Friday, June 30, 2017
Writer's Anxiety: The Curse of the Freelancing Mindset
I had lunch with the awesome Cindy Kuzma, an extremely talented and successful freelancer, yesterday and we were talking about the anxiety-producing nature of freelancing. When you're busy with (well-paying) work, it's all good. You may be anxious about meeting your deadlines, but you're not anxious about whether you're making enough money.
Then you hit a slowdown. And that anxiety starts ticking back up. That inner voice kicks in, muttering in my ear:
What were you thinking? Why didn't you market more last month? What if that book deal doesn't come through? Why haven't you signed another book deal yet? Why haven't you heard back from that client? How are you going to pay off your broken-arm bills? Why is your health insurance so shitty? What happens if your insurance rates climb even higher? How are you going to save for retirement? Are you even going to be able to retire? Geez, why did you get divorced? At least you had health insurance and money for retirement. Now it's all up to you. And your'e single...are you ever going to meet someone awesome again? Why are there so many weirdos online? Why didn't that guy from the Y ever ask you out? He probably thinks you're nuts. What are you going to do about your career? Maybe you shouldn't be self-employed anymore. What if you get sick? What if you break your arm again? Maybe you should get a full-time job. Yeah, then you'd have health insurance. But then you'd have to put on clothes and sit at a desk all day and what about the kids? Isn't freedom the biggest reason you decided to freelance anyway? Maybe your time as a freelancer is at an end. Accept it. There are worse things. Maybe you should go back to practicing law. But you hated being a lawyer...boy, you're screwed. Maybe you should go back to Trader Joe's. Remember, there's that 10 percent discount...and they'd let you wear overalls...
That inner voice is hard to quiet. (And by the way, I don't know about yours, but only rarely does my inner voice sing my proverbial praises. Sure, once in a while, my inner voice tells me I'm awesome. Usually it's more along the lines of "by the way, you suck.")
And while I've had work slowdowns before (it's part of freelancing), I'm finding that being slow feels very different now that I'm a single parent. When I was married, slowdowns still sucked. I worried about my the state (and future of) my career, and peripherally, about what I was making or not making. Now, with a 12-year-old and a 7-year-old and a mortgage and a cat and a puppy and a carnie goldfish that has survived for seven days against all odds and ridiculously high insurance premiums (and I'm healthy!), that money worry is no longer peripheral. It's right smack in my face. That drumbeat of "need money, need money, must make money" is a real thing.
It doesn't help that I am by nature anxious. What I thought for decades was "energy" was actually anxiety. I was an anxious little kid, an anxious teen, an anxious adult. So what did I do? I chose a career (self-employed writer) that is, by its very nature, anxiety-producing. Whether I am anxious about tackling an assignment for a new-to-me client or anxious about meeting a deadline or anxious about making enough money to pay my mortgage, feed my kids, and yeah, save for retirement, or anxious about everything else, it's pretty much a given that there will be some chronic, low-grade distress going on.
And you know what? That's okay. Because I still choose to freelance. I'd still rather have the freedom and the flexibility and the ability to be my own boss and yeah, the anxiety, than go "in-house" and work for someone else...at least right now. I am considering part-time work, and am staying open to all possibilities. But the biggest thing I'm doing is controlling what I can, and that means marketing.
So I harnessed that anxiety and spent yesterday afternoon sending out some LOIs and follow-ups. I have a whole slew of contacts to circle back with next week as well. And I finished two assignments this morning, and locked down an editing job for the next few weeks that relieves my money anxiety at least temporarily. I've been doing this long enough to accept anxiety is part of the business. Figuring out how to make it work for you is what makes you successful at it.
**New to the blog? Welcome! If you're serious about making your freelance writing business a money-maker, I suggest my freelance classic, Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition.
If you're more interested in getting into ghostwriting and content marketing, I suggest Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition.
If you're brand-new to freelancing, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets walks you through the process of launching your freelance career.
Finally, if you like your books full of shorter pieces, check out a different format--Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success is divided into five broad sections to help you make more money regardless of what kind of nonfiction writing you do.