Fifty Two.

Riding the freelance rollercoaster.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from career coach Abbi Buszard. She says:

“I’ve been running my business for 2 and a half years, with a small baby hiatus in the middle (compounded by, y’know, a global pandemic that stole all the f-ing childcare).

2 and a half years in and I still haven’t learned to ride the rollercoaster of emotions that accompanies doing your own thing. I feel like a dog chasing squirrels made of feelings:

‘Ooh a new idea, I’m so happy!’
‘Oh no a rejection, I’m so sad’
‘Ooh a new client, I’m so happy!’

How can I find some equilibrium guys? I drive myself mad — what about my poor family?”

• • • • •

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Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:14] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to Doing It For The Kids podcast where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:27] – Steve
Hello! Yes, each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but of course we start each episode by looking back at last time around and reading out your comments from that. Last time we were talking about…?

[00:01:38] – Frankie
It was Claudette talking about going back into an employed job and keeping her small business going on the side.

[00:01:45] – Steve
Oh, yes.

Jules Gilbert got in touch. Hi Jules, who says,

“A year ago I went back to being a full-time employee.

My tips: set your boundaries from day one. I only engage with work stuff during work hours and stick rigidly to that, you set the precedent, otherwise people can take the mick. I learnt the hard way many years ago when I found work became all consuming and I struggled to switch off. Your time outside work is precious. Protect it.

Next, your skills as a self-employed person are valuable and can give a unique insight. I’m the only person in my department who has had that kind of experience and I’m often approached for advice because of it.

Good luck!”

[00:02:25] – Frankie
Rachel Brown says,

“I’ve just been offered a full-time employed role and I’m full of all the emotions about it. Trouble is, the job I’ve been offered is really not that exciting and coincides with me finally getting my groove back self-employment wise. So to make it a bit more bearable, I’ve got a plan.

1) I’ve negotiated a 3pm Friday finish to get some semblance of work life balance, something I would never have had the balls to ask for a couple of years ago. 2) I’m getting myself super organised and batching loads of content for my small business before I start my new job. 3) I’m aiming to put aside some of the money that I make from my employed job to pay for someone to do things like digital marketing, social ads, PR for my business. And finally, I’m telling myself that if the employee job doesn’t work out, I can always get a different job or bring my business back out from side hustle to full-time gig again.

At least these are all the things I’m telling myself to convince myself I’ve made the right decision!”

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:06:35] – Frankie
This week’s question comes from Abbi Buszard.

She is a career coach, Abbi says,

“I’ve been running my business for two and a half years with a small baby hiatus in the middle, compounded by, you know, a global pandemic that stole all the effing childcare.

Two and a half years in and I still haven’t learnt to ride the roller coaster of emotions that accompany doing your own thing. I feel like a dog chasing squirrels made of feelings.

Ooh, a new idea. I’m so happy! Oh, no. Rejection. I’m so sad. Oh, no. A new client. I’m so happy.”

[00:07:10] – Steve
Channeling a dog so well. I love that.

[00:07:12] – Frankie
Thank you. Abbi continues,

“How can I find some equilibrium, guys? I drive myself mad. What about my poor family?

Thanks very much, Abbi.”

[00:07:24] – Steve
Well, I mean, to take your dog analogy and run with it…

[00:07:27] – Frankie
Oh, hello.

[00:07:28] – Steve
Well, notice that the dog never stays down for long, does it? A dog never stays disappointed for long. It’s always eagerly sniffing out the next opportunity and when it sees it, it goes chasing after it again. And if it disappears, it goes, oh well and runs back to its own and reminds itself of what is good, and then it goes for a piss.

So I think we can learn something from the dogs on that.

[00:07:50] – Frankie
Be more dog.

[00:07:50] – Steve
They don’t get hung up on the disappointments, do they? They keep chasing, they keep chasing. They keep chasing. They keep chasing. They keep chasing. Oh, where’d the ball go? They keep chasing.

[00:08:02] – Frankie
Here, boy.

Okay, so, how do I deal with the roller coaster of being self-employed?

[00:08:08] – Steve
That’s a good way of looking at this. Yeah.

