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The secret most will not confess to about the fear involved in freelancing

(Editorial) Freelancing and entrepreneurialism can be scary, but most tell you the upside and rarely address the pit of fear in the stomachs of freelancers everywhere and how to use it to your advantage.

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Fear and freelancing

I recently spoke on a panel at an event for women in the communication field, and I sat in on the session before mine since I personally knew some of the panelists. One of the final questions was about their insecurities and fear. The first panelist was a well known photographer who said she isn’t wired to experience fear. The next was a creative director for a famous jewelry designer, and she expressed that she does not self doubt, she journals through her feelings. The third was a local reporter I’ve been friends with for years who laughed and said he doubts everything he does at every second, in fact, he had doubts about being on this very panel (in jest).

When I was on stage and we got the same question, I actually stated that I was shocked at the previous panels’ answers (aside from the journalist’s), and laughed as I expressed that I am in a constant state of fear (did I phrase that email well enough? did that story flow properly? is that upcoming event in the right venue? and so on). The other panelists laughed and all instantly agreed.

Why had the last panel expressed fearlessness while the panel I was on was open about their fears? Fear. When one person says they’re fearless, you fear looking weak by being honest, so you instinctively preserve your standing in the community and share that you’re fearless as well.

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And that brings us to freelancing and entrepreneurialism. A few years ago, we published a piece outlining the 10 advantages and disadvantages of becoming a freelancer, and the advice stands for most entrepreneurs as well. We noted that the advantages include flexible work hours, control over jobs and clients, being able to work wherever you want, you’re the boss, and you keep the profits. On the downside, work is not necessarily steady, there’s a lot of legwork, professional time bleeds into personal time, there may not be benefits, and you don’t always get paid.

It’s all sound advice, but there’s a dark secret in the pit of many freelancers’ stomachs, and that is a fear not quite outlined in the list above, but touched on at the aforementioned conference. Before quitting your day job, I’ll tell you that secret, because no one else is going to.

Every day as a freelancer is fueled by that pit of fear in your stomach

It isn’t always consuming, and you don’t always experience it in the form of nail biting or anxiety, but it’s always there and never goes away. As a freelancer, you wear many hats, and as an entrepreneur, you often do as well. Mentioning the advantages and disadvantages is accurate and helpful, but mentioning in passing that you’re the boss and in control doesn’t quite relay the fact that the eternal pipeline cycle is terrifying. You market to get clients, then get busy with the clients and need more hours in the day to keep marketing to get your next clients, but your project ends, and you ran out of time for sales to land that next client. You wear all of the hats.

Tommy Landry, Founder at ReturnOnNow said that becoming a freelancer is “all based on your ability to take on new work, build relationships, and outsource intelligently for the tactical stuff. While the risk of financial downside is definitely there, it’s worth it to avoid capping your income with a “salary plus bonus” structure, where an employer gets to choose if you make more money or not.”

So the dirty secret no one will tell you is that freelancers and most entrepreneurs feel a pit of fear in their stomachs every day about the future, about what they’re doing in that moment, and about their past moves. So what do the most successful do with that fear? They acknowledge it, they embrace it, they become disciplined by it, and they are fueled by it rather than consumed by it.

If you’re not questioning any of your moves, you’re either stagnant and not making any moves, you’re crippled by the fear, or you’re oblivious to the fact that you’re in charge, and every move you make impacts your company’s future, down to the last email you sent.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Fran Stephenson

    November 12, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Yes! The trick as a freelancer is let the fear fuel positive action and not feed negative paralysis.

  2. Gail

    November 14, 2014 at 7:58 am

    I have been a freelancer in marketing for more years than I care to remember. Throughout that time the fear in the pit of my stomach has been ever present. The constant marketing and the increased competition finally led me to pursue another path – real estate – which has increased my fear 100 fold. Perhaps it is the fear that motivates me.

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Opinion Editorials

How to turn your complaint mindset into constructive actions

(EDITORIAL) Everybody knows someone who complains too much. While being open is important for mental health, constant bellyaching is not.

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Everybody knows someone who complains too much. While being open is important for mental health, constant bellyaching is not, so here are a few tips on turning your complaints into constructive actions.

It’s important to understand the difference between “complaining” and “addressing.” Talking about problems which mandate discussion, bringing up issues slated to cause larger issues down the line, and letting your boss know that you have the sniffles all fall into the latter category due to necessity; complaining is volitional, self-serving, and completely unnecessary in most contexts.

Complaining also puts you in an excessively bad mood, which may prevent you from acknowledging all the reasons you have not to complain.

Another point to keep in mind is that complaining occasionally (and briefly) isn’t usually cause for ostracization. Constant or extensive complaining, however, can lead others to view you as a largely negative, self-centered person — you know, the kind of person literally no one actively seeks out — which is why you should focus more on redirecting that negative energy rather than using it to remind your barista why they gave up their dream of becoming a therapist.

Complaining stems from two main sources: the need to be validated—for example, for others to know what you’re going through—and the need to be comforted. Addressing a chronic complaint mindset, then, is largely about validating and comforting yourself. This is a simple solution which nevertheless can take years to manifest properly, but you can start by doing a couple of things differently.

