Prior to giving notice at my previous gig, I researched extensively on taking the freelance plunge so I could spend more time with Laurel, travel, and work on building out my long term vision. While many were super supportive of me to work for myself and alongside my husband, I definitely went through a range of emotions the first six months.
3 Very Real Feelings in the First Months
- Feeling like you have no idea what you’re doing. Three days after leaving, I met up with a successful freelancer for the first time over coffee at Panera Bread (fast forward 4 months and she’s a legit agency owner now). I told her I had just transitioned and pretty much vomited my nervousness to her. I. Just. Met. You. She assured me to throw away my old WordPress theme, work out my pricing structure, and that I might feel like I don’t know what the crap I’m doing the first few months, but that I’d figure it out and be great at it.
- Fear and anxiety. What happened to the steady bi-weekly paycheck? Wait, I have to touch my own accounting, taxes, expenses, and actually sell my services? How much should I charge? Will I be able to balance working around my family’s schedule? All these questions circled around me, but that’s where a plan and continued research comes in place.
- Isolation. Sure, working from home has all the benefits. But, it can get isolating without the water cooler chat and spontaneous collaboration with old coworkers. I’ve learned to step out and work out of a coffee shop or kids museum once in a while (I’ve worked out of the Orlando Science Center several times while Laurel plays in the engineering and dino rooms). Luckily Laurel is generally well-behaved and can allow me a good hour+ at an adult place before it’s time to pack up shop.
How to Combat that Lizard Brain
Seth Godin coined the phrase “quieting the lizard brain,” the resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise.
- Set a Plan and Schedule So even though I knew exactly what my vision was (you would be ridiculous if you didn’t at least have a plan and 6 months savings in place), I definitely went through an identity crisis shifting from working for someone else on one brand (aka jack-of-all-trades designer) to allowing myself to work on a niche. And guess what? I still don’t fully know what I’m doing; all I know is that at least I’m moving forward and not sitting still. I love working on clean, beautiful web and UI/UX designs and will take on limited clients in that field but my crazy love is gift and stationery illustrations.
- Make yourself accountable. This is, BY FAR, the absolute biggest struggle I have with going solo. Sure your clients hold you accountable, but it’s up to you to make sure you invoice properly, follow up on time, and ensure their vision gets met from beginning to end. I love how Stephanie of Hello Dreamers puts her top monthly goals for her readers to see. Another genius idea, jacked from Jessica Swift, is to have an Accountability Partner where you both share your goal(s) for the week with ONE person, and at the next week checkup see each other’s process. I haven’t found an accountability partner yet, and will make that my next goal.
- Find others in your “tribe.” Fighting isolation is hard. I am a self-professed ambivert with a slight lean towards extroversion so I definitely miss the adult talk during much-needed breaks. I can not fully commit to being just a stay-at-home mom – nothing wrong with that; I consider myself more of a work-at-home mom since I love the problem-solving world of design way too much to let go) so I have one foot in networking and leading change in the community. I also realize that not everyone will have your same work/home lifestyle so I finally buckled down and reached out to a MOMS group in hopes of finding more work-at-home moms.
So while I still have a long way to go, I love taking some time to reflect and see where progress is! Share your thoughts below!