Freelance Panic

It’s now been nearly three years since I started my freelance editing business, and I still wake up most mornings marvelling at the fact that I have a job I love, that’s so flexible and that is earning me a lot more money per hour than I ever made in an office job.


However, even after nearly three years, there’s still a predictable and very annoying cycle I go through on a regular basis.


Out of the 33 months I have been undertaking freelance editing, I have failed to hit my target income ten times, which I guess is just under a third. However, over the course of those 33 months, my average monthly income has exceeded my target and increased considerably each year. So, in real terms, I’m doing incredibly well – and I’m very much aware how lucky I’ve been (as well as working extremely hard) to be able to sustain that income.


But, after over twenty years of always having a permanent job with a regular pay-check, I think it’s going to take me a bit longer to get used to the uncertainty and unpredictability of freelance working.


Don’t get me wrong – I love it and I’d never go back to an office job now (barring extreme circumstances). I love setting my own hours, I love the variety of short-term projects, I love getting regular validation from awesome client testimonials, I love organising my schedule, I love having tons more time to dedicate to my own creative projects, and I love the actual work itself. So, overall, I’m really, really happy with my job!


What I don’t love is the fairly regular panic that sets in, every time I see the end of my current projects approaching with nothing booked in to take their place. And that’s happened a lot more often than during the ten months I haven’t hit my target income – because I frequently have weeks where all the projects will be completed by the end of a Friday, and I don’t book in any more work until the weekend or Mon/Tue afterwards.


And, in January, I had a space of ten whole days where I had no work at all and I spiralled massively into anxiety and despair. Now, I’m fully aware that most freelancers experience fallow periods a lot more often than I have so far. And I’m very, very lucky to have a safety net of savings.


I just really wish I could persuade the anxiety part of my brain of what the conscious part of my brain already knows – it’s fine, it has always been fine, and it’s likely that it will be fine for the foreseeable future!


What was most frustrating about the recent dip in paid editing work was that I suddenly had a lot more time I could have spent on my novel, marketing activities, business development, professional training, my podcast, my blogs and newsletter – the list goes on and on. But, due to the level of panic I was experiencing, I found it really difficult to focus on anything, so I mostly wasted all that time in unnecessary worry…


I managed my finances well and didn’t have any real issues with living expenses in January – and the money I’ve got booked in from February work (and some delayed pay from January) adds up to more than double my target income for one month – so IT’S FINE.


But, even though I’m nicely busy right now, and loving my work again – I don’t have much booked in yet for March.


And I can feel the panic just waiting to set in again…


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