Here’s a truth about full-time freelancing:
There are up times.
And there are down times.
Some months there’s a windfall.
Other months, every client seems to disappear.
More truth: for the past couple months, my freelancing life has been the latter.
My big client is in the midst of a redesign and hasn’t needed much content work. Smaller clients have been busy with non-content projects. And, of course, my financials reflected all these quiet clients.
Now, this is one of the reasons I save aggressively during the windfall months. Because when the slow times come, the situation isn’t dire. I’m not going hungry. I’m not struggling to pay my bills.
But I am incredibly financially conservative and I do have an anxiety disorder, so even though slow times aren’t a dire situation, they do get to me.
They do turn my anxiety up a notch.
They do make my heart race a little more than usual.
They do make me nervous.
In response, I start changing my behavior. I spend more time reaching out to new prospective clients. I put off purchases if I can. I start constantly asking myself “is this essential?”
I’m always pretty conservative in my spending, but when the slow times come, I tighten and tighten and tighten some more.
And maybe sometimes that’s prudent and necessary.
But, another truth?
It isn’t always prudent or necessary.
There’s such a thing as tightening too much. Making yourself miserable without cause.
I realized it in October when we were in the French Alps and I was feeling miserable every single morning. I’d wake up and feel heavy, depressed, like a failed human being.
Why? Why all this misery?
Funny enough, it wasn’t that I was waking up with the financial stuff top of mind.
It wasn’t that I was truly in a bad financial position.
It wasn’t the worry that I’d never have a windfall again.
Perhaps ridiculously, funnily, strangely: it was because I had been putting off getting a haircut.
Yes, a haircut.
Something about removing that non-essential from my life had left me feeling gross every morning. I felt like a mess. I felt unprofessional. I was avoiding Skype calls and videos, even though I had some of them on my to-do list. I felt like a failure.
And that’s when I realized that I’d tightened too much.
I was making myself miserable over something small and not-that-expensive. I was letting fear–fear that the low months would stretch on and on despite my efforts to pick up new clients and despite the good relationships with current clients that would likely bring them back around once they had more content work–I was letting that fear make me literally miserable when I woke up in the morning.
The next day, I got a haircut.
It cost about $40.
And it was 100% worth it.
Even though October won’t be an up month and my busy November’s payments aren’t likely to come through until December.
In the end, it was an important reminder about the power of balance. Because yes, tightening up during the lean times makes sense. But, in my case, no, I don’t need to tighten so much that I can’t breathe.
And so I started asking myself the question: How much is your misery worth?
Would you pay $40 during the lean times to feel professional and capable and successful?
Because it’s not about the haircut.
It’s about how you feel.
And everybody will have different things that make them feel good, bad, rich, poor, failed, successful, beautiful, ugly. For you, a haircut might be the first thing to go from your budget. For me, it might be the last.
The point is this:
How much do you truly have to tighten? Are you in real trouble or do you have plenty of safety net and, like me, are just nervous by nature? Sometimes it’s the former and you do what you have to to make ends meet and get the next gig.
But sometimes it’s the latter and you don’t have to go quite so tight.
I needed the reminder.
And I thought maybe some of you might too.