Here are just a few of the things I love about October:
- People around these parts get very into their Halloween decorations, so walking around the neighborhood becomes an exercise in spotting giant cobwebs, silly skeletons, and ominous tombstones.
- It tends to be one of the warmer months of the year where our resident fog, Karl, skulks away after subjecting us to his gloomy presence all summer.
- It marks my anniversary of leaving my last full-time job and beginning my journey of freelancing/solopreneurship!
Yes, back in October 2017 I ventured out on my own, so this month marks my two-year anniversary of working for myself.
Last year I don’t recall doing anything in particular (oops!), but this year I’d like to take a moment to share some of my observations and experiences. What have I learned so far? This is mostly an exercise in self-reflection, but I hope it might also come in handy for anyone else who is freelancing, thinking about freelancing, or just curious about what it can be like.
Try to maintain a mindset of abundance
If you’d asked me what my biggest fear about freelancing was before I started, I would have said something along the lines of, “the instability of not having a regular paycheck.” Luckily, right before I left my last job, I was chatting with another freelancer who made a remark that stuck with me: “There’s plenty of work.” This simple statement is a great reminder to maintain a mindset of abundance. Rather than stressing about where my next client or project is going to come from (although, let’s be honest, I do do that sometimes!), I find it helpful to remind myself that there is plenty of work out there.
This also reminds me of something Vanessa Van Edwards said during her talk at World Domination Summit back in 2017: “Worrying is not an investment in failure prevention.” It’s so true! Just worrying about something isn’t going to prevent it from happening.
So, as much as possible, I try to embody Jerry Seinfeld’s “even Steven” mentality. If I wrap up with one client or project, I try to have faith that another one is right around the corner. And so far, that’s always been the case. I won’t say that I’ve completely mastered having an abundance mindset, but it’s something I’m always striving for, and would recommend that other freelancers do the same.
Find your people
Some people freak out at the idea of working on their own at home all the time.
I am not one of those people.
When I worked in offices, I generally found them distracting. The noise and activity made it hard for me to concentrate, and as an introvert, I also found it sapped my energy to be surrounded by people all the time. Oh, and while I like listening to music while I work, there’s hardly a topic as controversial in the modern workplace as agreeing on a Pandora station or Spotify playlist.
So for me, working from home is heavenly. It’s calm and quiet. When there’s music playing, it’s my own selection. And I like having my kitty Ebisu hang out nearby while I’m at my desk. As much as cool startups have adopted dog-friendly policies, I have yet to see an office where cats are welcome…
But I still need other people in my life. I’m not a complete hermit! I’ve found it’s very helpful to engage in various types of socializing. Here are a few tactics that have worked for me:
- Going to Zumba, yoga, and other dance classes at my local studio. This is a great way to ensure I add structure to my day (hello, clear start and end points for work time!), get out of the house at least once, do something active, and socialize at least a little bit with other humans.
- I’ve written before about the lovely ladies from my Boss Lady Mastermind. We do a Google Hangout every other week for an hour to talk about what’s going on with our businesses, offer each other support and advice, and just generally socialize. We also meet up occasionally in person and it’s super fun.
- I started volunteering with CreativeMornings earlier this year, and it’s been an awesome community to be a part of. We have our monthly events (definitely check to see if you have one in your area), which tend to be really inspiring and attract a great group of people. And we also have a Slack channel where we don’t just coordinate the details of upcoming events, but also share other cool happenings, job openings, or random stuff from the internet. It’s a good virtual approximation of a water cooler.
Balance routine & novelty
This one is admittedly tricky.
In many ways, I like routine and I find that it’s helpful to have a general sense of what my days will look like.
I know that I like to do my mental heavy lifting first thing in the morning, so I try to get up early and get my most difficult tasks (generally straight-up writing) done first thing. I know that afternoons are when my energy dips, so I like to go for a walk and/or spend time on less mentally taxing tasks.
But following the same pattern, in the same place, day after day?
Sometimes it can get a bit repetitive.
This is why I look for ways to add novelty. For me, this often involves travel. I get so excited and inspired when I’m in a new location. One of my big motivators for going freelance was having the ability to travel often and bring my work on the road with me.
This year, I went to Thailand, Vancouver, Bali, Singapore, Japan, Colorado, New York, Boston, Montréal, and LA (I may have forgotten one or two places, but that’s a quick rundown). I worked out of cafés, coworking spaces, Airbnbs, hotels, and airport lounges. I think it’s safe to say that I had plenty of novelty in my surroundings.
But there’s also such a thing as too much novelty. I “learned” this in September, when I went to Boston, Montréal, LA, and Vancouver all between the first and last day of the month. I started out strong, but all the travel took its toll and by the end of the month, I was fried.
Of course, novelty doesn’t have to only come from travel. It can come from breaking up the routine in some way, like trying a new class, meeting a friend for lunch, or going to a workshop or event.
It’s just helpful to be aware of those competing needs and look for ways to ensure they both get tended to.
So there you have it. A few of the ways that I’ve been making it work as a freelancer these past two years. I’d love to hear from you—if you’re a freelancer, do you have any tips or pointers for others? Is there anything I haven’t covered that you’re still curious about? Let me know and I can address it in a future post.
And I like the idea of making this an annual tradition, so expect another update from me in October 2020!