“Focus on the positive” is perhaps the hokiest advice you’ll get from anyone, but it works. In virtually any situation, you can find a positive aspect—be it an eventual outcome or an auxiliary side-effect—on which you can concentrate. Think about the positive enough, and you’ll talk yourself out of complaining before you’ve even started.

It’s also good to remember that no one, no matter how much they care about you, can handle constant negativity. If you find yourself constantly hitting people with bad news or tragic personal updates, try mixing up the dialogue with some positive stuff. That’s not to say that you can’t be honest with people—friends, family, and colleagues all deserve to know what’s going on in your life—but make sure that you aren’t oversaturating your listeners with sadness.

Lastly, keep your complaining off of social media. It’s all too easy to post a long Facebook rant about being served cold pizza (no one likes cold pizza on day one), but this just results in your loding a complaint reaching a larger number of people than vocalization ever could. If you have to complain about something in earnest, avoid doing it anywhere on the Internet—your future self will thank you.

Being honest about how you feel is never a bad thing, but constant negativity will bring down you and everyone around you. If you can avoid a complaint mindset as a general rule, you’ll one day find that you have significantly less to complain about.

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Opinion Editorials

What Musk’s tweets say about toxicity of modern work culture

(EDITORIAL) Musk is an inspiring figure, but his recent tweets speak volumes of what’s wrong with work culture, especially in tech.

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Oh, Elon. Haven’t you learned yet? No? Your beautiful, sweet, brilliant mind. I don’t know whether you need a hug or a stern talking to — maybe both — after your crazy, erratic tweets, but Elon Musk’s Crazy Tweet of the Week™ shows a huge problem growing in the tech industry and modern work culture.

In case if you missed it, here’s what went down:

1. On Sunday, the WSJ wrote that Tesla is the “hot spot” of young job seekers and engineers, in spite of or even because of Musk.

2. Par for the course, Musk responded on Twitter with the following comments:

3. Twitter exploded with replies such as these:

If anything, this opens a discussion on a toxic tech — and honestly, American — work culture. But we’ve written about that. It seems like we’re slowly learning that 40 hour workweeks are often okay, and here’s why:

Elon isn’t normal and we shouldn’t compare ourselves.

The thing is, Musk does get more done in the average workweek than a normal person. But this is because he’s brilliant and has figured out ways to beat the system, and he has a million different ideas that other people are implementing. Elon shouldn’t compare himself to the average person, because, well, he isn’t. It’s clear he’s brilliant (and knows it), so we shouldn’t compare ourselves to him, either.

Something we can take from him: learning to automate the remedial tasks and spending our time to maximize efficiency and not waste time. And for the average person, that probably means getting a good night’s sleep or eating well (that means not just drinking Soylent. Looking at you, developers!) so you can actually be effective the next day at work or with your loved ones.

Improve your efficiency.

Are there productivity tools that you haven’t been using that you can? Are you tracking your time and how you’re spending it? If you’re an entrepreneur, or better yet, solopreneur, are there small tasks that take a lot of time that you can do better, faster, stronger? If you need some ideas, check out the years of tips accumulated here on AG.

Elon knows where his strengths don’t lie, and he has a lot of people doing those jobs. So take some of the things he does, but take it with a grain of salt. But unlike Musk, treat your employees well, don’t burn them out, and empower them to do the tasks you don’t do as well.

Most “average” humans have normal responsibilities: families, maintaining a healthy lifestyle (this means sleeping well, eating well, and exercising), and maintaining balance with other interests that make us better employees, bosses, and entrepreneurs. Remember: you’re a human being, not just a worker bee. Don’t let Elon’s Tweetstorms lead you astray.

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Opinion Editorials

How to crush your next remote job interview

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Working remotely is becoming more and more popular. Learn how to excel during a remote job interview.

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As the career landscape continues to change, so does the way in which we interview. With an increase in remote workers, there is also an increase in video interviews.

What immediately comes to mind for me was three years ago when I had a video interview with the fabulous COO of The American Genius. Since the company is based out of Austin, and I’m in Chicago, we had a video chat to see if I’d be a good fit for the company.

While it took some of the pressure off being able to be in my own home for the interview, there was definitely the con of…being in my own home for the interview. Fear of any noise or interruption posed as a slight distraction.

Like an in person interview, there are some pressures that go along with a video interview. The main one being that you need to sell yourself as an extremely responsible individual who can handle the freedoms and rigors of remote work.

Employers are looking for accountability in their remote workers. You must be able to execute your tasks in with a heightened amount of self-discipline.

This can be done through use of time trackers and proactive reporting. Keeping track of each task you do, and the time spent doing it, will provide something tangible for your employer. Be sure to explain during the interview that this is something you will provide to the employer.

Next, because there is a change in environment, and arguably a change in responsibility level, the questions asked during the interview may be different from your standard interview.

A few questions that may pop up to keep in mind: what hours will you be working? What is your remote experience like? Is this something you’re seeking for supplemental work, or trying to do full-time? What is your home workspace like? What tools do you use to keep yourself on task? What is your preferred method of payment?

In turn, there are some questions you should be prepared to ask, as in any other interview. For example: What would a typical day look like if we were working together in-house? Do you offer advancement opportunities? How many of your team members work remotely and how do we all stay in contact?

Working remotely can be a whole different beast in terms of proving yourself to your employer. Having yourself fully prepared for an interview can help start you off on the right foot.

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