Fighting the freelance fear
How to deal with the anxiety of going solo
If you’re a freelancer you’ve taken a path notoriously more stressful than the average. Whether you’re worried about chasing payments or trying to juggle different clients, the list of things to worry about is endless. If you find that list leaves you breaking out in a sweat, don’t fret – here are some ways to re-focus, de-stress and keep your energy where it matters.
1. Give your thoughts some thought.
Actions speak louder than thoughts. With so much on your mind as a freelancer, worrying may feel tempting, especially if work is drying up and stress is rearing its ugly head. But that negative spiral won’t get you anywhere. Instead, redirect that precious energy to things that can further your career.
Promotion on social media, setting up meetings with prospective clients, learning new skills - these are just a few of the productive things you could do with that energy instead that will lead to work.
Deal with your worst nightmare now. While most stressful thoughts should be banished, there is one that should be entertained – your worst case scenario. The fear of the unknown is most gripping so knowing what you would do if it all went pear-shaped means there is no space for surprises. Moving in with mum may be a sobering Plan B but now you know what it is then you don’t need to stay up at night wondering. Mostly, it’s not as bad as you thought it would be.
As your own boss you need to remember to treat business as business. When you were an employee you would have entire departments to deal with client complaints but you are now on the frontline and without a line manager to act as a sieve, it can feel more personal. Difficult as this is, protect yourself with the knowledge that you are not actually better off than you were as an employee, you are just more aware now and armed with the information to improve your service.
2. Beef up the Boundaries.
As your own boss, it’s up to you to draw the line that says where work begins and ends.
Set realistic goals. With no job certainty, it can be stressful managing offers of work and many find themselves overpromising their services to clients which in turn will lead to anxiety. Be clear with yourself on what your working hours are and how much you can do in that time, then strictly stick to it.
Get very, very organised. Diaries, weekly admin days, email subfolders… you need them all. With so many balls in the air, it’s essential to know what you’re doing when and with good systems in place you are removing the possibilities of upsetting clients through forgotten shifts or important lost documents. Yes it’s boring, but you’re removing the margins for error and therefore dodging unnecessary panic.
Personal time is paramount. With so much on your plate, it’s easy to put your personal time to the bottom of your to-do list but without it, your work will suffer. In the same way you need to surround yourself with people, personal time gives you a necessary mental break that will bring you back to work with a fresh mind and stop you going cuckoo.
Cut yourself some slack and hire in some help. We are not built to deal with all aspects of the business of being freelance and finances in particular seem to intimidate people so get help where you need it. You could hire an assistant or, instead, download the free mobile app Albert.
Albert is the innovate app that allows you to invoice on the go, all the while backing up your invoices to Dropbox and sending you notifications on payment due dates. With help so easily accessible, put your panic to one side and get what you need.
3. Create your own colleagues.
It’s easy to feel isolated as a freelancer - you’re either working from home or jumping from client to client so don’t get the opportunities to rant over the water cooler with acolleague or break up the day with some office gossip. The stability of being surrounded by colleagues helps you let off some much-needed steam between focusing that’s necessary for good mental health. So if you can’t get it from your circumstances, you need to create it and here’s how:
Mentors. Having someone you look up to that you check in with on a weekly basis is a healthy outlet for dealing with the pressures. Not only will their experience mean they will offer valuable guidance in stressful situations but it will also give you a good gauge on what challenges you should prepare for.
Online freelance communities. Signing up to forums relevant to your discipline will expose you to people with similar challenges. It may seem odd talking through the issues of your day with strangers but the online community is accessible anywhere and with such a lot of people involved you will get a good spectrum of advice.
Co-working spaces. These offices, focused on creating a vibrant space that freelancers use to run their own careers from, will have you surrounded by people in similar positions. Essentially this will give you the benefits of an office atmosphere without the politics.
Fending off the freelance fear is hard, but give yourself a round of applause. Think about it – you are the brave one here, the gutsy one who has done away with the safety nets and comfort blankets of life as an employee. It’s a stressful situation but hey – if you can work out how to relax in this environment, then the world will be your oyster! And with a bit of hard work and discipline you can enjoy the financial rewards and freedom of going solo.