Hey, freelance writer pal. I see you at your desk late night, juggling multiple projects, processing rejections, trying to figure out your rates, and feeling unsure whether you have what it takes.
I’ve been you, in fact. And I know what you’re going through. This stuff isn’t easy.
And I think most would agree that freelancers could all use a hug right now.
Our world is in a constant state of flux as inspiring signs change and terrifying threats seem to pop up in our news feeds multiple times per day. We’ve already chosen the path less traveled as a means of securing our livelihoods… so it’s possible you’re feeling more anxiety than ever.
Today, I’m inviting you to stop beating yourself up, turn down the panic dial, and embrace a few universal truths about freelancing.
I hope these will remind you to be easy on yourself—and even set you free from the constant second-guessing.
You are not a machine.
Contrary to the meme you just read about hustle and grind, you’re not a machine! You’re a human.
You have to take care of yourself the way you’d expect any caretaker to care for a human. You’re not the exception just because you’re you.
That means you can’t just drink an espresso and pull an all-nighter without the consequences creeping up to you.
And you can’t get your entire life and career together in a single “catch up weekend” after months of procrastination and being stretched too thin.
Whatever your goals might be, you’ll need to formulate your attack plan—and calibrate your expectations—based on your human needs. Not in spite of them.
That might mean adding extra lead time to projects, rejecting clients that stress you out, and adjusting policies to increase your quality of life.
It might also mean saying no to social obligations, postponing house keeping and at-home projects, or thinning out you to-do list to give yourself some breathing room.
And it definitely means eating well, getting ample sleep, and keeping tabs on your mental health through journaling, therapy, and whatever means you’ve decided to try.
You don’t need me to remind you that our work entails more than just delivering projects to clients. We also do our own marketing, lead generation and client vetting, project management, billing… the list goes on.
Most 9-5 employees can’t imagine all of the hats we wear. There are entire departments at most companies for things we single-handedly facilitate.
It’s reasonable and expected that you need mega doses of self-care to thrive as a freelancer, and no amount of hustle can replace that.
Nourish and love yourself first, so you, your clients—and everyone else in your life—get the best of you. Not what’s left of you.
“Self care is giving the world the best of you. Not what’s left of you.” —Katie Reed.
Open a Google doc or a new page in your notebook. List out all of the things you need to do next week. If you can’t even list them or feel overwhelmed at the very thought, it’s time for some change.
Go through your calendar and your to-do list and cross off items that are superfluous or that you’ve accepted out of guilt.
Highlight the things that are 100% crucial and non-negotiable.
Assess those in-between items. Can you delegate them to a virtual assistant? Can you batch the and complete them more efficiently? Can you repurpose similar work to fast track the process?
Imagine you were looking at a friend’s to-do list and helping them make sense of it. This can help you see things more objectively.
You’re allowed to have crappy, stay-in-bed days.
You’re 100% allowed to have days where you don’t want to get out of bed. And when they happen, you’re allowed to stay in bed.
You’re also allowed days where you don’t “love” your work—or when you’re downright sick of it.
You’re allowed to roll your eyes internally when friends say how lucky you are to be a freelancer. They might see the benefits without seeing the hard work you’re putting in.
And we can’t blame them, because to many, our lives are sort of a mystery! 😉 *Cue James Bond theme*
Any remote writer will tell you their life isn’t all about posting laptop-at-the-beach photos, even when they are literally posting laptop-at-the-beach photos.
Those who work from home know how tough that can be as well, especially with family members, pets, house work, and significant others in the vicinity.
As I mentioned above, we handle a lot on a weekly basis.
Even when we’re doing our best with self-care, the yin and yang of the universe means some days will be worse than others.
This doesn’t mean you’re inferior to the freelancers on your IG feed who seem to have it all together.
They have bad days, too. We all do!
I think it’s time to normalize bad days (like, really bad ones), validate them, and give them space when they happen.
While we’re #blessed to be freelancers for a multitude of reasons, this human experience of ours is messy and complex—see point #1—and that should be okay.
Expect bad days to happen.
When they do, don’t feel guilty.
It’s a valid head space to be in, and you shouldn’t be expected to snap your fingers and make it go away.
It might help to have a “bad day kit” prepared for perking yourself up (tea, uplifting podcasts, CBD oil?), but also, don’t be obsessed with perking up. We’re not supposed to be bright and bubbly every day of our lives.
If something is bothering you or you feel like crap, take some time to assess what’s wrong so you can understand the source of the issue.
Maybe you’re overwhelmed. Maybe a client rejection is still eating away at you and it’s time to officially let it go. Maybe you need to eat some damn vegetables.
Or maybe it’s something deeper and it’s time to reach out for some help.
You don’t have to document or make any kind of social media post about your bad day to explain why you’re not online.
Failing doesn’t make you a failure.
When was the last time you messed up communications with a client, got way too close to missing a deadline, or made a silly mistake that felt embarrassing?
I’ve done all of these this week. 😀
In the past, my blunders have been far more dramatic: I’ve missed deadlines and meetings entirely, had my phone overheat and die in the middle of negotiating a $20k contract, and plenty more.
Closer to the beginning of my career I lost dream opportunities with companies for not being up to par—and even actively sabotaging myself.
But you can bet all of these situations resulted in me pulling myself up off the floor and getting back on the horse, quick.
Nothing helps you see opportunities to improve quite like completely screwing up.
But see, that’s the cool thing about what we do. Freelancing is experimental in nature. A lot of mistakes and “failures” will occur, no matter how new or experienced you are.
We’re always doing new things and challenging ourselves, and it would be ridiculous to expect victory every time—maybe even a little boring.
You can think of your entire career as an active evolution of your skills and value. Don’t feel down on yourself when you inevitably mess up.
