Getting into Freelance Alignment

March 29, 2017

Getting into Freelance Alignment

When I first started full-time freelancing back in 2015, I thought I was going to love every minute of being my own boss.

Making decisions about what projects I’d be working on, working directly with clients, and taking full ownership of my projects would be my career-happy-place.

I also thought work would feel easy. That I’d wake up in the morning excited to go to my office and start my day. And, truthfully, most days things do feel pretty easy. Most days I do feel excited to go to my office.

However, sometimes during my workday,  I find myself desperately trying to fix something that just isn’t working. For example:

  • a blog post that sounds awful no matter how many times I re-write
  • a line of code that simply doesn’t do what it’s supposed to when I’m SURE it should
  • a logo design that I’ve created hundreds of iterations for – and it’s still not quite right
  • a scary blank page staring back at me and absolutely 0 ideas on how to fill it.

 

So, WHAT GIVES.

This is supposed to be what I’m really good at. This is something I should LOVE.

I recently shared in my weekly newsletter that I’ve been feeling like I’m in a bit of a rut lately. A bunch of things were contributing to this including:

  • I got some negative feedback from a client and for some reason it knocked me down for a bit. I hadn’t received that kind of feedback from anyone in so long, that I started to question my skills and whether I was even a good designer. Hello, Imposter Syndrome! Haven’t seen you in a while, please sit. Just wondering, how long will you be here? 
  • I wasn’t getting outside, going for a run during my lunch break, or doing any type of exercise regularly. On days when the weather was “blah” I’d often spend an entire day without leaving my house.
  • I didn’t feel that excited about my work, when usually I do. When I’m enjoying my work, it feels easy and fun. Things felt much more difficult and tedious than they used to.

I was struggling through my work days. I felt like I was making an enormous effort and then making very little progress. I was working on weekends just to catch up on where I’d fallen behind and I wasn’t seeing any growth in my business.

Finally, I clued in and realized that this is not sustainable and not how I want to run my business. I re-listened to an episode of one of my favourite podcasts, The Lively Show about getting into alignment and it was a huge lightbulb moment for me. Things weren’t working because I was trying too hard to force all the pieces into place, instead of going with the flow and letting things fall where they wanted to fall.

 

I know talking about “going with the flow” sounds a little new-age and isn’t for everyone, but just stay with me here.

Going with the flow and getting into alignment is about working with what you’re given. Instead of trying to “fix” everything in my environment to go my way and be perfect, I allowed myself to see alternate solutions that were outside what I had envisioned as “perfect”. 

For example, I like to schedule everything. Scheduling things helps keep me focused and stay on task. Pre-alignment Gab would think, “finish writing this blog post we have scheduled to publish tomorrow before you go to the gym, that way it’s done and you’ll have a clear head during your workout”.

Well, guess what would happen? I’d get distracted because I placed an arbitrary obstacle in front of myself. I’d be unfocused, procrastinating, then never finish the blog post, and never go to the gym. I’d still feel exhausted because I wasted all this mental energy believing that I was being virtuous by finishing my work before enjoying myself. Basically, I totally played myself.

Now, I only work when I feel like I’m in alignment. If I notice myself starting to feel frustrated or unproductive, I take a step back. I ask myself, “what’s something I can do right now, that would make me feel better?” and I do that. Sometimes it’s getting outside for a walk or going to the gym, sometimes it’s drawing in my sketchbook, sometimes it’s still doing work but just switching to a different project.

 

It feels so counter-intuitive at first to actually pause and focus on doing less.

But when I stop what I’m working on and ask myself “Why does this feel so difficult right now”, I start to see my problem in a new light.

For a long time I thought that being a freelancer meant I’d have to work harder than everyone else. I thought that the only way to be successful and grow my business, was just to work more than anyone else did.

This mentality sets so many entrepreneurs up for failure. I don’t believe that you need 80-hour workweeks in order to be successful. It’s unrealistic to think that there’s only one path to success and it’s the path of the person who punched the most hours. Spending the time to get into alignment is not wasted time. It’s productive time that you spend so you can be more productive. 

I feel like I have a better overall picture for my business after stepping back a bit and realizing the things I needed to change. I also don’t feel like I have this totally conquered just yet. Focusing on getting into alignment before taking action is a constant battle for me. There are so many times during the day that I want to rush through things and tick every item off my list. It takes time to be okay with not getting accomplishing everything and to know, deep-down, that it’s for the best. Building a small business really is a journey, and it takes time to recognize that my own health and well-being have to come before work.

Thanks so much for reading, it’s something I’ve been meaning to share for a while. I know there are lots of other entrepreneurs out there who face these same challenges, so I’d love to hear your experiences with flow and alignment in the comments!

 

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Caitlin - March 30, 2017
I needed this, I also have a list a mile long and sometimes I find I've been sat all day staring at it, but not managing to achieve any of it. Which just makes it worse! Each project is something I'm excited to do, but moving forward just seems challenging. I'm going to take your advice and take some time out for myself, and make my productive hours, actually productive. Thanks for this! Reply
Anna Osgoodby - March 30, 2017
Ah, LOVE this post. Such great perspective and love your tip about focusing on doing less too. I feel like this is such an important part about freelancing and something I'm definitely still working on. Thanks for such a great post :) Reply
Nat, Website Superhero - March 30, 2017
I can definitely resonate with this post! It happened to me for so long that I made a huge change - I stopped entrepreneur-ing full-time. I took a day job 6 months ago and I haven't looked back. I'm sure I'll venture into full-time entrepreneurship again in the future, but I'm gathering my lessons: I'll have a project manager and I'll partner up with 1+ other people in the business (this comes from my least favorite parts of my first stint as an online entrepreneur). So thanks for this post, more people gotta talk about this sorta thing :) Reply