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What freelancer has not f’ed up royally? None of us. Hopefully we have learned from those huge mistakes. But still, there are times when all I want to do is backpedal backpedal backpedal. It feels like I’m stuck and helpless and there is no way out.

But here’s the thing: it takes a lot of guts to accept that you failed miserably. So if you’ve failed recently, accept it and then pat yourself on the back padre! Finding one‘s balance in a storm of so-called failure can be tricky. Here are some tricks I use to navigate out of it and into the sunshine. I hope they can help you as well.

1. Mourn it

Instead of doing what most politicians do (keep going and pretend that nothing has happened), why not sit down and really mourn it. Express your sorrow, grieve, lament. Feel what you gotta feel. But put a time limit on it.

Give yourself a day or two (preferably a weekend) and cry your eyes out, scream at the wall, punch your mattress. Then, just as for anything that passes, create a ceremony around it. Just like Burning Man in the Nevada desert, why not incinerate the very thing that caused the drama? To seal the deal, email your client with an apology and wish him or her well.

It may sound a bit crazy, but you will feel tremendous relief afterwards like a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Next…

2. Learn from it

What was the big lesson to learn from this experience? Was it to keep your mouth shut? Was it to not get too emotional in negotiations? Was it (on the other hand) to fight harder for your position? I don’t know the ins and outs of what you do and how you fell flat on your face, but I do know that when things like that happen, there’s always some benefit. Asking yourself, “What can I learn from this?” is a very mature perspective and always leads you in the direction of expansion and abundance.

3. Move on

In order to move on, you need to take action. So why not hustle your buns off to get back on top. Now this could take a couple of weeks or it could take months. The main thing is, keep your eyes on the prize.


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Do small things that give you tiny bursts of success in business, as well as your private life. For me, I love reaching out to new people. To feel a small success in business, I reach out to someone on Twitter and start a conversation. Cooking also gives me a small feeling of success in my private life. I’m hungry, I cook something, I eat it, I’m happy. What small successes can you treat yourself to in order to make you feel good about yourself and your freelance business? It could be anything.

Sometimes the small successes hold the big results.

At the end of the day, this too shall pass. No one could walk the day they were born, so why not look at your blunders as small stumbles along the long journey you take as a successful freelancer. Here’s to embracing failure wholeheartedly and coming out of the storm with sunshine on your shoulders.

Jonathan Tilley writes and speaks about The Creative Process and helps creative people transition into successful creative freelancers and entrepreneurs at JonathanTilley.com. Watch Jonathan's video, "How to Embrace Failure," here.