JD Parkman was medically discharged from the United States Marine Corps in 2009, permanently ending his military career and leaving him without a job. Destitute but driven, JD found himself jumping from each endeavor to the next––working hard to develop creative business solutions wherever he went, but never quite finding his niche. Weeks before Christmas of 2015, JD was unemployed, unable to pay the electric bill, and unable to buy Christmas presents for his wife and children. Even then, he did not give up. In the spirit of Veteran’s Day, we would like to share the story and wisdom of this inspiring modern day digital freelancer.
After securing a part time gig doing website design and SEO for an events company, JD came to a conclusion: your business is what you make it. Discovering his own potential in taking on multiple jobs, and leveraging his knack for marketing, he became an avid freelancer. He made a difficult but necessary push to work harder than ever and, slowly but surely, JD got back on his feet. He was able to provide for his family, pay off his debt, and eventually start creating his own small business on the side. But that was just the beginning.
Just two years later, JD is a six-figure income generating freelancer. He has helped found multiple million dollar marketing startups, worked for Fortune 500 Companies, and continues to grow his freelance network by returning value to each and every client. JD’s career as a digital freelance marketer has taught him more than he could have imagined, and he enjoys discussing the wins, and losses, of life as a freelancer.
Here are 5 tips from a veteran Marine-gone-freelancer
1) Practice discipline
Sure, being your own boss can be great. But the lack of accountability as a freelancer can lead to shirking tasks and responsibilities, which is why discipline is key. If there is anything JD learned from his time as a Marine, it is that discipline is necessary to producing results.
“In order to survive and deliver to clients, you have to do what it takes to produce,” says JD. “As a freelancer, you have to be on your A-game all the time.” From time management to maintaining good email habits, discipline is the foremost requirement of becoming a successful freelancer.
2) Learn to adapt
There is a reason the lifespan of small businesses continues to decrease––they cannot always adapt. JD discovered that a business must learn to change as the gig economy continues to evolve. Taking advantage of new and emerging technologies is just as important as effectively using what you already have, and every freelancer should have a finger on the pulse of the digital world. That is why JD started using Moonlighting.
“A steady stream of clients comes with using apps like Moonlighting,” JD says. Moonlighting is a mobile app that provides business tools for freelancers and small businesses. The app also allows users to hire other Moonlighters for specific, part-time jobs. “It’s really the only way to be a successful freelancer. Tons of reach.” Find out more about Moonlighting here.
3) Expect failure
You might not win that bid for a job, or your work may not be what they expected. Failure comes in so many forms, but the important thing is to expect it, endure it, and move on. “The greatest lesson you learn as a freelancer is failure,” says JD. “Failure is inevitable. How you respond, though–– that determines your wins.” Does this mean you should try to fail? No––it means you try your best, but that you make the best of it when the best is not enough. “Pain is good sometimes. Usually when you are suffering the most, you are going to benefit the most.”
4) Learn to work with a team
Sometimes you know best. But sometimes you don’t. Learning to work well with other people––whether partners, employees, or clients––means learning the value of humility and communication. “Spending six months with the same guys in Iraq, we didn’t always like each other,” says JD. “But we learned to work as an efficient team out of necessity.” Today, JD carries that mentality with him into every job. Clear communication, and a willingness to learn from others, can supplement your own skills and propel your freelance carrier.
5) Do it for the challenge
“Every day has been a new challenge, and no day is routine. That’s why I love it.” Even as JD looks back from where he was, he knows that money was not the key motivator. While he initially began his freelance career in order to provide for his family, he continues for other reasons. “I did it broke and I loved it. I’m not broke anymore, and I still love it,” JD says.
It is a long road to becoming a successful entrepreneur, but make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. You might make some sacrifices, and you might pull some long nights. Things will not always be under your control, but therein lies the excitement. No entrepreneur who makes it doesn’t have an incredible story. Be proud of that story, and let it motivate you to keep going.
This article was originally featured in the USA Today.