It’s important to remind yourself of what you’re doing and why
We’ve all been there. You’ve managed to get out for a well-earned post-work, post-deadline drink, but the friends you meet up with are all in permanent, safe, jobs and hanging out with them leaves you feeling more stressed than before.
One has just been on a staff away day that involved a fancy dinner and trip out of town, paid for by the company of course. The other just returned from a blissful two-week paid holiday, their laptop decidedly left at home. They also know exactly how much they’ll be paid next month, which seems crazy to you.
Whatever it is, you walk away questioning your entire career and life choices.
When you’re freelance it can be hard to relate to friends who are fully ensconced in permanent jobs. Your peers in jobs are, after all, having a completely different experience of work-life to you. But it’s easy to forget there are pros and cons to everything.
In these situations, I would suggest taking some time to step back and get your freelance fear in perspective.
1) What’s really happening here?
It’s important to try and get some perspective on where these feelings are coming from. Did you have a bad day or been dealing with an unusually tricky client?
You may have momentarily forgotten that only last week you were riding high on a freelance win.
Maybe a client told you how brilliant it was to work with you. Maybe an article of yours was published that you were really proud of.
Freelancing is a rollercoaster. So it’s important to separate a bad day from a bad few months in your mind. Only the latter might be a sign that you need to make some big changes.
It’s also hard when you don’t have a boss to give you a performance review and a pat on the back, so try to write down or otherwise reflect on the things you’re proud of. It will help you in times when you’re focusing on the negative and generally feel under-appreciated.
Another way of doing this is to remind yourself of the projects you’ve enjoyed that you maybe couldn’t have done if you were chained to a 9-5.
2) Create space for career development
When it comes down to it, your staff card-carrying mates probably don’t enjoy their employer-enforced organised fun ‘perks’ all that much anyway. Awaydays, team-building, dinners, and the like.
However, something more substantive that you are probably missing out on as a freelancer is a sense of career progression and workplace training.
And dealing with that is tough, especially when you’re so focused on putting one foot in front of the other and making rent.
But if you can, try to dedicate a day to researching how you can build something similar to your work-life. What are your goals for 2020? What contacts do you need to make to get access to more interesting work? What kind of income would you like to have in a year’s time?
Perhaps you could take yourself out of your usual setting, even if it’s just working from a different cafe or co-working space. Use that time to sketch out what you’ve done and where you are headed. Thinking about your goals will help make you feel more grounded and confident about your career.
Part of that could be looking into training opportunities – does your union hold training that you could use to up-skill? Or other industry bodies? With 15% of the UK workforce now self-employed, I doubt you’ll be short of options once you start looking at what is out there.
3) Get some freelance friends!
I’m not suggesting you place a total ban on hanging out with your mates with normal jobs, but it’s really really helpful to hang out with people in the same situation as you too every now and again.
It’s a bit of a freelance conundrum because, of course, you don’t really have colleagues. Finding some takes more effort, but it’s definitely not impossible.
By taking a bit of initiative and heading out to freelance events, like UnderPinned’s Freelance Fridays, joining social media groups and being a bit gutsy about reaching out, you’ll soon find some decent co-conspirators. And I can’t stress enough how much knowing other freelance writers has improved my experience of work.
Having someone to both complain to and celebrate the good times with is so important. And it’s useful to be part of a professional community for other reasons too – it’s a source of information, advice and potential work leads. Compared to working in traditional offices, I’ve found that fellow freelancers are remarkably community-spirited, rather than being competitive. So don’t be afraid to reach out.
4) Mix up your routine
Finally, have a think about what you can do that will put the spring back in your freelancer step.
Is there a trip you’ve always wanted to make that you could figure out a way of doing as part of your work? I’m referring to things like signing a client in another country so you have an excuse to visit that place, working a particularly exciting event, or, if you’re a journalist, doing some foreign reporting…
Even if it doesn’t involve some major excursion. It could be something as simple as making your home-office/workspace look more appealing (and Instagramming your designs for likes).
One of the benefits of freelancing is variety. So if you’re getting bored, it’s likely way easier for you than it is for permanent staffers to explore areas of work that are adjacent but slightly outside your current skill set.
As well as being great for you and your personal growth, doing some of that stuff will give you something to show off about the next time you’re catching up with your employed pals too. Which isn’t the most important thing, just a nice bonus.
Want to meet like-minded people, grow your freelance network and see what your peers are up to? UnderPinned’s Virtual Office is the perfect tool to help you build and manage your career.