Surround Yourself with Successful People

Surround yourself with people who are successful at what you’re trying to do …

It’s good advice to follow when going after your dreams of living the writer’s life.

Says AWAI member Mike Klassen, “It’s very easy to get pulled down by people who make excuses and whine about the situation they’re in. Interacting with successful people inspires you to be better in your own business and keeps you focused on what’s possible, not what you’re lacking.”

And Mike is definitely someone I consider worth knowing! He’s built a very successful business and today shares with you the steps he recommends you take to find your own version of the writer’s life.

Mike Klassen: Direct-Marketing Graphic Designer

What was the biggest highlight of your career this year?

Without a doubt, speaking at a business-building conference in Australia. I wasn’t planning to be a speaker as part of my business, but the chance to visit Australia with my family and help other businesses was too good to pass up. It was an amazing experience that once again showed how great it is to be a freelancer in control of my own business.

What contributed most to it?

Providing multiple ways for people to find and interact with me. We all have a website and most of us do social media. But we have to find ways to give people a real reason to want to interact with us, even if they’re not ready to hire us.

In my case, it was a book I wrote that I offer free on my site. It was found by someone who wasn’t looking for a designer. He was looking for useful information that I had covered in my book. The book led to a conversation with him that resulted in the speaking invitation.

It doesn’t have to be a book. Maybe it’s a short report. Maybe it’s a podcast. Maybe it’s a webinar. When you provide something of real value to people who aren’t yet ready to hire you, you stand out from others who think a basic website and sharing links in social media channels is sufficient marketing.

What inspires you most these days?

Connecting with successful people. It’s very easy to get pulled down by people who make excuses and whine about the situation they’re in. Interacting with successful people inspires you to be better in your own business and keeps you focused on what’s possible, not what you’re lacking.

What has living the writer’s life – in your case, the designer’s life – meant to you this year?

I always end the year thinking how blessed I’ve been to work from home another year, to have plenty of time with family, and to be doing something I enjoy. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be back in the corporate world, wondering how secure my job is and realizing it was totally out of my control.

Best book recently read?

Poke the Box by Seth Godin. There’s a sentence in there that may not make complete sense out of context, but it was “Pick yourself.”

Too many people wait for someone to give them permission to do something or to be successful. Godin is saying not to wait for others to validate you or your paths, or to pick you for greatness or success … Pick Yourself.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Decide who your best prospects are, and then be where they are, or find ways to interact with them on a meaningful level.

I think too many freelancers hope that people will find them instead of being more proactive and going to where those prospects are. For example, if you’re a health writer, are there conferences that health industry people attend that you can attend as well? Or are they part of an association that you can join?

You can sit around hoping something happens. Or you can put yourself in situations where you stand a better chance of making something happen.

One AWAI program you’d recommend people take and why?

I know this sounds biased, but the Graphic Design Success program has a lot to offer copywriters. Even if you’re a writer with no desire to become a designer, being aware of design considerations can make you a better writer and organizer of content, especially with large pieces like magalogs.

And when you’re a writer that makes the life of a designer easier, that designer will be happy to refer business to you. It also makes the project go faster, which makes the client happy. Happy clients mean more projects from them and referrals.

Graphic Design Success

Graphic Design Success

Learn everything you need to know to become an in-demand direct-response graphic designer, even if you're not artistically inclined! Learn More »


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Published: December 13, 2011

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