Freedom is a defining feature of freelancing. Freelancers, startup captains and small business owners regularly say to me about their decision is driven by the desire to obtain freedom. Yet so many of these brave self starters end up 12 to 36 months down the track feeling drained, hurt and confused by the process.
The promise of freedom subsides and gives way to away to a harsher reality. That of long hours, thankless work, the exhausting process of making every small decision coupled with uncertainty. Uncertainty about when the work will transform into the perceived process, the chasing of bills to make ends meet, the self doubt and the lack of understanding from family, friends and the community at large begin to take its toll.
So how can you enjoy your work when responsibility is never-ending, and reward is thin on the ground?
Here’s a few overlooked ways to enjoy your work more when you’re freelancing
Have a finish line
The art of finishing is a restorative act. Knowing that something is finally done and dusted and unlikely to pop up on the radar for the time being is a source of joy. That sense of completion and achievement is a wonderful reminder of work done well.
You’d think with each passing project, client and demand, there would be a multitude of finish lines available to you. And it does. But the issue appears to be that we rarely stop to notice. Instead, there is always more work to be done. It clouds the ability to clear the decks and breathe.
Where are the moments where you get to clean out your desk or attend to niggly assignments? Where boredom, such a vital part of our thinking and imagination, can roam?
Having a finish line allows us much needed reflection. It gives us an opportunity to take stock.
But how do you get to have that sense of completion?
Drop the busyness act
What I find telling in the world of self employment is the amount of people that are invested in bravery myths. The whole “work hard or go home” idea has really become a catch-cry in business.
As clever clogs Brook McCarthy said to me recently, ‘the protestant work ethic is alive and kicking in the new age.’
It’s as though we’ve decided that heaven awaits those that work hard and allow work to consume them. The rest? Well, I guess we stand outside the gates without getting a look in.
The truth is this is complete crap. Innovators, smart thinkers and productive people do not allow their world to become an infinite expanse of work. They don’t fill their lives with work to the point where they are completely soaked. Even hard-working dudes with credibility to show such as Gary Vee or Richard Branson also speak about their spare time.
What they share is that they are in the moment. Doing a deal or being at the baseball, designing a new venture or kite-surfing, they are firmly rooted in the now.
Busyness doesn’t allow you to reach the now at all. It simply pulls reminds you of everything you are not completing. It doesn’t allow you the opportunity to reflect or activate self-care, two vital components to providing the resilience needed to rise to the challenge of business. It doesn’t allow for the fertile moments where ideas brow from daydreaming, boredom and quiet moments where the brain happily explores.
Busyness is “here’s my excuse for being stressed, tired and drawn.” And it’s not even a very good one.
The irony is that while we praise the busyness on a personal level, it’s the art of finishing we admire. It’s being able to complete things that are amazing and world-changing. We want ideas that are brimming with imagination and potential.
How nuts is that?
Recognise the cure-all is a money maker
“Download my 57 tips to be the best designer ever!” and “Learn how to make 6 figure incomes in 5 minutes” abound on the internet. You can’t skate past Facebook ads if you’re in self employment or startup for some curious vine trying to pull you towards the business promised land.
So-called maverick marketers are even using the whole “I downloaded them all and they sucked. From here, I developed my own 6-point business plan…” as the next level of how to ace business.
Gosh, I’d love to give you a checklist and send you on your merry way, but here’s the truth of the matter:
- Business is not easy.
- Marketing doesn’t work like a checklist.
- You must solve a problem for your customers to retain customers instead of looking hot on Instagram.
If you look at people like Austin Kleon, Ann Friedman and Steven Pressfield, those guys make decent scratch and cool work. They do it without drinking up every ounce of public admiration as though it’s milk in front of a hungry kitten.
While everyone is intent on telling you how you can sell more and be more, they are asking you to be more like them. They want your affirmation they are on the right track. And they want your money. Because if you buy in on the mythology that they have it all figured out, you’ll gladly part with your money to make them sell more and be more.
What you must be is smart enough to zig while the others zag. Don’t be the person that’s up to their 14th course or 6th day seminar. Find a better way.
Your freelancing adventure, your way
Isn’t part of the reason you jumped on this train to be able to choose your own adventure? Whether you were pushed by a bad boss or a broken system, needed to find a way to balance life and work or wanted to make more money, this is about your adventure.
Why then should it always become a case where freelancing starts to become another form od dictatorship? Working too much and making work the only thing you have isn’t sustainable strategy. Nor is playing the game that says you must be seen to be doing to qualify as worthwhile.
You can’t race longer, harder and with the colour-by-numbers map to the finish line. There will always be more to do, more to see and other ways to skin the cat.
What you can and do have control over in freelancing is often limited. You still must deal with antagonism from people. You aren’t suddenly divorced from having to play nice or do the work you don’t want to do. And there is no special rainbow to the land of riches and fame.
When you choose freelancing, you choose extra work, extra responsibility and more kicks in the teeth than most. What you can influence though is the enjoyment you receive from your work.
And that begins with putting down the rule book and ripping off the layers of normalising appearance. Carve out some time to invent the sort of working life you’d like instead of being saddled with it. Think creatively about who you are and teach yourself to stand out from the crowd.
Reinvent the business game on your terms and be interested, intrigued and invited to the better working gigs in the process.