On Vulnerability as a Freelancer
Last week I shared my predominant fear of working as a full-time freelance professional: judgement. This week, I'd like to share some thoughts on the vulnerability I've been feeling about this journey so far.
It has been one month since I began this agency, and there have been a few days where I didn't think very highly of what I have committed to do. I felt attacked, and this was almost fully emotional. It caused an internal schism of sorts, so while I felt delighted about having created a professional environment I could be whatever I wanted to be, I also felt uncertain about this path. I felt incredibly vulnerable to the possibility of complete and utter failure; which would lead to loss of respect from my peers, loss of the time and will I invested into this agency, and the loss of my sense of professional and personal worth. At this point, I have essentially put all of my eggs into this one basket, proudly called 'The Freelancing Quill', and I am honestly terrified of breaking all of them in one go.
Now, when I begin to think so negatively, I notice a pattern.
When there is turmoil of some kind, I often take to mulling things over mentally and performing non-intellectual tasks. I turn the fears, the frustrations, and the feelings of vulnerability over and over in my mind, simply thinking about them from every possible angle I can in that moment. Sometimes there are many sides to the problem, and at other times I am absolutely convinced that there is just the one. Whenever I write about them, speak them aloud to friends, or simply untangle them in my mind, I begin solving them. Just by accepting that there is an issue, and then tackling it internally, a solution becomes easier to unveil.
And, as I tell myself every day, that's alright. Being terrified of something has its uses. And in this case, my vulnerability about freelancing reminds me of three things in particular:
One: Everything really is inside my head.
At this point in my career, issues like creating a reliable client base, networking in the middle of a pandemic, talking about payments with clients, and managing my own digital presence alongside the various on-going projects all feel unsurmountable.
Not being able to perfectly manage everything and still make deadlines often leaves me feeling less than accomplished to keep moving forward. I twist my way into intellectualising my feelings and problems until they are all I can think about. I become a bit of an echo chamber for my troubles.
That's when I force myself to stop.
I hate to say it, but it works.
Mind over matter is real.
When I "stop" I generally do a few non-intellectual tasks to keep my hands busy. I have a small meal. I wash the dishes. I fold the laundry. I water the plants. I tidy. I refine the internal chaos into something useful. I create order.
Once I've created some order in the house, I notice a sense of internal calm. I notice that I have stepped back from the edge. I now have the frame of mind to look beyond what I see. Untangle those emotions. Assess the damage. Reschedule tasks. Look at the bigger picture. Breathe.
I find that I can trick my overly-self-aware mind into calming down by physically removing myself from the problem space. I can control how I think about the problems. I am capable of choosing calm over chaos.
Mind over matter is real.
This one took a bit of practice to accept, and I'm so glad I've had the time, space, and support to practice stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. Remembering this mantra has saved me from myself.
Two: I want to make this work
The second thing my feelings of vulnerability remind me of is that the work I do, each project I accept, and every client I work with are all my choice. I may not have had the best to choose from, but choose I did. And if I want to keep this agency going, I have to want to make it work.
Again, the 'mind over matter' mantra helps here.
There are days when I feel incredibly capable, motivated, and highly charged about projects. I draw as much energy as I can from the times when I'm creating new art, editing some inspired public health writing, or updating my website with new content, and I store it in a mental "barrel". And when there are days I have to remind myself that this work is worth fighting for, I visit my barrel of motivation to get some.
I created the professional environment I wanted to work in, and I created the professional identity TFQ stands for, so it is only natural that I have to be the one responsible for making it work. The motivation and energy to do so is sometimes hard to find, and there are days when I literally scrape the bottom of the barrel, but I have faith in this particular barrel. There always seems to be some leftover.
(Thanks, Mrs. Rose.)
Three: I'm going in the right direction
The third reminder my vulnerability presents is a sense of direction, but more importantly, a sense of belonging. Over the past month, having faced multiple rejections, a dwindling sense of self-worth, and choosing to be brave enough to strike out on my own, I feel the pride and purpose that comes with forging one's own path.
Now, I know it's not a new path in general. Lots of people have started their own small businesses founded on their creativity and have become incredibly successful. What I'm doing is new for me, and having people who have done similar things serve as a resource rather than a roadmap. My current collaborations with other entrepreneurs are teaching me how to be one myself, they've warned me of rookie mistakes, and given me opportunities to prove myself.
My mother often quotes Rumi, saying "What you seek is seeking you."
This has turned out to be true at every turn. The experience I need, the impact I want to make in the world, and the skills I want to improve are all manifesting themselves as I ask the universe for them. Like calls to like.
The dots are connecting, the universe is granting my every wish, and there is a certain magic to the air around me. Right now, as the founder of The Freelancing Quill, I am living my best life surrounded by people who support my work. I am an editor, a writer, a creator, an entrepreneur, and a human being with potential to keep serving the people around me with the skills I've developed so far. Who knows what good things are yet to come out of this endeavour?
This brings us to the end of my three-part mini-series on three emotions I have faced as a full-time freelance professional. To everyone reading this post - and this weekly blog - I like this journey I'm on, and I hope to keep sharing it with you. Thank you for bearing witness to my words.
If you liked this post, and the others you've read, please consider sharing my work and the skills I offer with people who might be interested.
See you next week!