Instead, take it all in stride. Dust yourself off. Take notes on what you learned.
Each “failure” is actually helping you grow into a better freelancer and human in general.
You may have heard the phrase “fail fast, fail often”. It’s popular in the online entrepreneur space.
It alludes to this same idea that the more you screw up, the more opportunities you’ll have to learn—and thus, the faster you’ll grow.
This mentality is pretty bullet proof, as long as you translate “failure” to learning opportunities and don’t get caught up on being wrong.
You can actually do yourself a favor by taking more risks, taking on bigger challenges, and just making decisions more quickly… even if the result is that you mess up sometimes.
Practice leaving your ego at the door. Remind yourself that a failure is a chance to improve, and nothing more. It’s a neutral outcome.
The only reason you’re obsessed with not making mistakes is because your ego doesn’t like looking bad.
But your ego will keep you comfortable and stagnant if you let it run the show.
You know that email you’ve been meaning to send, but have been to nervous about?
Or that project that you’d need to learn a new skill to take on? Or that niche pivot you know is right, but feels like a risk?
Now is the time to go for it!
As long as you’re not jeopardizing a client’s business or being genuinely careless, get used to taking regular risks in your freelance career.
Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself and completely nail it—and other times, you’ll mess up and learn from it.
Comment below with one risk you plan to take this week!
You are brave AF.
Are you actually aware of how awesome you are?
Like, actually aware?
I’ve made the case many times that freelancing is actually more secure in the long-run than having a single 9-5 job that could be taken away at any moment… but that doesn’t mean freelancing is for the faint of heart.
In fact, freelancing requires a pretty intense level of bravery, along with the will to face down fears and advocate for oneself.
You’re living some folks’ dreams on a daily basis and juggling more each day than most can imagine. We touched on that above, but it is worth repeating!
You’re a trailblazer. No one has a road map, including you, but you’re doing it. You’re showing up each day, figuring this stuff out, and turning empty space into opportunity at every turn.
The fact that you’re even reading this post means you’ve shown up to fight for yourself and your career—and you’re doing it with grace and composure on top of that.
So, can I just tell you how proud I am of you?
Freelancing means trading in the generic workweek routine—one many of us were taught is the ultimate goal and mark of success—for a life that’s entirely self-directed.
We traded in what is sold to us as stability for a new kind of stable: one that relies on us as the nucleus, rather than us relying on a corporate entity.
So the next time you notice self-doubt creeping in, or you’re being mean to yourself in your mind, shut that inner-critic down. Reacquaint yourself with your inner badass.
Remember how brave you are for doing this in the first place. You deserve to be recognized.
Making mental shifts is tough, but this is one we all have to practice.
When you hear your inner voice talking you down or belittling your own efforts, catch those thoughts in their tracks.
Get in the habit of saying “Actually, I’m brave AF” instead—or whatever works for you. My mentors encouraged me to keep a journal and literally track when nasty self-defeating thoughts come in, in order to flip them into more positive ones.
I can see this method working extremely well for self-talk in this case, too.
Track your thoughts this week and don’t allow any nonsense about how you’re “not experienced enough”, “not good enough”, etc.
Come up with a self-celebratory phrase that you’ll recite in place of those thoughts instead.
You’ll find that it becomes second-nature to catch and cancel those low vibe thoughts after just a few days of tracking.
You are the captain of your own ship.
Finally, I want to touch on a point that is easy to forget when we’re in the midst of a whirlwind week, managing various projects, and buried in to-do list tasks.
You run this show, my friend.
If something isn’t working for you and it’s causing repeat bad days (or weeks, or months), you have the power to switch it up.
The trouble is, we’re all so used to answering to someone else that we forget we have this power at all.
We create circumstances at the beginning of our career and then we feel stuck when we outgrow them.
It’s kind of like moving into a new house and putting your furniture wherever. You tend to leave things where they are for no other reason than “this is how I first set it up!”
Then, life gets busy again and you have other things to focus on.
But is that setup really serving you, or is it actually not very convenient?
Think of your freelance business the same way. You don’t have to leave things “as is” because you arranged them a certain way at the beginning.
You’re allowed to change whatever you want. It’s your business.
You get to decide the experience you create, from your color palette to your offerings to the way people feel when they interact with you.
This also includes the way you feel when you’re working in your freelance business.
You likely started freelancing for a sense of freedom and jurisdiction over your own life, so why aren’t you utilizing that power?
Embrace the design of your own freelance experience.
You wake up every day and create your future, making you the most brilliant kind of artist.
And that is pretty damn cool.
Today, decide what needs to change.
Do you want Wednesdays off? Or to only take client calls on Tuesday mornings?
Do you want to stop working with mass market companies entirely? Or to start charging late fees on missed payments?
Do you want to stop writing about a niche that feels heavy and start writing about something light and fun?
Or stop writing about light fluffy products and focus on changing the world?!
Your need and wants are valid, and they should be reflected in your decision making when you’re setting up—and evolving—the way you work.
At the end of the day, it’s nothing short of miraculous what freelance writers can do.
Not only can they write, which is a coveted skill itself, but they also conceptualize their brands, execute project management, schedule appointments, close sales, create onboarding and training materials, update their own blogs and social media accounts… the list goes on.
Are you giving yourself enough credit today?
If not, get on board the self-love train! I salute you for all of the awesomeness you bring to the table each day.
If you need some guidance on how to take better care of yourself, I recommend checking out the final video of last year’s challenge in the Facebook group, Self-Care For Freelance Writers:
If you’re having a tough day/week/month, come to the Freelance Writing Cafe Facebook group and meet other freelancer writers who understand. We’ve got your back.
And don’t forget to jump on our mailing list below! We send out an uplifting newsletter for freelance writers (almost) every week.