Anyone who’s ever taken the leap into the world of self-employment knows the heady mixture of excitement and abject terror that immediately follows. It’s thrilling, of course, particularly given how restrictive typical employment can be: you’re taking control of your destiny, betting on yourself in a big way and getting the opportunity to show exactly what you can accomplish.
But doubts will always be there, no matter how confident you are. What if you don’t have what it takes? What if something beyond your power prevents you from succeeding? What if the workload is simply too much for you to endure? If you don’t find ways to mitigate it, the stress weighing on your mind and spirit will only intensify as the weeks and months go by.
If you’re new to self-employment, then, this post should help. We’re going to set out some expert tips that can help you cope with the stress of being your own boss and eventually settle into a comfortable lifestyle. Let’s get started.
One nice thing about having a conventional job is that you have colleagues to support you. Even now that many people work remotely, they still get to communicate with their colleagues via tools like Slack, and this reminds them that they’re not alone: if they ever need to vent about their professional frustrations (tastefully and discreetly, of course), they can do so.
But once you enter self-employment, you can find yourself rather isolated. You have absolute authority over the ship of your career, yes, but you’re the only member of the crew. And if you don’t have people to share your burdens, you’ll likely get lost in your thoughts with disastrous consequences. The key, then, is to put more effort into your personal life.
Make time for the people you care about, and remember to be honest with them about how you’re feeling and what’s bringing you down. At the same time, don’t feel that you need to mention or focus on every facet of your professional life. Sometimes you just need to vent, and sometimes you need some advice. If neither of those things is true, concentrate on enjoying the time you have with those people. The more fun you have, the less stress you’ll feel.
Taking your career into your own hands inevitably produces a draining effect. Right now you’re in the early stages, but you’ve surely already felt the difference that stems from needing to do everything yourself. You can address this by reducing your workload (more on that next), but you can also work on making yourself healthier and thus more capable of handling it.
You’ve already made one huge change in your life, but what if you’re not quite ready for it? There may still be something holding you back: a worry that you’re not actually good enough to be self-employed, perhaps, or even a reluctance to admit just how ambitious you are. None of us is a finished product, and we all need help to make progress. Consider getting professional help: services like breakthrough coaching are designed to identify the final blockers holding you back from your potential and help you figure out how to overcome them.
As you commit to mental health, though, don’t forget to do the same with physical health. Getting regular exercise is essential for keeping your stress level down. You don’t need to be a gym rat hitting the weights every day. Just get outside for regular walks, stretch when you can, and avoid sitting down for lengthy periods. Those things alone can be transformative.
No matter how good you are and how hard you work, you can’t do everything yourself for very long. It’s all too easy to become a victim of your own success. The better you do at growing your budding brand, the more work you’ll have to do, and the harder it’ll get to keep up. It’s far from uncommon for promising entrepreneurs or freelancers to refuse to relinquish any control and end up hitting the point of burnout before giving up altogether.
Don’t let yourself get to that point. Delegate whenever you can (you might want to hire an accountant to handle your finances, for instance). If you’re getting enough work to bring someone in full-time, seriously consider taking that route. Otherwise, stick with using other freelancers: there are plenty around, and they aren’t difficult to find. Your job should be to focus on the core of your business and bring in new work.
Remember that a strong brand can grow over years, even decades. Your priority should be setting and reaching modest goals that suit your current capacity. Overworking to get ahead of the curve can seem appealing when you’re just getting started, but you’ll regret it when you’re six months in and you feel absolutely exhausted. Share the load on your shoulders.
You should never go into a business venture expecting to fail. That will diminish the effort you put into it, likely leading it to fail when it could have succeeded. But that doesn’t mean you should operate on the assumption that it will flourish. You always need to appreciate the possibility that things won’t work out. Beyond that, you need to prepare for that event.
It’s a bad idea to put all your money into your operation, for instance. It’s far smarter to keep some in reserve so you won’t be left utterly destitute in the event of your self-employment project falling apart. And instead of hampering your efforts, this will actually help them. Why? Because you’ll no longer be weighed down by the fear that you might lose everything.
Knowing that you’ll still be alright if your new brand fails will make it much easier for you to work comfortably and effectively. You can have a long and varied career in self-employment, taking you through various ventures: you might be a consultant, run several businesses, and switch between industries. So play the long game, and prepare for the worst.
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to spreading the word about startups and small businesses, along with providing inspirational advice for self-employed entrepreneurs. Visit the blog for the latest micro biz news and inspiring entrepreneurial stories. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.