Dark moods of freelancing have got nothing to do with the times your work isn’t going great or when you don’t turn in even a single project on time.
You might be getting ten business inquiries per day (which for most, if not all, of us is a lot) and traffic to your website may be reaching new heights, dark moods can hit you just out of the blues; you suddenly lose interest in every work-related activity including checking the e-mails, replying to business inquiries, answering business calls, working on existing projects — you don’t even feel like communicating with your present clients.
You just want to watch the TV, read some books, listen to music, lie under the sun, play with the dog, letch at your neighbor’s wife (or husband), talk to someone incessantly, or do anything that is not work-related. It happens.
The dark moods — some call them burnouts, but that’s different — attack you when you start to dislike your work and you don’t realize it. Your work than represents an overwhelming gloom. It becomes a web from which there is no succor.
I think this can happen to any freelancer at some point and there is nothing to worry about, but sometimes this can be — in case it becomes a pattern — devastating for your business. If this mood persists, you can lose your current work and you don’t have any motivation or inclination to get new work.
Since the Internet is the greatest communication tool the humanity has ever experienced it can tarnish your professional image within a few days. And considering that there is so much competition; there are so many competing professionals just waiting to take away work from you, the dark moods of freelancing can prove really costly. Here are a few suggestions to help you cope with or overcome such dark moods.
Work To Live, Don’t Live To Work
While working on your own, sometimes you don’t realize you are working all the time; unlike the regular 9-5 jobber, a freelancer has to put in lots of effort in order to keep getting work. For a freelancer it’s not only about doing the work, it’s also about getting that work and continuously promoting and marketing your services so that you never run out of work.
Things are tougher on the Internet because people can easily compete with you with less efforts than in a more traditional ‘brick and mortar‘ business. Nonetheless, your life shouldn’t turn into a never-ending work schedule. There must only be a fixed number of hours when you should work and the remaining time should be spent either with the family or doing things that make life meaningful — whatever they are.
When there is nothing in your life but just your work — in case that work is not your passion or not exactly what you expected — then sooner or later you begin to dislike or even abhor your work.
Try to work only for a fixed number of hours — it doesn’t have to be eight hours or five hours; decide your work time that causes you least stress and doesn’t put you back financially. Your time also depends on the nature of the service you provide and the type of tools you use. But just remember that the primary purpose of fixing the number of work hours is to get back your ‘real life‘ and use your work only to sustain it. Most of us freelance because we hate the general rut that the regular job represents; by working continuously we magnify that rut with great severity and this in turn triggers the ominous dark moods.
Understand the importance of your work
Sometimes we forget why we work. Whenever you feel that you are losing interest in your professional work just try to remember why you started doing this work in the first place:
- To earn more money in a short span of time
- To provide financial security to your family and yourself
- To be with your loved ones while working
- To generate money for another project
- To raise money for your kids’ education
- To be able to improve your standard of living
- To go on a long holiday
- To raise money for a social cause
- To do what you love to do
- So on and so forth…
When you understand the importance of your work or when you remind yourself what was the initial reason that motivated you so much, you, again, get interested in your work; of course it is a different matter if you realize that the initial reason was a misconception, but that’s another story.
If necessary, write down the reason or the importance on a big piece of paper and stick it somewhere you can easily see it, or create something like a ‘dream board‘. This will certainly rekindle your interest in your professional work.
Track your success
Continuous work without any measure of success or failure can (and probably will) make you lose interest in it. Use some program on your computer or use a paper-chart to track your progress. If it is the financial progress that you want to track then keep adding the money you are earning and observe how it is growing gradually, or rapidly. Also keep track of your expenses.
The numbers and figures moving up and down will keep you constantly charged up. Although I’m not suggesting that you should get obsessed with your goals and objectives and again end up working all the time, some kind of goal-tracking keeps you on the right track, psychologically.
Maintain a healthy environment around you
Make your work environment comfortable and healthy so that you feel good when you work. A neat table and properly stacked papers and files are definitely a good start. If your computer screen is very dirty and so is your keyboard, try to clean them up. Keeping things clean creates more space around you so that you can also keep things that make you feel relaxed and at home.
Spiritually too, cleanliness is quite uplifting. Whether it is old memorabilia or your family photographs, place them on your table so that you can always feel they’re nearn whenever you feel isolated or lost. Also check if there are some other negative factors around you that sap away your energies and make your work uncomfortable.
Feel positive about your work
Always think of your work in a positive way; think about all the wonderful things that happened because of your work. Your work gives you money to pay your bills; it provides you the financial security that many in the world can only dream of; it earns you respect; it keeps a roof over your loved ones.
Learn to love your work and don’t think that it is a burden. Just remember that there are millions of people all over the world who crave to get even a small portion of occupation that you are blessed with. Feel proud of what you do. It all starts with your own thoughts.
Keep learning new skills
Learning new skills is always stimulating, especially if you work as a freelancer. I have noticed that most of the freelancing-related dark moods happen when one feels stuck with the same job whether he or she likes it or not. If you have another skill you can easily start picking up different assignments without affecting your earnings.
In fact I have a personal experience with this — for three years I worked as a web developer and a web designer but then I felt I had no intention of growing vertically in that business. Since I have always loved writing, for four years I have been working as a freelance web content writer and an online copywriter. Then I discovered that having some SEO skills would be an added advantage. So now most of my work involves writing SEO content for my clients who want to improve their search engine rankings and I love my current work.
Automate as much as possible
By automating you can cut down on many activities that needlessly take up lots of time. This way you won’t feel bogged down doing things that are, although necessary, quite basic and boring. Hire a programmer to make you utility programs and macros (or do it yourself) that will considerably reduced your routine work.
Improve your social life
Working on your own doesn’t mean you can’t have a social life. Make lots of friends and go out with them whenever possible. Actively participate in familial occasions. Spend quality time with your spouse if you are married and play games with your kids you do have kids. Have some longer holidays and go on camping or trekking.
Finally the best way of dealing with dark moods is not to get overwhelmed by them and just consider them as a normal freelancing phase that will get over very soon, and it normally does.