How To Stay In Love With What You Do
I first wrote this piece in 2013 when I had been self employed for just over a year. 6 years on, and with it being Valentine’s Day, I decided it was time to revisit this really important subject. I’ll be honest and tell you that over the 6 years that I have been self employed, I’ve definitely had ‘why am I doing this?’ moments. That client that always pays late, the times I’ve had to pull a late one at the office, and don’t even get me started on the reaction I got at the bank when I asked for a mortgage… Everyone’s ups and downs in freelancing are different, but what’s important to know is that everyone has them.
Here are my 8 tips on how to stay in love with your business:
1.Congratulate yourself for what you’ve achieved already
We’re so used to being modest, putting ourselves down or having standards so high we rarely reach them, but by acting this way we’re dismissing the value of what we do. There are only so many days that anyone could stay motivated if they felt they were never doing enough or creating anything worthwhile. Combat it by losing the ‘only’, ‘just’, ‘but’s and ‘quite’s you use when you speak. E.g. Not ‘I do have a sort of website, but it’s not very good’ but ‘yes, I do have a website, would you like my card?’. Easier said than done? Yes, but it really does work, especially when meeting new people.
I also think it’s well worth taking some time once every couple of months or so to reflect on the recent progress in your business. You can do this in any way that you like, from updating your website with your latest experience, to sharing with your friends and family a portfolio piece you’ve recently completed. I know I’m lucky to have friends around me who remind me what I’ve achieved when all I can see is what have yet to.
2. Have a good working space
Having a good computer chair is a must for anyone working at a desk all day. If you can have some flowers, books or pictures that inspire you around then even better.
If you work from home, it can be really beneficial to mix it up by working in libraries, cafés and co-working spaces every now and then.
I also can’t recommend co-working spaces enough – I worked from home for 3 years before I began working in my current space in Peckham. I enjoyed both – and I still enjoy an occasional day working from home – but the benefits of shared spaces include motivation to work, and often, some good friendships too.
Wherever you’re working it’s important to take short walks for sunlight and fresh air to keep the grey matter ticking over. Now, this is one I used to be better at when I worked from home – the cabin fever would set in and I’d have to break out for a nice long walk. Often in an office environment freelancers take lunch at their desks, and it’s easy to follow suit for fear of seeming less productive. But do you ever notice that if you do stay in the office all day you feel a bit grouchy?
A break can also be a great way to ensure you give your own work a ‘second opinion’ to see you’re on the right lines and not wasting time on the wrong things.
3. Create the type of brand you always wanted to work for
If you are your own boss you have the freedom to create your dream company, and build something you’re proud of. Building a great brand won’t just make you more memorable and respected to clients; it will help you create the necessary distinction between your work and personal lives.
Even when you don’t feel a million dollars, your responsibility as your brand to communicate with your audience will keep your business afloat, and after some investment of time, your brand will bring you satisfaction in return.
You can’t do everything on the list all the time. If you do, the chances are you’re not doing everything to your best ability, or worse you’re not having a life at all or sleeping and eating well. This is a fast track to burning out and resenting your business, so instead look at your list and prioritise, simplify and delegate.
Don’t fall into a pit of tasks all on your own
To avoid feeling overwhelmed think ‘What’s the absolute vital thing I need to do by tomorrow’ and write a couple of simple ways you can get started on that task.
If you manage that before the end of the day, go back to the list and work through the next most urgent or important task. Also, network with people and try to build a ‘skill bank’ so you can outsource work to them where needed, and help each other.
5. Take time to do the thing you came into it for
If you’re a photographer, go take pictures. If you’re a designer, sketch. Just for yourself. I know how hard it can be to ‘justify’ this to yourself when you have a million things to do, but if you can dedicate half a day a month to practicing your craft or inspiring yourself (without taking notes) you’ll be keeping your passion active, which is essential for a successful and credible business.
Taking time out isn’t an indulgence, it’s an essential
A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts – Richard Branson
6. Have boundaries, and keep to them
Do you like to do Yoga every Wednesday afternoon? Do you prefer not to take work calls after 6pm, or do you spend time with your family every weekend?
Once in a while as a freelancer we may need to compromise these boundaries for particular jobs and projects, but it’s essential we don’t treat this time as an indulgence and let it get pushed out for any work duties. This time is what keeps you sane and is vital to your wellbeing.
It’s important to not feel guilty about enjoying the flexibility of your time.
Now, this is one that has taken me years to crack, and I’m still working on it. When I set up my consultancy, I felt I had to be available 9-5 Monday to Friday to appear professional; I then realised that 10-6 better suited me, and I worked to that for some years – always feeling incredibly guilty those mornings I got to my desk at 11.30, making myself stay till 7.30pm to compensate. The older I get, the more I realise that it doesn’t matter if you clock in and clock out at the same time every day, or even how many hours a day you work, so long as you get the work done. Nobody is checking your timecard!
Whichever hours you choose to work, as long as your customers know when and how to reach you can still build up a reputation of being reliable and professional.
7. Check in with yourself
If you are freelance but have more than one string to your bow, it can be hard to know which area to focus on. Marie Forleo calls in being a multipassionate entrepreneur, Emma Gannon calls it the multi-hyphen method while Emilie Wapnick coins it multipotentialite.
Whether you balance several skill sets, or you sometimes think you’d be happier getting a job with regular pay, you risk unhappiness if you try to ignore this feeling.
The big question I ask myself is ‘If I was doing something else, would I miss what I’m doing now’. If the answer is ‘yes, but not all of it’, then that can be a path to make some changes to improve your business, and while it’s confusing if it’s ‘no’, then at least you took some time to realise this so you don’t end up resenting your career.
8. Remember that if you muck up, even in a big way, that it’s ok.
The link between depression and anxiety and entrepreneurship is not coincidental. Even if you do not suffer these, you will have some days that are just a bit crummy, and that’s ok.
It often feels the case that entrepreneurs are sharing their insane schedules and crazy lives on social media, blessing their freedom to be successful, but for each of those high-flyer moments, there’s a freelancer working from home in joggers.
As entrepreneurs, we’re hardwired to be driven and it’s likely we’re perfectionists. While it’s great to work hard and aim high, we can often load too much pressure on ourselves, which increases our stress levels and can actually prevent us from adapting our ideas when we ought to. Trust me, I’m the worst.
“If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner – Tallulah Bankhead”
Don’t give up if you muck up! – Photo courtesy of Female Entrepreneur Association
If you do muck up, note what happened and reflect on why. Take time out to relax and recover, and don’t self chastise (there’s really no benefit in just beating yourself up, it doesn’t move you forwards). Remember that even if it’s a big muck up, it’s ok – tomorrow’s a new day and you can take steps to fix it.
Those are my tips – what do you think? Do you have any of your own tips to add?