• Health, Advice

What I’ve learned about freelancing with anxiety

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you get nervous about when your next bit of income will come in? Has this led to you walk away from your computer because of the nervousness?

Yeah…I have too. This bout of nervous anxiety is a normal part of my life these days.

Living with anxiety can be a hassle at best but a tormentor at worst when you are a freelancer. Not knowing where the money for your bills will come from is the worst kind of torment for me. Living with anxiety can lead to struggle with tasks that you call easy.

It has taught me things about freelancing that have become invaluable to me as a business owner. Knowing how to work with the anxiety as a freelancer gives me insight that a lot of people may not have.

These lessons will help freelancers of all walks of life, no matter how long you've been at it:

Trust your intuition at all times

I’m sure you’ve had a time where your gut instinct raises red flags. You are discussing a project with a brand-new client and something doesn’t seem right. Your gut is screaming at you to walk away from this new interaction. You are wondering why your gut instinct is firing away when you don’t see anything wrong at the moment.

You decide to not trust your instinct at first-glance. You want this client experience under your belt. You want it even if it costs you a boat-load of frustration. Not too long after that decision, you come to realize you are regretting that decision. You decided not to trust your intuition and now you are paying the price for it.

This client is adding more and more tasks to what was an easy project. Because you quoted him for the original work, you aren’t getting paid enough for it. You are now kicking yourself as you stare at your computer screen. This new email from the client is making you scream as you wonder if you will ever finish the project at all.

Trusting your intuition about certain situations can make or break your freelancing career. If your intuition is telling you to run for the hills, then you shouldn’t hesitate to do so. It will mean not having to deal with a situation that could go downhill.

Don’t go down on your prices. Charge what you’re worth

Let’s say you have a dream client you want to work with. You start a conversation with this client to test the waters about collaborating. The client asks for your rates for the project you are discussing. They then tell you that your rates are too high for them and ask if you could come down in price.

You want to work with them so you consider coming down on your rate. You charge what you do to make ends meet. You know you would have to hustle to make the rest of the money so you can pay your bills. You aren’t sure if you should continue with the project at all since the rate is so low.

You are feeling unsure of yourself right now and your intuition is telling you to back out of the project. The one thing holding you back is the fact that you contacted her first. You know you need to charge what you are worth but at what cost to you? How many clients will your rates cost you if you keep them the way they are?

At the end of the day, you need to remain firm in your rates. You want to fund that freedom lifestyle you crave? Stay firm in so you can continue with the life you love. You don’t want to go back to your 9-to-5 job because you are being stiffed by clients who don’t appreciate your work.

Be firm in all decisions when it comes to client interactions

You’re sitting there in your home office with a look of desperation on your face. You have opened your e-mail to find a dozen e-mails from the same client. You realize you should have set a boundary or two about when your office hours are. You didn’t want this type of interaction to happen with this particular client.

They seem to think you are at their beck-and-call when it comes to answering e-mails. The reality of the situation is the exact opposite. You need to set a boundary now with this client so you can get a break from all the e-mails they send you. The first thing you do is answer their last e-mail they sent you.

The next thing you need to do is set up an auto-responder for their next email. You can say something like, “I appreciate you email and have received it. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!” You want them to see that you got their e-mail but may be working on other client projects as well. They aren’t your only client, are they?

Set boundaries that you cannot stray away from

Setting boundaries might be the most difficult thing you have to do as a freelancer. You are bound to have temptations to stray from these boundaries in your career. There will be the clients who call you with what they consider to be emergencies. They will want those emergencies taken care of right then and there.

You will also have clients who want you to take care of their project immediately. You could explain to them all day and night that you have other projects in front of you. You could yell it at the top of your lungs but it wouldn’t matter to them. Those are the clients you might not be able to help at the end of the day.

One thing to do is to put firm boundaries in place is to put your foot down. Make sure to keep it there, no matter how much whining you might get. There are going to be real life emergencies and you need to take care of those first. Family comes first to us all.

Take a break if you feel the need to do so

Taking a break may seem to be a very difficult thing to do from time to time. You may be on a roll with a client’s project but you're exhausted. You need rest since it may be the middle of the night for you. You know you have to take a break but you aren’t at a “stopping point” on the project at this point.

You want to get to another point in the project before you shut your laptop down for some rest. It has taken you several hours and your back is killing you. You have to remain on schedule for this project, right? But staying on schedule without stopping to rest may cost you. You may rush through it and it won’t be your best work.

Not turning in your best work can cost you trust with the client. That is one of the worst things you can do as a freelancer, since it could mean loss of future projects.

Taking the rest you need for a few hours can leave you refreshed. A stronger mind can produce better end results. Better results means a happier you.

Lisa is the founder of Mystique MGMT, a social media management brand for creative entrepreneurs. She is in love with chocolate and hanging out on Facebook.