If you work for yourself, I’ll wager at least one of the following has happened to you:
Someone was late for a meeting, and they still expected you to pay for the coffee.
A job you really wanted – and were certain you would get – went to a competitor who isn’t half as amazing as you.
You got a job you really wanted, but it morphed into the job from hell as soon as you started working on it.
You delivered an amazing piece of work, but the client decided to add a few ‘tweaks’ that mean you can’t show it to anyone, because now it’s rubbish.
Someone criticised your work.
At least one client didn’t pay you on time.
I could go on.
While these are all common freelance frustrations (they’ve all happened to me), there’s one thing that really separates the vodka from the tap water.
That thing is this: how do you react to your frustrations?
When I first started out as a freelance writer, I did a lot of networking. At one particular breakfast meeting, I found myself sitting next to a man who ran a small IT consultancy.
We started chatting, and he told me about someone he’d recently been speaking to – someone who had declined his kind offer to become a client.
“I couldn’t believe it,” this man spluttered, in between enthusiastic bites of suspiciously curled bacon and beige scrambled egg.
“I wasted so much time talking to that bloke…and after all that he decided not to work with me. Doesn’t he know I’ve got an office to pay for?”
I took a sip of weak, tepid coffee.
“Your office payments aren’t his responsibility,” I said. “You have to be good enough at what you do for people to want to work with you – so if you’re not, your business clearly isn’t working.”
“Why don’t you do yourself a favour and go back to full-time employment?” I continued. “Then you could spend your free time relaxing, instead of fretting over the uncontrollable actions of hapless others.”
No, of course I didn’t say any of that.
I just nodded blandly along, mumbling the occasional “yes I know…that’s terrible…” whenever he looked at me for a response.
(The coffee part is actually true; for some unknown reason coffee is always weak and tepid at networking meetings).
I try to recall that conversation whenever I’m tempted to give in to any of my own freelance frustrations. I’ve also learned over time that most work-related frustrations – whether as a freelancer or in full-time employment – are a result of other people’s actions.
Translation: they’re things you can’t control.
But you can control whether you want to waste time and energy getting all huffy over them, or try to learn from them instead.
Easier said than done, I know. But I do try.
Like the time I responded with a polite “thank you for buying my book” to the person who gave me a one-star Amazon review, instead of sharing what I really thought, which was “how dare you criticise me, you humourless cretin?”
See. I really am trying.