The word freedom rings inside your head. You’re letting go of the run-of-the-mill stuff and the 9-5 grind, and you’re running about gleefully with your arms in the air. Well maybe not that last bit, but you’re probably pretty excited and have every right to be.
Starting out on your freelancing journey, whatever your niche, is a momentous and at the same time daunting prospect.
You’re full of feelings and not 100% sure what to do with them. You’re having thoughts like ‘what’s my first move?’ and ‘where do I start?’.
I get it. I’ve been there. Quite often I’m still there. Here’s my tuppence worth of advice on the challenges you’re going to encounter, how to keep your feelings in check, and practical tips on how to overcome and manage them.
1. The niggles: freelance feelings of doubt
I’m sure this isn’t just confined to freelance life. I think many of us experience this when we’re working in organisations too. But it’s particularly hard when you start working on your own, because you’ve got time on your hands and that’s when those feelings of self-doubt can slowly edge their way in.
It’s well documented that these feelings are imposter syndrome. Oh yes, it has a name. You’ve probably already heard of it. And if you haven’t experienced it, then consider yourself very lucky.
Remember to stay true to yourself and, whilst it’s important to validate your feelings, what you don’t want to do is to let them take over. You’re awesome, you can do awesome things and that’s why people want to hire you.
It may sound crazy, but there are times when I have to keep myself in check with a mantra like, ‘fire in your belly,’ or, ‘you’re awesome, you’re brilliant and you’ve got this.’
You’ve got to support you and be kind to yourself. You started this journey because you had something to offer. You still do. Keep plugging on and moving forwards. Leave feelings of doubt behind. Give them 5 minutes of worry time and move on.
2. Don’t feed the freelance drought: use the time wisely
There’s a very good chance that you won’t necessarily be booked up with work. At least not to start with, and even the best freelancers will have periods when they are not working.
Obviously, there’s the practical business side to account for, but you also need to prepare emotionally for this. This is when self-doubt can creep in and also when you can hit a low.
Looking at the non-paid things that you don’t always have time for is a great filler, as is strategising and thinking about you and your business.
I write, so writing blogs for myself, or for other publications, to market myself and keep my skills fresh is a great way to keep the mind occupied. It’s also a super outlet to balance your feelings.
It doesn’t have to all be work-based. Let’s face it, if you were in the office, you’d have a couple of breaks and definitely take lunch. Why not choose things to look forward to, to break up the time.
Take a walk, see a film, meet a friend, finish reading that book, read your favourite newspaper, dance around to your favourite tunes, or maybe go to the gym.
Taking a planned break is good for you. Gain a little perspective. Find some clarity. You don’t have to feel guilty.
You may even find that some of your best ideas come when you’re at your most relaxed.
3. We all need someone to lean on: so, build your freelance family and combat loneliness with community
Staying socialised is really important. Some people thrive on their own company. Others need the company of others.
I’ve learnt to not mind my own company, but my heart does sing when I get to chat with other people.
Company doesn’t have to always mean the people that surround you. It could mean the community that you can create online. I’ve made some of my best connections online and also met them offline.
Find your tribe and cherish those conversations and connections.
4. Don’t let your thoughts destroy you: use your freelance mindset to strive and try to always default to positive
I know it’s easier said than done. (And it’s definitely easy to say when you’re experiencing the highs of freelance life.) But not quite so easy when you’ve hit a low and your brain naturally defaults to seeing the bad. But by being aware of your mindset, perhaps through meditation and training yourself to see the good, you can find the sun even on those cloudy days.
You have to believe and realise that even if today’s a bad day for you, tomorrow’s a new day. So, hang on in there.
By not allowing your mind to focus too deeply, and for too long, on the negative, you’ll prepare yourself to push through those tough times.
5. Our journey is a journey and our path isn’t always smooth: see freelance growth in learning
Let’s face it, it’s a path that never ends. And it shouldn’t. Because no-one was born knowing everything, and there are lots of ways to learn.
You don’t need to always be embarking on the most expensive learning option. You can find free courses, or even pay a small amount to learn a whole lot.
If you start a course, make sure you finish it and proudly put your certifications everywhere you can. Blow your own trumpet, because you’ve earned it.
If you’ve read something interesting, share it with your community on and offline. Write a post, write a blog and put your slant and opinion on that theme.
Don’t use your perceived lack of skills in any area as an excuse not to push yourself. What you don’t know, you’ll learn. What you’ll learn you’ll use.
Embrace the highs and hug the lows: see the joy in every part of your journey
A freelancer’s journey is full of highs and lows. Relish the highs and learn from the lows. Build a strong offline and online community around you that will support you and will be happy to have a chat when you need it.
Talking’s important, it can help to keep you balanced and stop thoughts whirring round your head. It can also help you to get another perspective and, quite often, that can be a lightbulb moment – a moment of clarity.
Push yourself beyond what’s naturally comfortable, otherwise you may find yourself going around in circles, or not moving at all.
It may not always be the dream you imagined, but buckle up for the ride, enjoy the journey and sail beyond what you ever thought was possible.
Where are you on your journey? From one freelancer to another: keep going. You’re doing just fine
First published on simplyamberlou.com