I’m a ‘take things as they come’ person so I usually don’t reflect much. But when Abubakar Jamil asked me to write about the lessons I’ve learned in life for a project of his, I was super interested and immediately agreed.
Little did I realize how personal this post will get.
What most of you don’t know about me is that I was born and brought up in Pakistan. Shocker? Maybe. Do I care? Absolutely not.
I used to. To the point where I wouldn’t mention it to anyone. Not to my clients, and certainly not to my freelancer friends. I didn’t hide it. I just didn’t mention it.
Was I ashamed? No. I love Pakistan. I’ve spent the best years of my life there. That’s where I want to go every year for my vacations.
I didn’t mention my nationality because of all the negative connotations the world has attached with my country. On top of it, I observe hijab (headscarf). Double whammy for me. I was afraid people would find out I was from Pakistan and wear a headscarf, they’ll think I’m either a fanatic to be avoided or a repressed female to be pitied.
Time however is a great teacher. It took me about two years and one child to realize that my fears would never let me succeed.
Confronting my fears made me learn a few very important life lessons.
1. Be yourself – even when it scares the shit out of you
Because I wouldn’t come right out and tell people about myself, I never felt genuine. Offline, I’m independent, opinionated, and love a good laugh. Online, those aspects of my personality didn’t get translated because I would always hold back a part of me and that would make me conscious.
Then I started getting local clients who would ask me where I was from. It’s a standard question in Dubai since it’s such a multi-cultural society. I’d tell them and they wouldn’t even blink. All they cared about was that I did a good job and delivered on time.
Slowly, I started mentioning it to other clients and was shocked to realize that they didn’t care either! All they cared about was my competency with English and the quality of my work.
The first few times, I was so scared it almost made me ill. What if they think I’m not a good enough freelance writer because English is my second language? What if they say they don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t share the same culture as them? I also had other more horrible fears related to stereotyping and racism but they never materialized.
2. No matter what you do, people will judge you
Just because my fears didn’t materialize where my clients were concerned doesn’t mean that everyone is broadminded. I’ve had a lot of mixed reactions (mostly good. Some not so much) since I changed my display picture on twitter to reflect the fact more clearly that I wear a headscarf.
It’s not their fault. Prejudice is something that is, more often than not ingrained in a person from a young age and half the time people don’t even realize they’re prejudiced.
Once I understood that, it didn’t bother me. Which brings me to my next lesson.
3. You can’t make everyone happy
One of the biggest issues I had online was trying to get everyone to like me. Sure, people like me well enough. But online, likable is forgettable.
I don’t care what people think of me offline, so why was I so worried about people liking me online?
Be true to yourself and people will either love or hate you. If everybody likes you, you’re not doing it right.
4. Life is short
Bomb blasts, shootings and lootings are extremely common in my home city.
I studied in a national university that would routinely cancel classes because of bloody fights breaking out between student political parties (which ironically were banned).
I’ve taken a bus home 10 minutes before someone opened fire at the bus stop I was at, trying to kill a passenger. Heck, a major political leader died on my wedding day and I couldn’t get married because of the violence erupting in the city. Every member of my family was out doing last minute errands. I didn’t get home till 5 am the next day. It’s a miracle no one in our family was hurt!
So if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that life is short. Don’t live scared and don’t waste the time you’ve been given on this earth.
5. You are good enough
When I started out as a freelancer, I would compare myself to other, more successful freelancers and I always came up short.
I’d tell myself that I wasn’t experienced enough, I wasn’t as good a writer and thus I couldn’t charge the same rates. Every time I would think about raising my rates, I’d convince myself I wasn’t good enough yet to justify increased rates.
This thinking led me to ghost write my first 20- page ebook for $150!
Can you believe it?!
Fortunately, I’ve never done well with putting myself down. It wasn’t long before I started to realize that I’m worth a lot more. I’m an excellent writer. My clients are happy. I get referral work and I’ve written for British, American & Canadian clients – not to mention Pakistani and Middle Eastern ones!
Now I charge
$1000 $1500 for a 20-page ebook ,
I also got great advice from another freelancer (someone I hold in the highest esteem and would drop everything in a heartbeat to help them) who made me see that my rates were criminally low without ever saying so.
So every time you think you’re not good enough, think about all the happy clients and the great work you’ve done. Ask for help if you’re unsure but always remember, you are your biggest competition.
You are good enough.
Even though this post is for a project, it is the most personal post I’ve ever written. To quote a cliché: Life is a series of lessons. Have you learned any new ones lately?