How to Stay Sane – and Keep Your Business Booming – When “Life Happens”
By Li Vasquez-Noone | December 1, 2018
Raise your right hand if you’ve had one (or more) of these events happen in the last few years. Raise your left hand if you think one (or more) could happen in the next few years:
- Started a business or significantly changed your business.
- Left an old job or started a new job.
- Got married, or divorced, or otherwise started or ended a significant relationship.
- Moved from one home to another.
- Had a baby or had an adult child move out of your home.
- Had a major health issue, or had a family member or close friend with a major health issue.
By now, everyone reading probably has at least one hand in the air.
These are a few of the common “life events” that have a significant impact on our health and well-being. Whether they’re planned or come out of the blue, they all have something in common: they’ll throw you for a loop, both personally and professionally.
Freelance professionals are especially vulnerable to the effects of these life events. No matter what’s happening around you, your freelance business relies on your ability to keep working. You probably don’t have coworkers or staff that can take over when you’re coping with other things.
It’s all up to you.
That’s why it’s important to know how to prepare for these life events and how to deal with them. Your reaction to these events can make the difference between business success and failure.
The Move That Nearly Derailed My Business
In 2017, I moved myself, my husband and my two cats from southern Florida to Baja California, Mexico.
This was something I had dreamed about for years, and meticulously planned and executed.
But it still had a big effect on my freelance copywriting business.
An international move is a major undertaking. The prep work for my move took a year to put everything together. Research, residency visas, selling a house, importing pets and belongings … that was before we even crossed the border.
Once we arrived, I had planned it would take a few weeks to settle down and be back to business as usual.
But in reality, it took close to six months before I felt like I was working at 100% capacity again.
My life and business were disrupted. And I had brought it on myself! The move left me tired, uninspired, and unmotivated. I didn’t want to work on any projects, and I didn’t want to look for new ones. At one point I even seriously considered an early retirement.
Lesson Learned – It All Begins With Your Mindset
Really though, what I wanted was to feel in control of my life and business again.
And control wouldn’t come from another to-do list or schedule. I needed the right mindset.
I turned to my support network of writer friends for help. With their advice, and my own research, I realized I needed to embrace two ideas first to get my business back on the right path.
- You can’t control everything.
You’re a freelancer. You know how to identify problems, research, and solve them. You’re no doubt good at making lists, taking action, and staying in control.
Thing is, you can’t control most of what’s happening around you. Especially in the middle of a major life event.
Your solution is to plan what you’re able to, and accept that some details are beyond your control. Get comfortable with the idea of delays and setbacks that you can do nothing about. It’s frustrating, but you’re wasting a lot of mental energy being upset. Energy that could be redirected elsewhere, as you’ll see below.
My move taught me that I couldn’t control when we would find a suitable rental home, or how long it would take to get our belongings through customs. Or even when the internet would be connected in our new home.
Once I accepted what was out of my control, I could move on the next step.
- You can control your reactions.
When you’re stressed, your mental energy is already spread thin. Don’t make it worse by wasting it on things that you can’t do anything about.
Recognize that while you can’t control certain things, you can control your reaction to them. Be flexible, be resilient, and be optimistic.
This can be hard to do on your own, so it’s a good time to reach out to your network of writer friends for help. Many of my writer friends had been through similar situations and had great tips on how to cope.
It seems like a small shift, but this new mindset made a big difference in my business. I began to love my work again and got excited about the possibilities, instead of looking for an exit strategy.
Bonus Coping Exercises
* Give yourself a break. Think that being tough with yourself will help you “snap out of it?” It’s not true. Research shows you’ll make more progress if you are kind and forgiving, than if you’re hard on yourself.
* Write it out. Writing in a journal lets you “talk out” your feelings, fears, hopes, and lessons learned. You don’t have to show it to anyone, or even keep up with it long term.
Once you’re in a coping frame of mind, you can take positive action to get back on track with your business, and even grow.
Keep Your Business Running
When you are dealing with an unusual or stressful event in your life, it’s time to put some extra care into your business. The bills still need to be paid! Take these steps to make sure your business stays active.
Adjust your expectations. Be realistic about how much time and energy you have right now. It might be time to scale back your big goals, or put them on hold for a period of time.
Your business is a long-term investment. Changing your plans isn’t a setback – it’s fine-tuning.
Make plans. Keep planning and setting goals. They’ll keep you motivated and moving forward. Think about learning a new skill, attending a conference or networking event, or increasing your prospecting.
Communicate. Keep your clients in the loop. Let them know as soon as you can if you need extra time on projects, if you’re taking time off, or if you’re working fewer hours. They need to know what’s going on, especially if you think you’re going to miss deadlines or can’t take on the extra workload.
My experience has been that as long as I let them know sooner rather than later, my clients understand and are supportive.
Organize what you can. Use technology to stay on top of your to-do list and appointments. Don’t rely on your memory, no matter how reliable it normally is! Once you write something down, or schedule it in an app, you’re free to use your mental energy for other tasks.
I rely on my calendar app, and set alerts on my phone. I use Evernote to keep notes and write lists. I also keep an old-fashioned notebook and pen, in case my phone or computer battery runs down.
Get an accountability partner. Have another writer hold you accountable for staying on track. Reach out to your network and find another freelancer who also wants to focus their business. Speaking of your network …
Tap your network. Reach out to your writer friends! Talk to them about what’s happening in your business and ask for advice. Lean on them for emotional support. When I opened up to my network, I got great advice on coping and focusing, and landed an accountability partner who is keeping me on track.
Outsource. You’re running a business, consider bringing in some outside help! Some options:
Virtual Assistants – for many daily business tasks, like email, research, prospecting, and website management. Let them handle these tasks so you can concentrate on what you do best.
Freelance Writers – for research, to write first drafts, blog posts, website copy, or to outsource projects. Consider hiring help if you’re overwhelmed with work and feel like you’ll never dig your way out – even if it’s just for a few pieces of copy.
Household help – for cleaning, yard work, grocery shopping, and household maintenance. Professionals can do these chores, often in a fraction of the time it would take you.
Thriving after a Life Event
You may not be able to control what life throws at you, but you can control how you react to it. By recognizing what’s going on, you can take the steps you need to keep your business operating. You may even be stronger for the experience!
This article is part the series: Keep Your Business Booming When “Life Happens”
- Part 1 (this page): How to Stay Sane – and Keep Your Business Booming – When “Life Happens”