Have you ever woken in the middle of the night gripped with fear because you don’t see a future for your creative freelance career or business? If you’re feeling anything other than a Zen-like calm right now, you’re not alone. You’re definitely not alone.
But your fear IS misplaced.
While it’s completely normal for our minds to convince us that the constraints we see before us are a path to certain unavoidable doom, it’s nothing but a cheap trick. And once you know it’s a trick, you can choose not to fall for it.
That’s right. You have the power to reject a thought and choose a different one. And different thoughts lead to different beliefs, and different beliefs leads to different actions.
And different actions are what lead to positive change. How incredible is that!?
If you can sense my excitement here, it’s because I know that a new and fabulous chapter in your creative career or business is yours if you want it.
And while this process is unique to everyone and rarely ever a straight path (I know, bummer!), there are principles you can apply to your thought process that will help guide you from where you are to a new place entirely.
OK, read on…
1) Think differently
I recently read that by the time we’re 35 years old, 90% of what we think, feel, and do is recycled from the past. Ninety percent! And here’s the kicker: our reality is a direct reflection of our thoughts. Here’s why. Repeated thoughts strengthen the neural pathways in our brain and every thought and feeling strengthens those pathways. The more you practice optimistic thoughts and feelings, the happier you are. The more you think stressful thoughts. Well, you get the picture.
So, if you’re telling yourself stories about how the industry is changing, clients are only hiring younger cheaper talent, budgets are not what they used to be, etc. you’re unwittingly perpetuating the situation you want to break free from. But here’s the GREAT news; when you choose different thoughts, you have the power to create new pathways which lead to new feelings and actions.
What you can do: Make the conscious choice to interpret what you see differently. For example, what if you saw your expertise, experience, and age as an asset? What if you recognized the enormous value that you bring to a project and client that they wouldn’t and couldn’t get from 25-year old just out of college? What if you saw the incredible results you are able to quickly deliver as worth their weight in gold? Do you think you’d show up differently? I know you would!
List all the things you tell yourself on one side of a piece of paper. On the other, turn it into a positive trait, quality, or circumstance. Feels better already doesn’t it?
2) Become a pattern spotter
No matter who you are or what you do, there are certain things you do really well (often with great ease). There are certain tasks people always come to you for. There are certain principles and frameworks that you use and share again and again. There are things that seem obvious to you, yet others find them earth shattering and enlightening. Noticing what you do that’s unique is a great first step to creating something new.
What you can do: Look at what you do and how you engage with a curious eye. Start to notice where there is overlap between doing something you enjoy, getting results, and being paid to do it (even though you’d do it all day for free). List all the ways.
3) Embrace “What if?” (and forget about how for now)
When things feel like they’re no longer working, we usually act in one of two ways. We:
- Deny it until it gets so bad, we throw in the towel and then try figure something out on the fly (oh, the stress levels!).
- Doggedly stick to what we’ve always known, thought, and done until the decision is made for us — typically in the form of work drying up or a job going away (also stressful!).
Both come from a place of fear and denial; neither of which are going to help you figure out what your next chapter is any time soon. But there’s one simple question that cracks the door open just enough to let light and hope in:
What if I created that product I know people like me want and need?
What if I create a community for people just like me?
What if I start a movement about something I feel really strongly about?
What if I worked only with this type of client?
What you can do: Without worrying about HOW, brainstorm your list of what ifs. Note: This exercise is awesome when done with a small, but diverse group of friends, colleagues, or peers. It’s how I got the idea for my coaching business in 2008!
4) Create steppingstones
OK, let’s recap:
- You’ve successfully re-wired your brain (good job!).
- You’ve brainstormed the patterns you see between you being in your flow, clients loving what you do, and money rolling in.
- You’ve challenged yourself to stop halting every good idea with “I don’t know how to do it”, instead replacing with “What if…?” questions.
Now we get to the HOW. It’s time to start mapping a path towards this emerging vision. Not knowing how has put a stop to many a genius idea, so here are some workarounds:
- Who do you know and admire who has shifted their business or career? Reach out to them, ask them to tell you their story. If ONE other person has done this, you can too.
- Tap into your support network. We ALL have people in our lives who believe in us and think we’re awesome. It could be a client we work with again and again, someone who always refers people to us, a natural connector in our midst. Identify a couple of people, take them for coffee and invite them to weigh in on your ideas and thought process so far. You do NOT have to have a fully baked idea to share before you do this (in fact, that would defeat the purpose!). I know this sounds scary and makes you feel vulnerable, but you’ll be rewarded by the effects of this co-creative process.
- Ask for introductions. Ask for informational interviews. Ask for 30 minutes of a potential mentor’s time. Just ask!
OK, I know I’ve given you a LOT to think about. What actions will you start implementing to make a positive impact on your business? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Through a series of clear, actionable steps, Justine will teach you how to you identify what makes you stand out from the crowd, create a marketing message that resonates with your ideal clients, and build a successful and fulfilling creative business or career. Sign up for Justine’s free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth and start making monumental changes in your creative business or career today.