Essential practices for anxious freelancers
Balancing good mental health and working as a freelancer can be incredibly difficult, and this is not news.
Having the responsibility of everything starting and ending with you can go beyond daunting. Anyone who has ever felt anxious (which is likely the majority of us) understands the mitigating effect that forward planning has on the terror.
This is what we’ve learnt about minimising anxiety when freelancing, tells Pandle.
Keep a record of absolutely everything
When you freelance, there is unlikely to be anybody except the client and HMRC to remind you there’s something you’re supposed to be doing. Being nudged might make you feel a bit like things are getting out of your grasp, even if that’s really not the case. Keeping track, whatever your system for doing so, of everything that is due and when can help reduce the last-minute-panic.
Task planning for self-employed people
There are tech solutions for diary planning or work scheduling. Trello is a useful place to put ideas for clients, and any ongoing tasks. Evernote, spreadsheets, a paper diary, or a battered notebook can also do the job.
Manage your bookkeeping
Money is a trigger for a lot of people, but knowing what is going on can help you plan ahead. Log all your invoices, and definitely record all expenses, no matter how small. Spending a tenner meeting a client for coffee might sound like nothing, but do that twice a week and it becomes a decent amount to offset against your tax bill. Accounting software could help keep things up to date.
Speaking of which, reconciling your accounts on a regular basis will help monitor any late payers or unnecessary spending, and will also mean you are ready to go when the Self-Assessment window opens. Submitting early will give you more time to pay the bill, especially if cash flow has been slow. Taking money out of your income for savings and taxes will help you even more.
Communicate in detail
Agree on the brief, discuss expectations, set a price, and get it all down in writing. If the client changes or expands the original project, let them know what that will do to the price and check that they wish to proceed.
Sending progress reports on a regular basis, or submitting work in chunks rather than all at the end allows your clients to see the progress being made and intervene if anything isn’t how they want it. For some contracts, especially with new clients, it is worth considering breaking the project up into sections.
Wait for sign-off on a section before progressing allows them to be sure of what they’re expecting. It will also make sure you’re getting money in regularly and reduces the damage of late or non-payment at the end.
Spend time, on a regular basis, looking for work
Networking for Nervous People
Networking events can feel a little like horrible torture when it comes to the bit where everyone takes it in turns to stand up and deliver their spiel. Knowing that even the most confident looking self-assured people still get nervous might help a bit, but the adrenaline spike doesn’t really go away. It happens to everyone, and you are not bad at this.
Plan your pitch in advance. Keep it simple, practice repeatedly until you know it verbatim, and on the day have it written down in front of you anyway. If you tell the audience that you’re better at whatever service you provide than you are at public speaking, nearly everyone in that room will laugh in agreement!
Pitch, pitch, pitch
Word of mouth referrals might lift off, but it can sometimes take a while to really get going. If things are tailing off after a busy period, or you’re still waiting to get busy, develop and refine your pitch in all its forms. This might look like an email catch up with someone you met at a networking event, social media updates, connecting with old clients, and more. Think about where you can add value, look for problems that you might help solve, and tactfully let people know that you’re available to help.
Practice saying no. Get good at it, it’s your armour
Turning down work, even when things are quiet, is not unforgivable, so do forgive yourself for it. If you feel that you can’t manage the scope of the project, can’t stand the client, or just need a break, then turn it down.
A good, resilient ‘no’ will also keep you safe from the very, very large number of people who think you’ve essentially retired, now that you’re working for yourself. When you need to work, work. Otherwise, you’ll come up on those deadlines, not do your best work, and not get proper rest breaks which can upset the equilibrium.
Hitting the meltdown stage will keep you out of action for longer, so the more you can do to fend it off, the better (and more productive) you will feel.