Many have dismissed the Law of Attraction as overly simplistic. But there is one aspect of this controversial principle that undoubtedly has merit: if you want your dreams to come true you have to pursue them with a clear focus and a full commitment. Safety nets make sense in the circus but in life they can hold you back, and if you are unwilling to act until you have them, you may never take any meaningful action at all.
Sarah Ratliff’s story of success in the freelance writing profession demonstrates the merits of diving in head first, without hesitation or reservation. The world of freelancing is competitive, unpredictable and at times downright scary, and the old pros always warn newcomers about the pitfalls and frustrations that can accompany a trip into its tangled maze of low-paying jobs, rushed deadlines and long droughts of inactivity. But when Sarah made the decision to throw her hat into the ring with a hundred thousand other aspiring writers on Elance, the planet’s largest freelance service outlet, she did so determined to see it through to the end; in the words of Elvis Presley, to follow that dream wherever that dream might lead.
Before embarking on her freelance adventure, Sarah had worked in the American corporate sector for more than 25 years. This left her with in-demand skills to fall back on, but once she had made up her mind what she wanted to do she refused to acknowledge the existence of that potential safety net. Instead, she invested every ounce of her energy in making it as a writer, pursuing every potential opportunity no matter the pay scale, trusting her instincts as a creator and selling herself to clients based on what she knew she could accomplish rather than on her previous experience in the field (which was minimal).
Job by job she built her business—and reputation—from the ground up. Success inevitably led to expansion, and Sarah hired other writers and support personnel along the way as her one-woman band gradually evolved into a multi-sectioned symphony orchestra. One satisfied client followed another, and it soon became clear that Sarah’s foray into the world of freelancing was producing something beyond her wildest imagination.
And the rest, as they say, is history—or, in this instance, her story. From her humble beginnings as a woman with a dream and a virtual pen, in just four years Sarah Ratliff built the most successful and highly-ranked writing team on the Elance platform, and the growth of her business shows no signs of stopping any time soon.
Throwing It All Away – and Getting It Back Again Better Than Ever
As her working life unfolded, Sarah Ratliff never intended to follow the path of least resistance. On the contrary, the course she chose was only based on a desire to be practical, sensible and responsible. Inheriting an interest in writing from her parents (both were professionals), Sarah tried her hand at that first. But after a brief, unsatisfying flirtation with journalism at CBS Radio, Sarah left that position and abandoned her dream of becoming a writer—for the time being, at any rate.
Over the years she landed a series of lucrative positions working for various corporate interests. But as she moved from company to company, performing a variety of duties and developing her skills as a marketer, organizer and administrator, Sarah never did find a place to call home. The jobs she held seemed important, but overly competitive workplace environments and agenda-driven office politicking drove her up the wall and left her feeling mentally drained and emotionally exhausted. Her husband Paul, an accomplished IT specialist, was every bit as dissatisfied with the dog-eat-dog, backstabbing corporate environment as she was, and when their collective frustrations reached the boiling point he proposed to Sarah that they try something different. As in completely different.
Within six months of selling their house in California and quitting their lucrative posts at the biotechnology giant Amgen, Sarah and Paul were living out in the hinterlands on the island of Puerto Rico, constructing a new home and getting ready to launch their brand new organic farming venture. Their plan was to raise goats, chickens and a variety of food crops on their land, living and working close to nature as they sought to build a sustainable, self-sufficient homestead from the ground up.
Backed by a comfortable nest egg, they were certain their plan for a radical transformation was well thought out and workable. But, unfortunately, they got mixed up with some less-than-reputable contractors and lost all of their money within the first year. As 2010 rolled around they still had their land, their new house, their cars, their animals and each other, but in order to survive and keep their fledgling farming project viable, they would have to find a way to start making some money immediately. Sarah and Paul were firm believers in the validity of that old saying: when the going gets tough, the tough get going. But with only $40 left in the bank, if they were going to tough it out they needed to get going quickly, as in yesterday.
With Paul in command of managing the farm, it was up to Sarah to find a source of outside income. She decided to give online freelancing a go and registered for an account with Elance, a heavily trafficked global staffing platform that connects virtual freelancers with clients in eight broad categories, including Writing & Translation. With her past business experience, Sarah could have chosen to try her hand at marketing, but her interest in becoming a writer had never really died and she decided the time had come to give it another shot.
Without an established portfolio or job history, Sarah’s prospects would have undoubtedly seemed bleak to an outsider. Or even to other successful freelancers. Adopting what she calls a “fake it till you make it” approach to building her new career, Sarah wrote up samples for clients as she went along, bluffed about her background and experience as necessary and promoted her skills and know-how with assertiveness and confidence (perhaps a bit more confidence than she really felt).
