“How I don’t stress working for myself!”
Guest submission: Ali Campbell, https://theresource.org.uk/
I could just as easily written an article that was titled, “How I DO stress working for myself!” . That happens when I forget to do three things that I have found incredibly helpful over the last four years since I began my freelance journey.
I was made redundant back in 2014. Honestly, it made me question what I had given my life to for the previous 25+ years. I asked some existential questions (I might have been asking these anyway at the age of 46, but they were sharpened as I took this leap of faith!). Who am I? What am I “for”? Can I make a difference? Am I “done”?
At the end of my first year working for myself I wrote up three rules which remain stuck above my laptop on my desk. I have found when I follow these three rules, I enjoy what I do and I’m more relaxed and confident. So, here they are:
Do What is in Front of You. The more I take on or try and do, the more I spread myself across multiple activities or jobs the more anxious and stressed I become. It is an east trap to fall in to - if I am to make this “work” I have to go after jobs and freelance contracts, I can’t just sit here and hope stuff lands in my lap! However, it is very rare I have NO work pending. IF I look at my inbox and do what is right there - this piece of work, for this person right now - I can get lost in the work, get focused on what the client wants, see the importance of what I am doing - it make such a difference to my mental state! I can’t work on stuff I’ve not been commissioned to do (yeah, I know - state the bloomin’ obvious). Also, what is in front of me takes me towards submitting an invoice! A scatter gun approach to three jobs at once slows up everything, my focus and attention gets divided and I don’t do any of it very well. So, my advice if you feel like this when you have multiple things happening - pick one, do what is in front of you right now. Finish it or complete a step and then move on to the next thing. On a very basic level this can equally apply to just getting through a day. On. Thing. At. A. Time.
Add Value. The more I focus on me and what I’m doing, the more worried I can get! I can start second guessing myself, “Have I done that right?” “Have I achieved anything today?” “Am I just a big ole’ fraud in this consultancy business - what If I’m found out?!” So, each day, I try to add value to others. I don’t do this with a view to getting anything in return - I do it because I can. The truth is we all have something of value we can do or say that builds up others, increases someone else awareness or knowledge. I have to say - I feel GREAt doing this. I praise competitors work, I recommend great resources and website I have come across - I do this “free” promotional stuff for others via my social media pages. I write articles and post them for free on my website. Does it cost me? Yes - the time I send doing this free stuff could be spent doing stuff I’m getting paid for. However, the sense of contributing and doing something meaningful is huge.
Have a think - how can you add value to others today? We all have something to say, some nugget of truth we have learnt along the way - whether by chance, through failure or some bloke sharing it in an article he wrote that we happened to read :-) This “adding value reminds me how blessed I am. I’m in a position to do this, I can choose to encourage others. Just a few minutes each day my mind and thoughts shift to what I can do for someone else and my own challenges and barriers fade from view - I also gain fresh perspective and come back to my own stuff re-invigorated.
Push Three Doors. OK. With this one, it doesn’t have to be three - it’s just what I aim for, this translates in my line of work as “three speculative enquiries”. That is, just putting myself out there in terms of where I might get some work and offering my services. Why do I do this? Well, it sits in tension with my first point - Do What is in Front of You - but it is healthy tension. Tension creates just enough stress to get us up in the morning and doing some work! The thought here with these three doors stems from this quote I once heard, I’m sorry to say I’ve forgotten who said it - but, it has come to mean a LOT to me. It is this, “don’t confuse the edge of your rut with the horizon.”
I just have to believe that there is more. More to life and living than I have yet to experience, more to work, more that will develop me and stretch me as a person. Sometimes this might be an anxious, nervous, tentative nudge of a door. Other times I’m hammering away! Whatever your “doors” might be, don’t allow others to define your limits and don’t allow your own fearful thoughts to limit your potential!
These might just work for me - doing what is in front of me, adding valuing and taking a risk with pushing a door or two. I do hope they might be an encouragement though - give ‘em a go.