Apr 30, 2020
On today’s show I talk about how the pandemic is forcing some of us (me included) to pivot and how we need to find our own resilience to be able to pivot and work on our freelance business.
I don’t actually want to pivot right now. I like what I was doing with my business and where it was going. But I don’t have a choice, as I’ve lost clients and projects and need to replace that income.
I had an anchor client that was about 48% of my income. I knew that was risky; I knew that wasn’t recommended. You should aim instead to have several anchor clients, no more than about 30% of your income. Now, that anchor client is on hold, so I’m forced to pivot—and I don’t know for how long.
Some days I am optimistic and know that if I work hard I can get new writing assignments from regular clients and past clients. But I still feel sad and upset and annoyed that I lost clients and have to do other things now. My husband reminded me that I’m in mourning, mourning for the type of business I had and the client I liked to work for every week.
Grief is about loss—it doesn’t have to be only about death. And the uncertainty can sometimes be the hardest part. That is called “anticipatory grief.” We have no idea how long this will continue or what things will look like in a few months, a year or two years.
You are allowed to be sad, annoyed, upset. You’re allowed to grieve for what you had just a few months ago. You’re allowed to grieve for all those plans you had for 2020. (So many plans!)
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from hard times. Think of it as mental toughness. Think of it as “bouncing back.” Being resilient doesn’t mean you won’t still be worried or scared or sad at times. But if you can find your own resilience, you can start to figure out how to better manage this sheltering-in-place and how to manage your freelance business. You can start to accept this pandemic and economic collapse for what it is and start to look forward at how life might change and what you can and need to do.
I don’t want to be Pollyanna. I know some of you have lost all or almost all of your freelance income. I am sorry. That is scary. But resilience means figuring out what you are going to do with your time now and how you can plan for the future, even if it’s not possible to get work right now. Maybe you can pivot, but maybe you can’t. Maybe you need to focus on applying for unemployment and loans and seeing how you can downsize.
A PositivePsychology.com article cites the American Psychological Association, which describes several factors that contribute to resilience. These include:
Having a strong self-esteem and confidence in yourself is really helpful right now. But what if you don’t have those? You can build a stronger self-esteem. Just to name a few tips: Allow yourself to feel a wide range of emotions. Now is not the time to bottle up your emotions or hide them. In fact, so many people are feeling similar feelings. Plus, people are really understanding right now.
Focus on self-care. What helps keep you going? What helps make you happy? We would all do well to get more sleep, eat healthy, drink more water. But what unique things do you love?
Another way to find your resilience is creating a structure and routine. That has been hard recently as everyone’s routines have been upended. But now we’re fully in this pandemic and we’re going to be here for a while, so what new routine and structure can you create for yourself?
But remember to give yourself some grace. Don’t beat yourself up when you fall out of your structure. Just get back on the horse and try again.
I’ve been working on getting up early—after sleeping in most days till 8 or 9 a.m. during the first six weeks of my shelter-in-place.
I also want to create a habit of doing a 20-minute yoga/stretching routine every morning as soon as I get up.
Businessman and speaker Michael Hyatt talks about his “morning ritual.” I already have a morning ritual and I bet you do too—but is it the best ritual for you? Is it how you want your mornings to start off? Think about how to set up your morning to have your best day.
Another thing that helps build resilience is taking action—no matter how small. Figure out what you can do right now to work on your business. You can start by writing down all the challenges you face right now in a column. Then, make a second column to the right of the first on potential solutions to those challenges. Then, pick just one. What can you do today to start to meet that challenge head-on?
One idea is to draft an email to all previous clients asking how you can help them. Tell them you have some availability (to put it mildly!) and outline the services you offer. Your clients likely don’t know all the things you can do, so let them know all the ways you can help.
A writer friend emailed all her friends, family and colleagues, outlining the skills she has and the services she can offer. It might feel weird to ask for help, but there should be no shame in this. Offer ways you can help.
Let’s talk about how to pivot. Now might be the time to work ON your business. That’s one way of pivoting. But you will also likely need to focus on getting some actual paying work. Some of this might be linked—like updating your website, which you had already been wanting to do.
Here’s a tactic I used to figure out what I could pivot to:
Play some fun, lively music. Dance around for about five minutes to get yourself peppy and psyched up.
Then, take out a piece of paper and turn on your phone timer for 5 minutes. In that time, write down every type of pivot you can think of. Just keep writing. Challenge yourself to answer: How could I change my business NOW and in the immediate future to get more clients?
Think way, way, way outside the box. Ask yourself: What do my clients need and want right now? What new skills could I learn? What have I always dreamed of doing? What hobbies and activities do I love? How could I create packages of services to offer? How could I partner with other freelancers to create projects? How could I promote myself to get my name out there more?
Then, type up the list. Don’t edit it yet.
Then, prioritize the items. Put the ones with the most potential—those that would be the easiest and quickest to implement—at the top.
You’re not done yet. In his book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear talks about the challenge of “motion versus action.” The idea is that sometimes we feel like we’re doing new things—working on projects, being productive—but everything we’re doing is just “motion.” Motion is the research, the planning, the preparation. But it’s not the action of actually doing something.
I realized I am really good at motion. But I need to be better at action.
So, after you’ve brainstormed on how to pivot your business, ask yourself how you need to act. That could mean creating a to-do list for a couple of items. It could also mean putting those items on your calendar and sticking to that schedule. That will cause you to act and actually do something.
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Harvard Business Review article: “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief”
PositivePsychology.com article: “What Is Resilience and Why Is It Important to Bounce Back?”
American Psychological Association: “Building your resilience”
Episode #52 of Deliberate Freelancer: Embracing Self-Care without Guilt, with Acupuncturist Rachel Brumberger
Episode #48 of Deliberate Freelancer: How to Cope with Coronavirus Anxiety, with Therapist Mira Dineen
Episode #41 of Deliberate Freelancer: How to Create and Stick to Habits—the Backbone of Your Life and Business