6 lessons learned from 6 months into “free”-dom
My last post, was titled “I quit”. Because that’s what I did, half a year ago. Which is also, why I have not produced any more posts.
No time. Time is money.
This week I had my first major breakdown, since starting my own thing. Just right after my 31st birthday. It’s the end of the year 2019. Budgets are tight. Contracts are not being renewed. Working from home can be a bitch. Up’s and down’s are normal. But this week I felt like crashing into reality.
Is freelancing after all not the right thing for me?!
Ok, so here is a short summary of the main things I faced and dealt with over the last 6 months.
1. Was it the right decision?!
Yes, a classic one, I guess. So here is the thing. When you start considering freelancing you focus mainly, mainly on the good things, that you currently DON´T have. That’s what I did. More free time, more flexibility, more autonomy, no more bosses to bitch you around.
Yes, that is all right. BUT also, less time with people you enjoy working with, you don’t have a real team, you have clients. And some can be annoying. You are the first cost when it comes down to reducing the budget. If you felt like being treated like a figure in a company, now you really experience what it means to be a red number at the end of the month. If you don’t deliver you are out. Finito. End of the show.
I watched the matrix the other day. And sometimes it feels like wanting to go back into the matrix. Wanting to form part of something, even if it’s artificial, but it feels soooo real.
So, lesson one: it’s normal to question if that was the right choice you made. I had my reasons, and when thinking back, I don’t regret it! Because the gains outweigh the pains :-).
2. Setting boundaries
It’s not how much you work. It’s how much you rest.
Something I was forced to learn after onboarding, my 5th client. When I started to work on Saturdays, then on Sundays, then at night times.
Booooom. I became grumpy, I was exhausted. I had less time than before. And then I said, wait a minute. Wasn’t one of the reasons for freelancing because I wanted to have more free time?! Arghhh, so forcing yourself to not check your emails, not respond to your clients on slack, not to finish this one task on a Saturday afternoon.
But it’s a learning process. I still sometimes work on the weekends, but I try to not make a rule out of it. Just consciously choosing to add more moments of relaxing into my day to day. Like a nice siesta :-).
3. New day, new client.
Some of my clients just knocked on my door. A colleague I had worked with asking for some help. Another one referred me to a new startup. Usually, unexpected emails, slacks, that are like “oh” that’s cool.
Seeing that even when you keep loosing old clients, new ones will appear (sometimes out of nowhere). I guess, you should not 100% rely on those types of new opportunities, but just have that extra faith that things will turn out well if you just keep going.
4. Cuatro: Working from home SUCKS
Yes. And I was a huge defender of remote work. Until you do it almost every day. The dishwasher becomes a bigger relationship problem than the pickiest client. Your 4 walls seem like a lonely fortress. Ok, that is, of course, speaking of my personal experience. But seriously, I started to feel this engulfment already after 1 month. I love hanging out with people at the coffee place, or even with the smokers as a non-smoker because that’s where the best gossip happens. Or just exchange a stupid joke in the hallway with someone from another department, you got to know at the last teambuilding.
What’s the solution? Going to a coworking space, connecting again with others. Even though it’s not really the same. So that’s why I decided to create my own team. It’s work in progress, but if you can`t go to the moon, bring the moon to you, or sth like that.
5. Cinque: Cutting down the bullshit.
We tend, and I say “we”, as a human species, because I have seen it so many times with myself and others.
We tend to look for the source of our unhappiness OUTSIDE. The job, the team, the boss, the boyfriend, the 5 kilos extra, the, the, the. And of course, as a freelancer, I did exactly that. Why I’m I feeling depressed right now? Oh, it must be the freelancing. If I only go back to a company than I’m happy again.
No! It’s the fucking mind, playing games with us. Again. I fell into its trap already way too often. So, no mind games. If I feel downhearted it´s not the freelancing, it’s because I have an issue with not liking the unknown, not liking to be alone, not liking to deal with the raw exposure to myself. That’s what is going on. So rather than escaping again from this utterly uncomfortable situation, I will take the opportunity, with courage, same as I did when I quit, and I will start loving that “me” that at some point felt very vulnerable and started to protect itself with masks and all sorts of stories, of who I was supposed to be, become, and beyond.
Prou. As would the Catalans say. Stop. Take ownership of your life. No excuses. And walk the way with grace and joy. Facing your very own exquisite rawness.
6. Six. Become your own company
This last point is equally important as the rest, but maybe a little bit more :-). So, there is this cliche about freelancing: become your own project manager. I think it’s a slight understatement.
I would rather define it as: become your own company. From your product to your branding, your website, your positioning, to your acquisition and retention, customer satisfaction and customer support, to your housekeeping, financials, legal stuff, contracts and shits, to exposing yourself to the world of the competition.
Plus, keeping your mental sanity in place, so no one finds out how crazy you really are.
You are a micro company, and yes it’s seriously exhausting sometimes. But hey, it’s also learning sooo much about the real world. Leaving your bubble of comfort and stepping up the game. Now you play in the league of the adults. Everything else is just a simulation. Now you go from existential fears to celebrating your biggest fish like the queen of the mambo and inviting your family out for dinner. Because you can 🙂
After all we are here to live this life properly. Make it your playground. You are worth it.
Drop me a comment, would love to hear your feedback and your (potential) experience as a freelancer/entrepreneur.