you think you want to do with your life, and letting it inform and influence your path. After all, it’s important to learn what you don’t want to do or who you don’t want to be. I had this sense at a fairly early point in my career, especially as I recognized that what I was doing didn’t look like anything my parents or other adults in my life had done. When I’m lost, I write, so it’s not really that surprising that I intuitively started articulating a personal mission statement.
As a freelancer, you often have to have many projects on the go. What do you do to maintain sanity when it feels as though some projects have stalled?
Compartmentalization is key to my sanity. Years of freelancing and collaborating have really taught me how to devote huge energy into planting seeds, but then be able to move on to the next project until all that early work ripens–whether because the time suddenly becomes right, the perfect partner comes along, or the organization finally “gets it.” There’s just no other way to operate in a life like mine.
Overall, do you think that the changing economy has allowed people to pursue more fulfilling careers in non-traditional areas?
I certainly do, but I might be considered myopic since that has been the case for me. I know hundreds of people, young especially, who are creating meaningful, flexible work lives. They tolerate more insecurity and less institutional support than ever before, but they also live deeply satisfying and exciting lives.
I am most happy when in a conscious state of gratitude, that’s for sure. I’m grateful for my family and friends, my various incredible collaborators and teachers, my mentors and mentees. I’m grateful for my gifts and the ways I’ve been able to use them to create understanding, inspire, be of service. I’m grateful to live in this wildly complex, incredible beautiful time. I’m especially grateful for my partner John, who supports me every single day in ways huge and tiny, and my parents, who taught me to trust my outrage, be kind to everyone, and curious about everything.
Last year, an elder told me to step into the darkness. They said that no matter what I wanted to do, to go forward despite my fears. I was assured that once I took a step, I’d realize it was much lighter than I’d imagined. Martin’s success and advice are reflective of just that.
Thank you, Courtney for serving as a positive example of what is possible if you take a chance, follow your passions, adapt and stay true to yourself.
Hopefully this provides a little inspiration as you head into the weekend. Because as we all know, an entrepreneur’s hustle doesn’t end because it’s a Friday!
Check out Courtney’s MAKERS profile:
Follow Courtney on Twitter: @courtwrites