(some background music to go with my post)
The other week I had what can only be described as a freak out.
I was on my way to my first meeting of the day. The sun was shining, birds were singing, the lake sparkled. I half expected James Baskett to walk past with a bluebird on his shoulder.
But not, there I was, freaking out.
“What have I done? Why have I left my life of comfort and stability for this?” I fretted. “What if it all goes wrong? Will I ever get any work? What if no one thinks I’m good enough? Why haven’t those people replied to my emails? How long can I last without making money? Why hasn’t the Chamber of Commerce sent me my company number yet? What insurance do I have to get? Should I pay myself a salary or dividends?”
My mind was churning, my inner monologue was running along far faster than I’ve ever managed. I was panicking. Not the greatest mindset to go into a meeting with.
So how did I turn it around? How did I go from the wobbly mess I was at 8.30 to the cool and collected businesswoman I was at 9.00?
Ladies and gentleman, I present Imogen’s method to stopping the freak.
Stop, breathe, think
Good. Keep breathing.
A freak out moment only normally lasts a couple of minutes but, if you don’t grab onto it, it can sit there, needling you for days. So stop, literally stand still, and take a deep breath. There, isn’t that better? OK, now that you’ve got some oxygen in that brain of yours, think. What exactly are you freaking out about? Is it some little thing that’s gone wrong? Is it a series of things? What has made you feel like this?
For me, it was pure nervousness at going to meet a new person and uncertainty at whether I could sell my skills. As it happened, I could, and I did.
Come up with a plan
Now that you know what’s freaking you out, it’s time to work out how to solve the problem. There is very little in life that is insurmountable. In business, most problems have some form of solution (and yes, sometimes that solution is difficult but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.)
Make a list if that works for you. One side, all the things you’re freaking out about. On the other side, potential solutions, people to talk to, plans of action.
Before my meeting, I sat down on a bench by the lake and tried to relax. I went through what I knew about the person I was meeting, and then went through what I knew I could offer. I sat and I thought.
Talk it through
One of the things I find hardest about working on my own from my little spare room is…well, the fact I’m on my own. I’ve come from 12 years working in open plan offices with all the associated noise, distractions, and chaos. Although the frenetic pace of these offices can be frustrating (especially when you’re trying to write) the massive plus side is that there’s always someone there to bounce ideas off.
I find it very difficult to work in a vacuum. I need to have someone to talk things through with. I think most people are the same. If you’re having a freak out, and you’ve come up with some solutions, the next step is to have a sense-check. Find someone to talk the whole thing through with. This could be a friend, a family member, a member of a networking group, or even just friends on twitter.
What happened? What did you think about? What was your solution? Get them to ask questions and force yourself to start thinking about things a little more objectively.
I am lucky enough to have a business coach – he helped me think about my freak out objectively. He helped me analyze my solutions and look at them outside of my little cloud of panic. By the end of an hour’s chat over coffee, I saw things clearly. I was ready to get back out in the world and start again. And so, reader, I did.
It was only later that day I realized that, you know what? It’s fine to freak out. It’s normal to freak out. Every freelancer freaks out at some point. This is normal. Somehow, this realisation made the whole episode easier to deal with.
So, what about you? How do you deal with those little moments of stress? Do you have any Jedi mind tricks you can share?
Beaumont is a communications agency based in Lausanne, Switzerland. We work with clients all around the world to change the way they talk about themselves – helping them create engaging stories that motivate action.