4 things I learnt during the first 2 months of my journey - or how to survive as a freelancer.
It’s been two months since I stopped working for my old company and started the journey of figuring out what I really want to do. And I’m not going to lie: These first two months were not easy. They were everything - exhilarating, joyful, depressing, scary, full of ups and downs and doubt and wonder and magic. But they were not easy.
If you’re thinking of taking the leap, of leaving your old job or if you’ve embarked on a similar journey involuntarily, this might be scary to hear. But fear not - there are a couple of things that I learnt that help with pushing through these first months, and I hope they might help you, too:
1. Surround yourself with inspirational and, most importantly, supportive people.
I’m sure you know the saying “you become the average of the five people you spend most time with”, right? Well, I believe it’s pretty accurate. We can’t help it - we’re all influenced by our surroundings, and if these surroundings are suffocating, not creative, and bring us down, that’s not good. So think about who you enjoy spending time with. Who are the people that make you feel inspired, that you’re looking forward to see for the next dinner date, where a two hour planned date turns into a six hour conversation? Spend more time with them.
There’s a second aspect to this - choose to surround yourself with supportive people. You know these people who react sceptically to almost everything you say? Don’t spend time with them.
Instead, think about who your cheerleaders are. Who are the people that get all excited when you tell them about your dream of opening a knitting shop or traveling the world? Who are the ones who have crazy ideas and are not afraid to share them with you?
I’m so lucky that I have an incredible partner who is my biggest cheerleader, and an amazing group of friends who support me, and I’m sure you have these people in your life as well. Call them up. Invite them over for coffee. Make sure you spend as much time with them as possible. And if you’re looking for someone to bounce ideas off - go to them, not to the ones that give you that gut-wrenching feeling of “Ohhh… maybe I’m too crazy. Maybe this is really too ambitious. Maybe this journey was a bad idea.” (Btw, Elizabeth Gilbert has an excellent Facebook post on this topic that you can find here.)
2. Follow your instincts & review regularly.
Your instincts told you to go on this journey, so you can also trust it to guide you through. This is especially important when you suddenly need to fill long, empty hours that were previously occupied with meetings 😉 For the first couple of weeks, I just gave in to whatever I wanted to do right now. Sometimes that was going out and buying watercolors, sometimes that was sending five cold emails to companies I’d like to work with for my new consulting business.
If you follow your instincts, you will end up doing lots and lots of different things and you will soon get a feeling for what really makes you happy, and what only costs you energy. This is an amazing starting point because you can take all this information and adjust!
To get the most out of it, reflect on what made you happy of all the things you did and do more of it. It really helps me to have a regular check in for reviewing what I did during the last weeks and what I enjoyed most about it.
Currently, I’m doing two things to give my reviews some structure (maybe they help you, too!):
- I started writing a bit about my day every night - sometimes just one sentence, sometimes a page or two - to get the thoughts out of my head. Every night, I look back at the entries of the previous days.
- I will also get back into doing Monthly Reviews, based on this Buffer article (scroll down to 4. for the relevant part) that I’ll adjust a bit to include reviewing my habits, how happy I was, and how I ate during the last month. I used to do them last year and really liked it. Good inspiration for Monthly Reviews are also Belle Beth Cooper’s reviews that she published last year here.
3. Give your day (especially the morning!) some structure.
I’m not a big fan of the word “rituals” and I feel that there were a thousand articles published last year on everyone’s morning routine / evening routine / bed time routine / teeth brushing routine. But! After sleeping in for two weeks, spending my time alternating between Netflix, knitting, short productive aka panicking bursts at my laptop and sleeping, I got bored. And restless. And anxious.
So I forced myself to get back into a couple of morning habits: Getting up early, working out (Pop Pilates FTW!), a short meditation withHeadspace, COFFEE and breakfast and Instagram, and then work. Work now is very different from day to day - can be going to a client’s office, can be writing a first draft of a blog post, or it can be sitting down and sewing a couple of bags.
Starting my day with this type of structure helps me to not get into the slump of “Oh, I’m a freelancer now, I can just … watch 5 more episodes of Scandal” and it makes me happy because I’m actually DOING something with my day. Everyone is different - maybe you don’t like working out in the morning, or maybe you’d rather read a good book or TechCrunch for breakfast. Figure out which structure fits your morning best and then stick to it for a bit. Make changes where necessary.
4. Cut yourself some slack and BREATHE.
When you’re on a similar journey, you will get to the point where you’re like “OH MY GOD WHAT WAS I THINKING” and / or “How did I ever think I could do this” and / or “Everyone else has her shit together, and I feel like a total fraud”. At least that’s what happened to me. This is normal. And you will get through this. It’s okay to be down - you will get back up.
Trust yourself. Explore what gets you out of that funk - maybe it’s meeting a really good friend for coffee, or sitting down with a good book, or just exercising until you pass out on the gym floor. Try something. If it doesn’t work, try the next thing. And if nothing helps, breathe. Three times, deep. Makes everything better 😃 It's okay to not have everything figured out. No one has, really.