See the little guy over left, paddling away with his eyes wide-eyed and wild? I can relate. In my previous post here, I described how I jumped in with both feet and was hired to do my first website. Now it was time to sink or swim.

Have you ever seen a dog paddle? I have. When we were newly married, we got this black lab mix. She was more of a mutt, really. Her dad was a purebred black lab. Her mom was, well, something that resembled a calico cat with three legs. Yes, her mother only had three legs, but she managed to give birth to a litter of 11 puppies. Just wow. But I digress. We got this puppy, and thankfully she took after her father in the looks department. She was pitch black, and in the Iowa hot, summer sun, she was miserable.

We would take her to the farm pond down the road to cool off. And you know what? That dog lived to swim. No hesitation. No backward glance. In she’d go, and the dog paddle would commence. It didn’t matter how deep the water was, or how far out she got, she just kept steadily, methodically pumping those legs up and down, up and down, her head calmly above water as if she didn’t have a care in the world.

It didn’t matter that before we took her to the pond she had never been in water deeper than a bathtub. She just drew on what she knew already knew about what her body could do and the trusting relationship she had with us, her owners, and she went for it. She knew she could swim, so she did.

Those same concepts are what enabled me to move out of my comfort zone and jump into something new professionally:  the skills I already possessed and the trusting working relationships I was a part of.

The Skills I Already Possessed
I didn’t start from ground zero. There were several skills I already possessed that kept me paddling away:

  • Experience. At this point in my career, I had worked in the layout and design field for over ten years. I had a degree in journalism and mass communications, and I started in the industry right out of college. I knew how to organize information, write content and use elements like color, photos, and graphics make things look attractive and draw customer attention. With those skills already in my arsenal, I had a strong platform upon which to build, adding new skills as I went.
  • Love of learning. I don’t have trouble catching on to new things, and I enjoy research and reading. I knew I’d enjoy the challenge of learning how to transform and modify my design skills to go from desktop to website.
  • Passion for the job. I was excited about this opportunity. I knew this was something I would enjoy, and I recognized the potential for future growth of my business. Let’s be real, I knew there would be times I would get frustrated, times I’d come up against something I didn’t know how to do. But I enjoy what I do. I’m passionate about it, and the passion would power me through when things got tricky.

Good Working Relationships
When I approached my client with the new website idea, I had been working with them for years. We’d had time to develop a very solid working relationship, and there was a lot of trust there on both sides.

  • Their familiarity with my work. They knew what I was capable of because they had seen my performance over time. They had faith that building their website was something I could do and that I would do it to the level of workmanship they were accustomed to from me.
  • My familiarity with their business and goals. Likewise, I was very familiar with their business and how they ran it. I did my homework and was fully prepared to make very specific recommendations and suggestions that really resonated with them and their business needs.

Now It’s Your Turn
Are you considering trying something new in your business? Maybe you’ve already made the jump and you’re paddling away right now on something new. (You can read the first post in this series about my decision to jump into web design here. It’s a good time, I promise. I talk about hairy men jumping into frigid Lake Superior. No I’m not kidding.) Is your head is above water, but you’re not sure when you’re going to reach the shore? Don’t give up. You’re closer than you think. You can do this! Here are a couple tips on what you can do to help keep yourself doggedly paddling away:

Take inventory of your skills. You have a skill set full of talents and abilities. They are the platform that have brought you this far and will carry you through, even when things get hard. If it helps, sit down and write a list. Ask yourself:

  • What is my experience? What do I already have that I could use to build this project with?
  • What could I learn or teach myself that would help?
  • What am I passionate about? How can I use that in this project to keep me going when things get tricky?

Tap into those working relationships. You’ve worked so hard on developing those trusting working relationships. Those will pay off. Again, make the list. Writing it down helps solidfy it in your brain. Ask yourself:

  • Why do they believe I can do this? What about my past work gives them confidence in me? How can I bring that forward into this project?
  • Have I done my homework? Have I targeted specific ways I can tailor this project to meet the needs of my clients?

Light Idea:  There’s one thing I haven’t mentioned yet, so here it is:  I don’t believe that web design was an out-of-the-blue whim for me. There’s another reason I was willing to step out into the unknown and begin building websites, and it has nothing to do with my skills, abilities or working relationships. I jumped when the opportunity presented itself was because I believe that’s where God led me. I trust the One I follow. All I have comes from Him, and He is good.

Coming up next – Digging Deep:  Moving Beyond the Dog Paddle.

You guys are the bestest. XO.


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