It’s been about two months since I quit my full-time job in order to pursue my dream of being my own boss. As most of you can tell from March’s insane income, things are going quite well. I’ve written about how I have a plan to keep moving forward and how I have framed all of this with the mindset that online income is highly variable.
I’m literally taking it week by week, but I haven’t really mentioned the other side of freelancing; the side that causes me to freak out a bit any time I check my email and find my inbox to be empty.
The Dark Side of Freelancing
While it sounds amazing to be your own boss on the surface, there’s a dark side to all the new-found freedom that comes along with being a freelancer. Of course you understand that if you’re not working, you’re not making any money. What might be a little harder to understand is how it actually feels to strike out on your own. Here’s a bit of what a typical week feels like in terms of the emotions and stressors that are packaged with the great opportunity to be the boss:
Monday morning (checking emails after unplugging on Sunday): Yes! Look at all these emails! Time to respond to that, time to negotiate this, make a note to get to work on project A, send off final approval for project B. Etc, etc, etc. Wow, my to-do list is huge!
Monday evening (after checking email about 30-50 times throughout the day): Damn, why don’t I have any emails about work in here? Great, another email from Pinterest to remind me that I have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to using that site. Refresh. Ugh…nothing still?
Tuesday morning: Yay, the UK emails came through! Rinse & repeat Monday morning’s routine.
Wednesday afternoon (despite having a busy AM): Sheesh! It’s sure quiet here today. Check budget. Hmm…I need to make X dollars if I want to fulfill that goal. Time to reach out to some people in hopes of drumming up work. What if I don’t make any money this month? What if I can’t pay my bills? Ahhh…I’m spinning! Time for a run to clear my head. Come home to an empty inbox and proceed to freak out all over again.
Thursday: CRAZY day. Close enough deals to make an extra $2,000 this month. Life is good. Why was I worried yesterday?
Friday: TGIF! Yesterday was awesome. Now it’s time for the weekend. Things will continue to pick up next week…or will they?
Freelance Work is Up, Down, All Around
What I’m trying to illustrate here (perhaps not so eloquently) is that freelance work is up,down and all around. No day is the same, which is why I love it so much. Unfortunately, no day being the same can also mean insane amounts of wondering and questioning–even when things are going well.
If you’re considering becoming a freelancer or striking out on your own in some way, you need to have a solid foundation to ensure you’re able to withstand the roller coaster ride that even a typical week entails. This means taking care of both yourself and your business.
How to Handle the Ups and Downs of Freelancing
You need to have a plan–one that’s in place far before you pull the trigger on your decision to become your own boss. Your plan should include aspects of self-care, networking, professional development and much more. Here are some tips for how to manage the ups and downs of freelancing in the best possible way…
Take Care of Yourself
First and foremost, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t ever reach your full potential. You need to be exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep. Doing so will mean you’re better equipped to deal with all of the challenges headed your way. I know that when I’m not sleeping or not exercising, it’s far too easy to “get in my own head” about what’s happening with work. Practicing consistent self care helps you keep more of an even keel when you find yourself on that roller coaster of confidence and second-guessing your efforts.
You also need to ensure you’re maintaining your social connections, especially if you’re doing most of your work online. Isolation might be a by-product of the first few months of striking out on your own as you adjust to new schedules and new demands, but it’s not a sustainable way to enjoy your life. Make sure to schedule time with your family, friends and acquaintances. Sometimes all it takes is a quick run or dinner with a friend to recharge your batteries and refocus your efforts but don’t discount taking a vacation, too!
Take Care of Your Budget
My budget is the largest source of stress for me as a freelancer. Months ago when I was contemplating making the jump, I started budgeting for what I anticipated my income would be. I also paid off almost $16,000 of my student loans to free up more of my monthly cash flow, and I pushed myself to save as much as possible so I’d have a nice e-fund to smooth the road should it become rocky.
Right now, I’m concentrating my efforts on aggressive annual goals that will help me continue to build a strong financial foundation. While I’m still traveling and living my life, I’ve cut back on dining out and other frivolous spending in an effort to trim my expenses as much as possible. I also have set my monthly budget sheets for the remainder of the year based on the guaranteed income I will receive.
This way, if I get too freaked out on a particular day, I can easily open Excel and reassure myself that even if nothing “extra” comes in, all of my bills, my retirement, and my long-term savings are covered. Having a plan for the future months puts me at ease and helps me sleep at night!
Mind Your Network
I’ll write some future posts providing more details, but I’m fortunate in that most of my work and projects have been secured through people I’m working with or those who I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve cultivated a small yet strong network of bloggers, freelancers and website owners over the past two years, and I’ve been able to tap that network to market and communicate about my services.
If you don’t have a strong network and you’re planning to strike out on your own, make some changes and hold off on taking the leap until your network is in place.
Quality Over Quantity
I pride myself on my ability to deliver high-quality work on-time and at (or under) the budgets my clients set. I’ve been told that I’m true to my word and dependable and those are honestly some of the best compliments I could wish for as a freelancer. I know my limits, and I’m careful to openly communicate with each person about any scheduling conflicts or surprises that might pop up along the way.
Sure, I’ve made some mistakes and I’ve done some bone-headed things (how about getting distracted on Facebook one day and forgetting to send someone the link for their post? Oy!), but I am prompt with an honest explanation and I work hard to not repeat the same mistakes.
Find what works for you and stick with it–your clients will appreciate a person who deliver high quality work a day or two slower than someone who pumps out horrendous articles or posts without a second thought.