Five ways you need to mentally prepare for freelancing
Considering going freelance? Wonder if you have the emotional stamina for it? Here are five ways you need to mentally prepare for freelancing.
We hear a lot about the practical things you need to take care of when going freelance. But what about your mental and emotional preparation?
Freelancing can be exciting and feel easy. But it can also feel like being stopped to a roller coaster, and enduring difficult and painful lows too. And many find the mental and emotional fluctuations of freelancing or working from home can leave them exhausted and frustrated at times.
When you work for an employer, they shoulder the responsibility of money coming in to pay your salary, and ensuring you have a pleasant, safe place to work with all the equipment you need. But when you freelance, all of that responsibility is yours.
The uncertainties and short deadlines of freelancing make it hard to plan ahead for holidays. You’re missing the sense of community and practical and emotional support that comes from working with colleagues and managers. And who do you turn to if a work project doesn’t go to plan?
What the statistics reveal about freelancing
According to Tech.co, 69% of US freelancers responding to a Paypal study were female and 31% male.
The article includes data from an independent study done by the Freelancers Union which states that the recession of 2007 to 2009 persuaded people to ditch the idea that traditional jobs are genuinely secure. As a result, many entered the world of the ‘gig economy’.
QZ.com predicts that by 2020 in the US, 40% of the workforce will be freelancers. And it’s no surprise that the flexibility of freelancing appeals to women reentering the workforce after taking time off to raise a family.
But life isn’t always rosy as a freelancer. Research from Roosevelt University reveals that “many remote workers frequently experience depression, anger, frustration, and anxiety.”
After decades of observation, psychologist and life coach Amy Werba advises freelancers to “excel at self-promotion and be their own best cheerleader.” Going for walks, yoga, and meditation can all help with maintaining equilibrium.
Mental and emotional astuteness protects us against difficult times, which are inevitable when freelancing.
Five ways you need to mentally prepare for freelancing
So how do you make freelancing a success – and stay sane at the same time? Here are five ways you need to prepare to be emotionally resilient.
1) Build connections
It’s easy to feel isolated as a freelancer working from home. When you’re employed in an office, you have colleagues to share successes and disappointments with. You can ask for and give help. And you can just pass the time when you meet by the printer or coffee machine.
As a freelancer though, you have no one to complain about a difficult client to. Or to ask how to recover a crashed file. Or even to laugh about the strange guy in the coffee shop. It’s just you.
And when rejections, non-payments, or a client suddenly drops you from their roster, you can’t seek immediate reassurance or help.
Building connections with like-minded people will help you weather the storm of self-employment uncertainties. So look for networking opportunities near you to try to meet people.
There may even be a local freelancers’ meet up. Or rent a desk in a coworking space and join a made-for-you community of fellow small business owners and freelancers.
Free Facebook groups like The TLC Business Club also give you access to a supportive online community of fellow freelancers and small business owners.
2) Go with the flow
Freelance work is often unpredictable. This is not a bad thing in itself; one thing many freelancers enjoy about the business is having quiet times to get on with non-work life. An even major companies go through cycles of unpredictability. The difference is that they have more clout and cash than you.
But as lovely as it is to find yourself with a free day, the reality when you’re freelancing is that a ‘free’ day literally means that – you’re not earning money. And it’s all-too easy, even if you’re a seasoned freelancer to let The Fear take over when you’re quiet.
What’s The Fear? It’s the worry that you’ll never work again. That this quiet period will last for the rest of your working life, and you’ll never get any more jobs or clients again.
The Fear may not be logical or rational, but it can feel very real when you’re in the grip of it.
So what can you do? Practically you can save up a financial buffer to protect yourself against lean times. You can also check out these 47 ideas to help you find freelance clients, and make a list of ideas to try.
Emotionally, meanwhile, you’ll be more resilient if you can roll with the knocks and hold your nerve in quiet months. Understand that this is something pretty much ALL freelancers deal with – especially in traditionally quiet times like the summer. And that, if you take positive action every week, work WILL come in.
3) Believe in (and charge) your worth
Don’t feel guilty about charging what you feel you’re worth. It might be nerve-wracking, but you’ll have to get used to standing up for yourself financially.
You’ll also learn (either quickly or painfully and expensively over time) that charging a low rate doesn’t mean you’ll end up with more work with lovely, grateful clients and you’ll feel good about what you do.
Charging at the lower end of your skillset means you’ll be overlooked by decent clients who want to pay a fair rate for excellent people (they’ll assume that, because you’re cheap, you’re either not very good or not very experienced).
Instead, you’ll attract clients who simply want the cheapest possible people. They’ll care less about quality, but will be harder to work for and please – after all they want to squeeze every possible it of value out of you – and are generally less satisfied with the results.
The result of this miserable experience is that you’ll enjoy what you do less, start to doubt your ability, and will feel resentful at the hours you’re putting in for the tiny financial return.
So save yourself learning this painful lesson in practice and take heed right now! Work out what an appropriate rate for your work is, and quote it to clients with confidence. To help you, here are some resources we’ve created around pricing and charging your worth:
- Watch our Pricing Masterclass
- Are you afraid to charge what you’re worth?
- The five secrets of charging what you’re worth
- How to raise your freelance rates – the complete guide
Our Pricing Masterclass costs £45 to watch, but if you’re not confident in your pricing, it’s a wise investment. One freelancer increased a quote by 60% immediately after watching it – and won the work.
4) Have a vision
Self-employed people with a vision, or a clear sense of purpose, do better managing the everyday ins-and-outs of freelancing.
A clear vision helps you to persevere, achieve goals, and provides a sense of purpose and direction. It’s much like the story of The Little Engine That Could – the engine visualised accomplishment regardless of the complexities of the task ahead.
So what’s your freelance vision? How do you want to be working in 12 months’ time? How often? For which clients? How much do you want to be earning? What type of work are you doing? What does your life look like? And how do you feel?
Also consider what niche in freelancing you want to own. The more specific you can be about the work you do and the clients you do it for, the easier you’ll find it to target and win over new clients, and the more you can charge; as a specialist you’ll always have an edge over a generalist.
The clearer a vision of the freelance life you want to live, the closer you’ll get to it. You’ll instinctively know what decisions you need to make to help you achieve it, and it will give you the courage to say no to clients who don’t fit your vision.
5) Make hay while the sun shines
And finally, when work is flowing, take as much as you possibly can without compromising your integrity.
There are two important reasons for this. Firstly, you never know when you might hit a dry patch, so it’s good to bank money when the work is coming in.
But just as importantly, the more happy clients you have, the more regular work you’ll get. When you say no to a project, that client will have to find another freelancer to help. And there’s every risk that they’ll turn to that freelancer first next time.
So you’re not just losing that piece of work, you could potentially be losing a regular client.
Of course there are some occasions when you just can’t fit in any more work, and complete it to a standard that you’re happy with. But if you can squeeze in a project when you’re busy, then do.
And there’s no harm in letting a client know that you’re doing so – a busy freelancer is usually a sign of a good freelancer, plus they’ll be grateful that you’ve made an effort to take on their project for them, even though you’re in demand.