[00:08:10] – Frankie
Like, in short, I’d say I deal with that quite badly. I just find it very easy to… And maybe everybody feels like this… But when you’re in the shit, when everything isn’t going right, when the work is either not coming in or the work’s really hard or you’re in a global pandemic and your kids aren’t at school for two weeks and you’ve signed up for a million jobs. When you’re in that, it feels like there’s no way out. And I find it very easy to forget that things change and they always do.

That’s the thing. You will always come out the other side. There’ll always be another gig. There’ll always be a better gig. There will always be times when everything feels easier and good. Frankly, there’ll be times when things are really good too, and you need to hold on to that. When things are feeling rough.

And we’ve talked, I can’t remember what episode it was on now, ages ago… about like making a board of stuff that nice things people said about you and all that.

[00:09:01] – Steve
Yes! I was going to say that, right.

[00:09:03] – Frankie
Oh, were you? Okay, so maybe like, we need to talk about that again. So in that context, it was more about morale and like self confidence and stuff. But having a board of really positive things that your clients have said, testimonials, work that we’re really proud of, awards that you’ve won, blah, blah, blah.

[00:09:18] – Steve
Yeah, taking all the nice comments that people have said and storing them somewhere where you can actually see it.

[00:09:25] – Frankie
Yeah, where you can refer back to it when you’re feeling drained and crap.

And in a similar vein, like… When I was pregnant, I was looking into like hypnobirthing and the idea of having positive affirmations around the house about, you know… “I can give birth, I can do this”. Reminding myself on little post it notes and stuff that I’m capable of doing whatever life is about to throw at me, kind of thing.

[00:09:45] – Steve

[00:09:45] – Frankie
And that can really work for some people. So, I don’t know, leave yourself some love letters around your house saying, like, “I’m great at my job, I’m going to pay my bills this month, I’m going to earn X”. Whatever it is that drives you or makes you feel positive. You can even get these apps now that flash up on your phone with a notification that says something nice.

[00:10:06] – Steve
Another good thing to do is to share a problem. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ and all of that. It’s amazing how many people go into communities, for example, and they post about something crappy that has happened. Sometimes it might be celebrating the win, but let’s face it, often we need more picking up from the crap stuff and it can make you feel better within 15, 20 minutes. People pile in with such wise or comforting words. You’re all in the same boat. You get it.

That’s the beauty of a community. They’ll get it in a way that your partner, if you have one, won’t.

[00:10:40] – Frankie
But if you do have real life people who would understand, it would also just be nice to have a chat, wouldn’t it? Like we speak on Zoom, speak on the phone, whatever. In an ideal situation, like actually meeting up in real life and going for a coffee. But that’s obviously questionable at the moment. But we are proof that you don’t have to be in the same room, right?

[00:11:01] – Steve
Yes. And we’ll often jump on WhatsApp won’t we?

[00:11:04] – Frankie
Yeah, just have a moan or whatever.

[00:11:05] – Steve
It does help. It really does help to share things like that.

The thing about a roller coaster… And I often find myself pointing this out to the kids. There comes a point where children start watching films which have pretty scary bits before you get to the better bit. So you have to point out that there’s always a happy ending and that the reason the fun bits are really fun is because you’ve got the dark bit before it and stuff like that. You kind of almost have to remind yourself, with freelancing as well. Like, yeah, there are less good bits, but around the corner it’s suddenly going to be a really fun bit on the rollercoaster, or the film of your freelancing journey.

[00:11:44] – Frankie
Yeah, definitely. And I’ve definitely seen this in my life where, like, I don’t know… It’s just life, isn’t it, in general. But all the shit seems to come at once, you know? But equally, it can feel like that the other way. Suddenly, like, three months later, everything starts to slot together and loads of really good things will happen all at once. And that feels amazing.

It’s easy to forget that one of the great things about making your own success and riding out that rollercoaster is that when the things are really good, they are off the charts good, because you’ve done that entirely on your own. You’ve earned the rewards, you have achieved all of those amazing things, whatever it is — more money in your bank account, whatever you’ve done — that feels amazing.

I think why I keep doing this is because the highs of freelancing is so addictive. That sense of achievement is so unique to running your own business. You get that in a job, but not to the same extent.

