I think it’s so incredibly easy to feel defeated when you start your journey as an entrepreneur. Because people are trying to build a business and put their best face forward all the time… everyone on your feed looks like a successful expert who never deals with imposter syndrome, self-doubt, or dry spells.
This online onslaught can often make the challenges of running your own business and dealing with less or no work way more painful. At least it does for me.
Coping with times when client work dries up, or leads aren’t going anywhere can be a REAL mind-fuck, especially when you look around and think everyone else has it “figured out”. It’s easy to start worrying that there’s something wrong with you, or that you’re not good enough.
But that’s why I want to use this blog post to talk about a topic that’s kinda uncomfortable/embarrassing for me, as well as some of the ways I’ve learned to cope and push through it.
How It Started
I started freelancing back in the summer of 2019. I was 6 months pregnant and realized I was at a crossroads in my “Career”.
That crossroads was: sacrifice the way I wanted to raise my kid… or quit a job that made me miserable and stretch REALLY FAR outside of my comfort zone by starting a freelance copywriting business.
2020 As A New Freelancer and New Mom
While I didn’t make “enough” money freelancing (mainly due to the new service-provider-syndrome of under-charging), I made way more than I thought I could in my first year… and had a consistent stream of income coming in.
I had the privileged position of a husband with a well-paying job that permitted me the opportunity to focus on building a copywriting career full-time and raise our new baby. While it’s DEFINITELY not easy, I’m so incredibly grateful, because it truly changed my life.
The End Of 2020
Due to some personal issues, the end of 2020 was REALLY rough on me, and I wasn’t heartbroken when my clients said they wanted to take a break from work due to the incoming holidays.
I wasn’t pitching actively (which is a HUGE contributor to dry spells- so never stop pitching), and worked on some personal projects to help decompress and focus on my son’s 1st birthday and holiday season to get through the emotional stuff getting me down.
How Its Going
I’ll be honest… 2021 has been REALLY stressful for me, work didn’t flow in as easily as it did the year before, and while I’ve had a ton of awesome discovery calls with clients, I’ve also definitely had my fair share of ghosting after that.
I’ve had some side-projects, and so it wasn’t a $0 quarter, but it was pretty close, and my anxiety and imposter syndrome really started hijacking my brain.
I was working like crazy, but we in Capitalist societies tend to really struggle with feeling validated in our efforts if there isn’t a monetary value attached to everything we’re doing.
This is especially true for me, as (while I totally respect the lifestyle of being a full-time mom) I have always loved working. I’m so grateful we have the financial privilege of my husband’s career, and I totally recognize how so many people would LOVE to be in my shoes… but I have a REAL guilt complex about not contributing equally to our finances.
However, if there’s one thing that running my own business (and motherhood) has taught me: you can’t waste precious time dwelling on what’s not working. You have to be flexible, and capable of objectively looking for solutions.
Baby Steps Are Still Steps
So I realized my biggest hurdle was a lack of consistent cold-emailing/pitching, and so I committed my ass to write really awesome, value-rich pitches. I’ve only been writing 5 a week, but I make sure those 5 are the best they can be… and I’ve gotten 2 highly promising responses, as well as some leads who came back to me after a few months ready to start projects!
Definitely an upside, but I’m still feeling the pressure. In all honesty, my goal is to make enough money that my husband can quit his job (as it doesn’t make him very happy), and be the sole breadwinner.
These are lofty goals, and I know I’m nowhere near close… but I know that I have all of the tools to get me there.
I just have to stay out of my own way.
How I Deal With Dry Spells And The Ugly Emotions
While coming out of the other SIDE of a dry spell makes things seem less stressful, the only way to move through a famine-type situation is through your own machinations. Here’s how I handled it this year.
TAKE TIME TO REFLECT ON WHAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED
We are so bad at recognizing our own achievements. We usually attribute good outcomes to “luck”, but if something “bad” happens, that’s all our own fault. It is so important to step outside of yourself when those horrible voices start to dig in.
