Being a freelancer is hard.
The online business space is pretty saturated with writers and graphic designers and other creative entrepreneurs. In the pursuit of making a name for yourself and your business, it’s easy to get caught up in doing ALL.the.things. Before you know it, you can get burnt out, and start wondering why doing what you love no longer brings you joy.
For the past year or so, I’ve tried my hand at a few different freelance enterprises. Virtual assistance, copywriting, social media, transcription. And each time, I felt overwhelmed, burnt out, and unhappy.
Where was I going wrong? Why wasn’t I succeeding the way that I hoped, the way that I saw others succeeding?
The answer was in one tiny little word: Yes.
Yes, whatever you can pay me is fine. Yes, you can change your mind as many times as you want, even at the last minute. Yes, I’ll be available whenever you need me. Yes, I can do a same-day turnaround time.
It was no wonder that I was exhausted and ready to throw in the towel. My professional self-worth was tied up in keeping my workload as busy as possible – and in not disappointing anyone. And in doing so, I made myself miserable. But fortunately, I did learn an extremely valuable lesson during this time, and I hope it’s helpful to you if you’re feeling the burn out, too.
The number one, most important lesson I learned as a freelancer was: Don’t be afraid to say no.
In the business world, “no” happens all the time. And it’s absolutely OK. Think of the boundaries that you choose for yourself as the mental cushion of your business, giving you the space to breathe and practice self-care when you need to.
You’re in business to make money by doing what you love and helping others. Not to run yourself ragged to the point of mental and physical exhaustion.
So, how do you institute those boundaries?
1. Have a contract to spell out all obligations and deadlines in writing
I promise you, this will eliminate 90% of your business woes. Revisions, turnaround time, deliverables – all of these should be spelled out as much as possible to not only protect you, but to give both parties all the details of what is expected and when.
2. Charge what you’re worth
Consistently lowering your rates will only have you working harder for less reward. This was a huge factor in contributing to the burn out I experienced. I felt like I was trying to dig a hole with a toothpick.
3. Figure out who your ideal client is
This is tricky when you’re first starting out, but after a few clients, you’ll get to know how you work best and with who. Some clients just are not a right fit, and that is OK. Make sure to do your homework ahead of time with discovery calls or proposals and figure out what is being asked of you.
4. Above all else, listen to your mind and body
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: It is OK to say no. Taking care of yourself is the most important thing. All of the guilt and stress and anxiety that I felt was a direct result of trying to do too much and be all things for all people. It doesn’t work and all it did was set me up for failure.
Remember, boundaries help to keep you in your best mindset for success, which will not only benefit you, but your clients as well.
What are some ways you have established boundaries for your business? Comment below and share your tips.
– image credit: Andrew Teel