Many business advisors recommend against the “fake it till you make it” strategy—some quite sternly. But in Sarah’s case it helped unleash her powers of creative visualization, and at each step of the way she rose to the challenges she took on and impressed clients with her can-do attitude and impeccably crafted copy. Her eye for talent allowed her to make quality hires as her business expanded, so even after her solo enterprise “Sarita Writes” had morphed into the multi-employee company “Coquí Prose” (named after the tiny frog that is native to Puerto Rico, and its mascot), the caliber of the work she submitted to clients remained high and the accolades she received continued to grow. Sarah’s ascension to the top of the Elance pecking order was achieved in only three years, and as a result of her remarkable success, she and Paul have been able to keep their fridge filled, their cars gassed up and their lights turned on at the farm—which, by the way, is growing toward sustainability at a steady and impressive pace.
Living the Dream and Dreaming a Life
While Sarah is indeed fulfilling a lifelong ambition through her writing career, she is doing so strictly with a higher purpose in mind. “Everything I do with this business, the only goal I have in mind is to maintain the farm,” Sarah told us. Writing was her personal dream but operating a successful organic farm in the tropics is the dream she shares with Paul, and the financial support she is able to offer through her freelancing work has proven vital to the advancement of this shared project.
Of course running a farm is not so much an occupation as it is a sunup to sundown, “all-hands-on-deck” lifestyle, and Paul and Sarah are in it together all the way. Laboring alongside her husband, Sarah spends a significant percentage of her time each day performing chores on the homestead, many of which involve caring for the chickens, goats and dogs that provide her and Paul with eggs, milk and loving companionship.
And it is not as if her business has suddenly stopped demanding less of her attention. Coquí Prose has moved beyond its original focus on writing to become a full-service content marketing agency, able to offer whatever services a potential client might require to get his or her website up and moving and drawing heavy traffic. So as the requirements of her work-at-home lifestyle have multiplied, Sarah has had to become a task juggler extraordinaire in order to coordinate everything to make sure it all remains doable within the confines of the standard 24-hour day.
But somehow she has made it all work—and now she has even expanded her operation to include another new freelancing-related business venture. Along with another highly successful independent contractor name Danny Margulies, Sarah has started an online advisory company called Freelance to Win, which offers guidance to other intrepid souls trying to make a place for themselves in the burgeoning freelance field. With her riches-to-rags, back-to-riches-again story, few are more qualified to offer this sort of advice than Sarah, who managed to reinvent her life in one of the most radical ways imaginable without sacrificing anything that really mattered.
Sarah’s recommendation for others with big ideas and a desire to make changes is direct and succinct: “Just do it,” she says. “Don't keep dreaming, because you will dream your life away. Life is really short and don't waste it just hoping to make [your] dream come true.”
Sarah Ratliff: ENFP
Sarah Ratliff is the quintessential ENFP, and her life story is one that many who share her personality type have emulated in one form or another. ENFPs are known as risk takers who trust their spontaneous inspirations and believe the world is filled with promise and possibility. Sarah’s willingness to launch her career boat into a vast, unexplored ocean exhibits an inner trust in the benevolence of the universe that all high achievers share, in whatever direction the winds of circumstance might happen to carry them.
Organic farming and freelance writing are not a conventional combination by any means. But carving out this type of hybrid existence is exactly the sort of thing that appeals to the adventurous instincts of ENFPs, since arrangements like these allow them to channel their creative energies into diverse aspects of a uniquely shaped existence.
In addition to her daring spirit, Sarah also demonstrates the ENFP preference for teamwork, cooperation and harmony in the workplace. Her style of leadership is loose, relaxed and respectful, and she tries to stay open to suggestion at all times. This approach has worked well with her Coquí Prose cohorts, which is not surprising since creative people tend to prize their independence, feel stressed when constantly pressured to meet deadlines and feel disrespected if they are denied a chance to choose the type of project they would like to work on. Despite her compassion for her co-workers, Sarah has assumed the mantle of leadership with confidence and self-assurance, counterbalancing her respectful approach with a willingness to be the public face of her rapidly growing enterprise. This is again typical of the successful ENFP, who thrives in the spotlight and wears the crown of leadership as if he or she were born for that type of position.
When Sarah Ratliff first began her freelance writing career, her ambitions were rather modest. But energetic and gregarious ENFPs are like a force of nature, and once they set out to accomplish something they often overshoot their targets and end up doing even more than they originally intended. Sarah has built her business and risen to the top of the Elance freelance food chain in an amazingly short period of time, which is a testament to her talent, willpower and imagination. She may never have expected to attain such a lofty status, but as is so often the case with ENFPs, her best-laid plans proved to be a drastic underestimation of what she was actually capable of achieving.