It can be tough making the right calls. Freelancing is a tough little business.
You spend quite a bit of time in isolation, chasing jobs, feeling like the issues you are facing are a huge pain. Coming together with other freelancers can really help. Sharing jobs across a network or reaching out for advice can be vital to keeping your pocket and your head level.
Frankly, I think it’s important to make friends of your fellow freelancers if you’re going to do well at it.
But sometimes, it can be said that you can get too much of a good thing. Sometimes you need to pull back for one reason or another and be all about you.
So when is it OK to ignore your fellow freelancers so you can do the right thing by your freelance business?
This is my shortlist, but would love to hear what you have to add, too.
Your freelance advice isn’t advice for me
There’s a basic level of advice you can gain from other freelancers, but beyond that, it starts getting into opinion. And when it reaches that point, things start to get murky. You need to be brave enough to pick and choose what works for you.
I’ve been told what I do is wrong by a variety of different freelancers. Little things, big things, one offs and even the whole she-bang. Things I could care less about, things that affect me deeply have come under scrutiny. Sometimes I listen, most of the time I just chalk it up to opinion.
I can do this because I like my blog and am happy to share it with other people, the work I do is rarely stuff that bores me or makes me feel as though I am compromising my values.
And I genuinely enjoy freelancing. I look forward to it 90% of the time.
Focusing on how my experience as a freelancer works in my freelancing life helps keep the criticism at bay, and for me to spot a genuine piece of advice I should listen to when it’s given.
Freelancing is not a competition
Remember Stampy the elephant in the Simpsons? Nice enough relationship with Bart, but when it comes to other elephants, Stampy is a jerk.
Well, some freelancers are nice enough when it comes to clients, but when it comes to other freelancers; they take a certain delight in tearing them down, being outwardly confrontational, or simply just rubbing it in 247.
Like Stampy, some people who freelance are jerks.
Having a freelancer trying to pull you into some pseudo argument or competition about who is better is fruitless, annoying and can be detrimental to your confidence. When this begins to happen, you need to remember the only person you owe anything to, and the only person you need to care about is you.
Repeat after me:
- It’s you that has to work your business, get up every morning and self motivate.
- It’s you that has to eat nothing when clients aren’t paying or are thin on the ground.
- It’s you who has to keep reaching out to your audience to keep the freelance thing happening.
Letting them into your head simply disrupts your flow
Besides, so what if they do it differently? Who cares if they think they’re in some kind of weird race with you to celebrity freelancer land?
Are they going to pay your rent or buy your groceries? Is winning their race going to do that? No? Then don’t let them live rent free in your head and be another thing that taxes your nerves.
How to ignore a freelancer who won’t shut up
Write your goals down about what freelancing means to you in big black texta and stick it to your wall to remind you why you do what you do.
Having free time for creative projects, spending time with your kids, avoiding office politics, being able to work with people you want to work with, working in your PJ’s, taking 3 months off a year, doing stuff at 2am and sleeping late, money and happiness- these should be your reasons. Impressing whoever is giving you grief shouldn’t get a look in.
Whatever it is that inspired you to take the leap into freelance was there and was more important than whoever is trying to rattle your cage, so focus on that instead!
It’s become distracting to your freelance endeavours
I run the Freelance Jungle in Wollongong, Sydney and Brisbane. We meet face to face roughly each month. I think it’s healthy to get together and have a few drinks, share a few problems and generally enjoy human company so you can feel a little less like an island and more like someone that is a part of something.
To bridge the gap and provide national coverage, there is also the Freelance Jungle online.
But despite offering these opportunities to come together and talk freelance, I also believe that spending too much time clambering for the attention of other freelancers is damaging. And that you need to pick and choose just how involved you want to be in the community, lest you take your eye off the ball.
Too much time with your peers switches off your brain
If everyone tells you something is a problem all the time, you might forget to keep looking for a solution. Or you might forget to look at things from a perspective outside your industry. You could start to ignore your audience.
Talking about stuff so much with the same people over and over again that you trick yourself into thinking you’re making progress when really, you’re just making noise.
Whatever the case, sometimes mixing it with entirely different people, reading a book that challenges your views or simply sitting down to have a coffee with people you don’t know is a healthier thing to do than chase it from your peers.
Or you can just be selective about when you drop in, and make the decision not to get drawn in too much. Come for the hugs, not the rants, and save yourself the headspace!
Losing your freelance mojo
When all is said and done, if you are spending too much time watching, studying, competing with or talking to other freelancers, you can lose your focus entirely. You could let them sit rent free in your head and cause 1000 other destructive things that could have been avoided.
Don’t let that happen. The only person you are in a race with, need to care about, or be- is you. Freelancing is hard enough work without listening to freelancers parade themselves around as freelance experts.
The truth is, unless we’re making millions or shifting as many books as Seth Godin, we all do well enough to survive but not well enough to be a rockstar, and that’s perfectly fine.
Even if they were a powerful force the entire world turned to for freelance work and advice, they aren’t you, are they? You work hard, you have your goals, and they have theirs.
Be a friend to your fellow freelancer, but know when to hit the mute button on them too. After all, we may all be in this together, but that doesn’t mean we all do it the same way, does it?
Want more advice on your freelance journey? Check out the freelance section of my blog. It’s good for what ails you!