Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff


Freelancers deal with a lot of stress.

When you freelance, there’s a lot that can go wrong. And when something goes wrong that often means we don’t get paid. So, it’s no wonder that many of us struggle with worry.

Recently, though, I’ve realized that much of what I worry about isn’t really worth my worry. I seem to worry equally about minor issues and things that I can’t control. From what I can tell, other freelancers struggle with the exact same problem.

As freelancers, it’s important we save our energy for major problems that we can actually solve. We shouldn’t waste our energy worrying about small problems or problems that we can’t control anyway–the small stuff.

In this post, I’ll list some specific issues that freelancers worry about when they really don’t need to. I’ll also list some methods for identifying which problems are worth worrying about.

5 “Small Stuff” Problems Freelancers Worry About

Do you feel stressed out and overwhelmed by freelancing problems?

It’s possible that you’re worrying too much about the small stuff. Give yourself a break and reduce your worries. Here are some common freelance occurrences that you should cross off your worry list right away:

  1. “Lost” prospect. I used to really stress when a prospective client didn’t agree to do business with me. I felt that by losing the deal, I must have done something wrong. Now I realize that some prospects well never become my clients–and that’s perfectly alright. It doesn’t necessarily mean I did something wrong. Freelancers shouldn’t waste a lot of time and energy when they’ve tried their best and still can’t close a deal.
  2. Unkind comments. By and large, most of the people I network with are easy to deal with are easy to deal with and encouraging. But every now and then I run across someone who seems to be difficult just because they can. Usually, I let these things go pretty easily, but I do find it irritating when someone criticizes a post they didn’t really read. Likewise, other freelancers should ignore most unkind comments.
  3. Small typos in Tweets and other places. One of the most annoying new features of some smart phones and tablets is the way the device tries to guess what you are typing. In my case, the tool sometimes gets it wrong. It’s so easy to think I typed one thing in a Tweet, only to find out that the phone changed it to something else. In my opinion, this is another thing that’s not worth stressing about. Most people understand, because it’s happened to them.
  4. The occasional overtime. I work hard to protect both my work time and personal time. But occasionally, I underestimate the amount of effort that a project will take. This almost always leads to overtime to complete the project. The truth is, as long as this isn’t happening all the time, it isn’t worth getting upset about. Just do what it takes to finish the project on time, and try to do better with your next project estimate.
  5. Skipping a post on your own freelancing blog. Like many freelancers I have my own blog to promote my freelancing business. I try to post there several times a month, but sometimes due to my workload or other circumstances, I fall behind on my posts. To me, this feels like a failure–but it really isn’t that big a deal since I manage to catch up when I have time. If a blog is part of your freelance marketing, don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall behind.

If you look over the previous list, you’ll notice that many of these common occurrences have one thing in common. Many of them are beyond the freelancer’s control.

How to Tell When to Let Something Go

So, how do you know when to stop worrying about something?

Here are three signs that what you are dealing with is “small stuff”:

  1. It’s beyond your control. No matter what we do, ultimately we can’t control other people. We may be able to influence them, but we can’t make them do anything. We can’t make prospects do business with us or force others to be nice.
  2. It won’t make a difference in the long run. While something may seem like a big deal when it’s happening, ask yourself what difference whether it will make a difference in a month, a year, or five years. If the answer is “no,” let it go.
  3. It’s a common problem that normal people would understand. Most people are pretty understanding. They know that you’re a human being and are willing to forgive minor human shortcomings, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Your Turn

What “small stuff” would you add to the list? How do you decide whether something is worth getting stressed about?

Share your answers in the comments.