Freelance Rough Patches: Surviving and thriving when things aren't going so well
Updated: Nov 15, 2022
This post is about something more positive! It's about how to navigate, survive and thrive when you are going through one of those freelance rough patches.
Because if there's one thing I've learned in all my years of freelancing, it's not to 'give in'. Instead, I am learning to be resilient to the changes and curveballs freelance life throws at me, to work with them, and learn from them.
A freelance rough patch can be anything from that aforementioned ghosting, to losing a client, not securing a client after a pitch, through to loneliness, isolation and not having any money coming in. Add in the current cost of living crisis in the UK, and freelance life could be pretty bleak right now. It is so far from the glossy, shiny 'freedom' that freelancing first beckons with when we decide to make the leap that it's scary and confusing.
Just like a relationship, there will always be ups and downs. So I am sharing what has worked for me recently while navigating a rough patch:
Scroll, scroll, then go OUT!
I am prone to 'doom scrolling', and to say 'stop scrolling' is often futile. What's better is, I think, doing some of the scrolling then saying 'enough' and walking away. I am a fan, as you know, of unfollowing accounts which make you feel less than positive, but that sometimes just makes space for more noise from other people. The best thing to do is not scroll. If you can't resist, why not try an app that times your social media use? Go for a walk without your phone, or do some sport where you can't have it with you. For me, that's swimming, and I am SO excited the local lido opens again for the summer season next week!
Open up to a freelance friend
This is about more than sharing or talking. Be honest, be open, be raw. Say 'I'm not coping', and explain what you're feeling. Find someone who can lend a friendly ear, who can say they get it, too. Voice notes are ideal for this, as you can show them more of how you're feeling through your tone of voice.
This can be more challenging, but it's something I'm trying to embrace as events open up again. I've signed up to a local event with Business Buzz, as well as an evening meet up for a group called Women in Journalism. Am I nervous? Of course! But... I have to do something other than network online, something other than talk about what I do into the void of social media.
What? That's a bit negative isn't it? I love a good cry. And, when things aren't going right, it can be very cathartic. So if the tears feel like they're coming, don't resist. One thing I know for sure is I used to cry way more when I was in 'staff' jobs because I wanted to escape!
Reach out to communities
I've extolled the virtues of freelance communities before, but this is a step further. This is about joining in. Not lurking, or liking, but posting - saying 'hello', introducing yourself and saying 'I feel a bit meh - help!'. I guarantee you'll get waves of support! I'm compiling a list of groups and resources for this site, so watch this space.
You thought I might say indulge yourself, didn't you? And yes, OK, as I write it is hot cross bun 'season' - my kryptonite. However, eating unhealthily and mindlessly is not good for body or soul. Feeding ourselves with the things we love is - cook your favourite meal, take time over planning and serving it. You have more time on your hands - use it to create wonderful fuel for when things get busy again.
OK, so things are hard. They're challenging. There might have been tears. But the biggest thing you can do is make plans that could change things. I have struggled to come through the down days and make positive plans, but it's all about what you can control. Making a plan to bring back the podcast (it's been on hiatus) while waiting for a possible client to say yes or no has helped me focus and reignited my love for the pod! On a particularly quiet day, I dared to sit an online exam for a coaching accreditation (which I passed!).
You might not make such big plans or leaps, or you might surprise yourself. But even planning to email some new contacts, or making a list of them, sprucing up your social media/LinkedIn or CV can help.
Well I would say that, right?! Not always! Coaching is not for everyone, but for some people it can really help bring clarity, confidence and, with group coaching, new connections. That's the aim with Relight Your Freelance Fire, which begins in May, runs for 4 weeks and includes a CV audit (where we work on your shiny version of your CV for you as a freelancer), a one on one coaching session, email mentoring and group coaching sessions.
Want to know more? Click through to the 'coaching' page and fill out the short form to get in touch. I'd love to hear from you!