[00:12:44.770] – Steve
One thing I’m really glad I did this year in particular was something that Holly June Smith was talking about in her Instagram stories right at the beginning of the year. She was encouraging people to create a document where each month you wrote down all the really good stuff that happened. And where are we? October. I have still been doing it every single month.

[00:13:03.850] – Frankie
Oh nice!

[00:13:04.340] – Steve
Writing it down makes such a difference.

And the thing is, that in 2020, it’s quite possible to look back at it and think, “I’ve not really gone anywhere or done anything with my business this year. I’ve just been sort of treading water”. But yeah, I opened that document and I look back and I go, “oh my God, actually, yeah, that happened and this happened and that”.

So, yeah, if you don’t already do that, I do suggest doing that because it’s a bit like that nice comments folder or wall of love that we mentioned. It’s that way of looking back and seeing the progress that you’re making. Because if you don’t stop and write down those little things… when you were asked to be part of the webinar, or when you booked a new client or whatever… unless you do that and make a note of them, it’s easy to forget them as the year goes on.

[00:13:44.620] – Frankie
Yeah, I like the idea of doing it monthly because I do tend to only do that at the end of the year.

[00:13:48.340] – Steve
Yeah, by then you’ve forgotten stuff!

[00:13:49.730] – Frankie
Exactly. So if I did it more regularly, I’d have a much better idea of all the stuff I’d actually achieved. And particularly the end of this year, looking back at all of that — in spite of what has happened — that’s going to feel so good.

[00:14:04.610] – Steve
I’ve seen some people turn it into content on their socials. Like they’ll do like “20 positive from this month”. But because they’re making a figure of 20, it actually really makes them force themselves and say, “oh, actually, even that walk that I took with the dogs over that forest that day really makes you dig for…

[00:14:24.560] – Frankie
… dig for gold.

[00:14:27.170] – Steve
Yeah, Actually, I tell you one thing that helped.

For a couple of years, maybe even three years, I was consistently vlogging. So each week I would create a YouTube video of my own freelance business. And really, it only totally hit the skids when lockdown happened and I simply ran out of time to create such things.

But basically, you can call it vlogging where you’re talking to a camera, but equally, for many people, that will be the act of journaling. And I’ve talked about this before. The fact of actually saying out loud or writing things down can help process your thoughts and make you feel better. It definitely made me better at dealing with freelance life, talking to the camera each week and then editing that thing. Especially editing it made me look back at the arc of a week rather than just one particularly shitty afternoon and I would talk about the good things, but the bad things, and I’d say out loud to the camera about like, “I’m not sure about that client’s email. I feel like they’re going to ditch me”. And then of course, two days later, they haven’t.

[00:15:26.780] – Frankie
I like the idea of seeing the bigger picture. If you look weekly or monthly, you’re taking a step back from the micro highs and lows of every day.

[00:15:34.890] – Steve
Yeah. So, for some people, it could be a daily journal and you just take a bit of time just to jot things down. For years, I thought this was ‘woo’ and a load of nonsense and why do I want to do that? That’s not my thing.

[00:15:46.030] – Frankie
And part of me is like, “I don’t have time for that!”

[00:15:48.490] – Steve
Right? But actually you find that by doing it… I guess it’s a bit of self therapy? It’s saying out loud and analysing things to yourself in a way that you normally don’t because you just busily bubble on rather than stopping and thinking about how you’re feeling.

[00:16:09.350] – Frankie
I guess. Ultimately, Abbi — just know that it is totally normal. I’ve been doing this eight years and even now I still struggle with the highs and lows of it all, particularly in 2020.

[00:16:20.580] – Steve
When you teach your kid how to ride a bike, it’s really interesting watching the way they figure out balance. They can only figure it out themselves. Like, yeah, you can hold onto the back, but you’re not really doing themselves that much of a favour. They just have to try and feel that wobble and get back to it. And it’s the same with this!

You have to recognise the positives and the negatives and feel that wobble and know that gradually you just keep pedaling, you’re going to be fine and not fall off it too hard in either direction. Only you can do it, but you do it by constantly adjusting the way you are, depending on the terrain and the turns and all of the stuff that life throws at you. You keep on doing that and that’s how you find balance.

What would your advice be?

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