You CANNOT move forward if you’re locking yourself down in negative self-talk. One way I help combat those feelings of inadequacy is by keeping track of projects/tasks I’ve accomplished. Having that data right there in black and white really helps remind you that you ARE good at what you’re doing.
You have to take stock of what’s working and what’s not. If you’re experiencing dry spells, you have to ask yourself if you might be focusing on aspects of your business that aren’t actually moving you toward your goal. For me, it was a lack of consistent cold-emailing, and getting distracted with projects that had value, but weren’t really moving the needle.
Part of the reason I WASN’T cold emailing was that I HATE IT, and find it so tedious. However, I sat myself down, put my fucking grown-up pants on, and said to myself:
“If you want this as bad as you say you do, then sit down and send those fucking emails“
So ALWAYS try to focus on the simplest but most important efforts that ACTUALLY push you in the right direction.
Pitch, Pitch, Pitch
If you’re a service provider like me, pitching is the main way of securing consistent and well-paying work. If you’re experiencing a dry spell, then it might just be because you’re not putting yourself out there enough.
Trust me, I know cold-emailing is really stressful, time-consuming, and even frustrating… but it’s better to send out 1 great pitch than none at all.
And don’t forget to follow-up. You’ll be surprised at how effective sending 1 or 2 follow-emails can be.
Be mindful of productive procrastination
I’ll start by saying that I’m a big fan of productive procrastination in certain circumstances. I often find it helps me do better work. Sometimes folding my laundry instead of working on a project lets me recenter and better prepare TO work on the project, however…
I ALSO recognize, now that I’m reaching the end of my dry spell, that I was focusing on a LOT of important projects… but I wasn’t focusing on the ACTUAL task that was going to get me the clients I wanted.
I was avoiding cold emailing because I was feeling insecure and frustrated by it, and it took me a while to realize that was what I was doing. So try to take stock once a week to ensure you’re on track, and make sure you’re not avoiding important tasks out of anxiety or self-doubt.
Don’t take it personally
This will be the hardest part, but one of the big struggles I had this year was all of the promising leads I had that didn’t pan out. Now, a MAJOR difference between my business last year and my business this year, was I was WAY undercharging for my services because I wanted to build up some freelance clients and experience.
I was always busy with client work, but I wasn’t really making much to show for it. So I made a promise to myself THIS year to tell my Imposter Syndrome to go fuck itself and charge appropriately for my services.
However, when we start charging our worth, it WILL mean that there will be clients who aren’t ready to invest. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re not WORTH your rates, and it doesn’t mean you’re overcharging.
My Plans For 2021
My most important goal for the rest of this year is just pitching. If nothing else gets done (excluding client work, of course), cold-emailing will. Even above this blog.
I’m choosing to stay positive, and I’m very excited to see my cold-emailing efforts pay off. Nothing set in stone at the time of writing this post (full-disclosure), but definitely promising.
I refuse to get in my own way with negative self-talk. I lived my whole life in anxious self-loathing and insecurity, and it was only when I STOPPED letting that shitty voice rule my decisions… was I able to actually move forward in my life.
While I definitely refuse to board the toxic-positivity train of “mindset is the end all be all to success” and “manifesting wealth”, I will not get in my own way anymore.
I hope this insight into my real-life experience as a freelancer helped you feel less alone.
While I definitely admit that writing this post touched on a vulnerable side of myself I struggled to share, I REALLY want to provide real insight into these topics.
Especially because toxic-positivity played a HUGE role in why the last couple of months of 2020 were so overwhelming and negative for me.
Being honest with you guys is as equally liberating as it is embarrassing, and I really hope it makes you feel better to know someone else might be going through the same thing, in spite of what social media shows us.
Most importantly, remember that you GOT THIS, and you WILL reach your goals.
You ARE working hard enough, just make sure you’re always mindful of how you’re distributing your energy. It is a precious resource, and it is easy to exhaust.
Just keep moving forward, and I’m walking right alongside you.
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