Last time in “Waiting for Work” I talked about how downtime between jobs can be detrimental to your business, depending on how you decide to ride the waves of the freelancing life, and how self-fulfilling prophesy plays a larger part in our lives than we’d like to think. (Ironic.) The truth is:
We have far more control over everything than we think we do, simply by the power of our minds and intentions!
As a follow up to that article, I’d like to offer these
4 Suggestions to Finding Freelance Happiness
1. Remove the Angst.
First, remove the [negative] self-prophesying from your life. Stop dreading the client hunt. Stop hating the gaps where you don’t have work.
Stop the cycle of negativity surrounding your experience as a freelancer. The sooner you do this, the sooner you’ll come to actually enjoy the quiet (see #4).
2. Have a plan for your portfolio, and keep it clean.
One of my favorite books is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. (Okay. I lie. It’s my absolute favorite. I actually have three different copies of it. #forshame) I have a not-so-secret crush on red-haired architect Howard Roark. Admittedly, he’d make an awful IRL boyfriend (what a selfish, work-absorbed jerk!) So why do I love him so much? Because, like honey badger, Roark don’t give a sh*t.
One of the most famed quotes from Roark should be the mantra of many a freelancer:
“I don’t build in order to have clients. I have clients in order to build.”
Before I met Roark, I was a lost 10th grader who was trying to fit in. I felt an overwhelming sense of obligation. I hate obligation. Feeling obligated all the time actually put me in a deeply depressed and anxious funk. I was miserable, and my family couldn’t figure out why. Turns out, obligation hits harder on Creatives (remember: being a Creative is different than simply having creativity) and I felt like the obligation was literally eating me alive.
Then here was this character, Howard Roark, who basically said, “Screw you and your obligations and ideas about who I should be [as an architect]. I don’t care. I’m doing what I want to do, because this [designing buildings] is what I was made to do!”
Roark is the epitomal hero of all freelancers, or at least I think he should be. Sure, he’s poor sometimes. Sure, he struggles. But he never gives in to the angst of negative thinking. He always believes in his God-given destiny: To build, and to build the way he was made to.
Roark ends up being a very successful and strongly sought-after architect, designing buildings that awe the masses. More importantly, Roark ends up happier than his adversaries, other architects who gave in to obligation and expectations and built buildings they not only didn’t like, but didn’t believe in and even downright hated.
That’s why MOI doesn’t take on projects we don’t believe in. It guarantees we’ll do our best job, every time, and be damn proud of the end result, every time. If I don’t believe in your goal, your project, I won’t do it. Period.
I learned about professional regret the hard way after taking on jobs in desperation in the beginning of MOI’s life. I didn’t like the projects and didn’t like the results. Even now thinking of them leaves a bad taste in my mouth and, the worst part? The jobs didn’t even pay well. There was very little value to the work, and almost zero money. I feel like those jobs have dirtied my portfolio, and all because I didn’t stick with believing I’d find jobs that I believed in.
In short: It isn’t worth it to take a job you don’t believe in.
3. Have a Filler Ready.
There are guaranteed to be times when there is no work on the table. Though the thought of no income can be frustrating, it is not the end-all. While you should be taking this time to seek new contracts, you can’t do that all day long, every day. You’ll burn out!
So, have a filler at the ready to occupy these moments.
Distract yourself from stressing out over the “no work” mantra in your head with other work-related projects. They could be personal projects that you’ve been wanting to get to for a while that would be beneficial to your career (e.g. finishing writing your novel), or other investments into your business that you didn’t have time for before (e.g. taking a class on accounting or a graphic design course).
Though I have many (MANY!) projects that I love to get into, I often use Textbroker.com as a filler because I do have monthly bills that need paying. Even though I don’t earn much, at least I’m (1) bringing some cash flow in as well as (2) maintaining my “writing muscles” by continuing to practice and challenge my craft.
4. Enjoy the Quiet.
Finally, learn to enjoy these quiet moments with personal, non-work projects and hobbies. Consider them vacations and opportunities to reconnect with yourself as a person, because sometimes we can lose ourselves to the identity we adapt when we’re constantly working.
Ironically, I’ve found that it’s when I let my guard down, relax into a quiet moment, and stop worrying about what’s next, that I’m contacted by clients — either repeat customers or new ones entirely — about potential work. And I didn’t even have to fish for them!
In conclusion, don’t fret about those down times when you’re waiting for work. I’m not going to say “enjoy them,” but I will say learn to neutralize negative self-prophesy by adapting to those quiet times and accepting that they happen to even the best freelancers.
Like Howard Roark.
Thoughts? Suggestions of your own? Please share in the comments!