10.06 titleWhen I was a youth, almost everybody smoked cigarettes. Walking through the grocery store (or any other retail establishment), you would pass numerous people puffing away and grinding out the spent butts on the tile floor. Doctors had ashtrays in their offices. Car interiors reeked of stale smoke.

Of course, smoking has fallen out of favor now. We realize the terrible health consequences it causes.

In my time as a clinical nurse I worked with many smokers. When I broached the topic of quitting the habit, they commonly said something like, “I want to quit, but things are really stressful in my life right now. I’m going to wait until things settle down and then think about quitting.”

Likewise, nurses tell me all the time they’d like to become freelance writers, but they say, “My life is really stressful right now. It’s not the right time for me to change careers. I’ll wait until things settle down, and then I’ll think about becoming a writer.”

Newsflash: Life Never “Settles Down”

Everyone’s life is full of stress – all the time. Come on, do you ever really lie down in bed at night and smile and say, “At last, all of my stress has vanished! I have never felt calmer or more centered. Finally I can do all those things I said I’d do ‘someday,’ when the stress disappeared.”

Yeah. Right.

There is no perfect time to quit smoking…or start freelancing…or have a baby…or go back to school…or become a painter. Life is a river that sweeps us along, sometimes through white-capped rapids and other times through calmer pools – but always at velocity. At a certain point you simply must jump in and start paddling.

Even if life suddenly “calmed down” enough for you to start freelancing, you can be sure you will need to freelance through times of turbulence. I mean, right now you go to your nursing job every day despite the drama in your personal life, right? You have to do that as a freelancer, too.

Here are some things I’ve had to freelance through:

  1. My dad’s death
  2. My husband suddenly getting transferred 1200 miles away
  3. A massive move to that new city
  4. My mom moving in with us
  5. My mom getting a hip replacement
  6. My husband’s job security evaporating (through no fault of his own, I might add)

And that’s just the highlights of the past five years. Like everyone else, I experience the petty everyday stressors of modern life, such as technology snafus, chasing down money owed to me, and navigating Houston’s traffic (ay carumba!).

Three Tips to Help You Freelance Through the Stress

Trust me, you can ride out the stress of life as a freelancer. Use these tips.

  1. Build an emergency fund

From Day One, you must have the self-discipline to set aside (preferably in a separate bank account) a chunk of every payment you receive to serve as your emergency fund. Freelancing is a business, and all businesses go through up and down cycles. You need a source of income you can tap when clients aren’t paying on time or business gets slow.

  1. Set inviolable business hours

If you read this blog frequently, you know I’m a huge proponent of setting up a professional home office and designating set business hours. Not only 10.06 quotedoes setting your “open” and “closed” times send a professional vibe to prospective clients, but it gives your life structure. Structure is the antidote to stress. When you assign yourself inviolable work hours, you give yourself permission to set aside the large and petty stressors in your life in order to focus on work.

  1. Nurture a resilient attitude

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back after experiencing adversity. People who take a short-term view of freelancing (“I have no projects lined up for the next month; I’d better start job-hunting”) may lack the resiliency to succeed at this career. On the other hand, if you keep an eye on the big picture and consistently work to overcome obstacles (“Next month is going to be thin, financially, but I expect a year from now it will be better”), you stand a much better chance of weathering the stress storms that will cloud your career and personal life.

I hope these strategies help you navigate the whitewater rapids of a freelance career. Meanwhile, if you find the key to a stress-free life send it my way.

Wishing you well,