Resilient habits look different for all of us. Being freelance or self-employed can sometimes feel like you’re floating on a piece of wood from a sunken ship in freezing waters. Maybe you’re the one in the water and there’s someone hogging the wood who won’t show you how to get on or make any space for you (Rose could easily have moved over for Jack imo). The point being that working for yourself, especially when you first start out, doesn’t come with a user guide or a lifeboat. The conditions can often be icy and vulnerable. And most of us don’t have the world’s biggest diamond to fall back on (I’ll stop with the Titanic references now). Instead, we have ourselves – our own internal resources. And one of the most valuable of these is resilience.
I’ve seen a million different definitions of resilience but I would clarify it like this: the ability to bounce back (adapt) and bounce forward (transform). So, it’s about flexibility, boldness and tenacity. Resilience – and building resilience – is going to look different for everyone but there are some common habits + mindset shifts that are really helpful when you work for yourself.
Empower yourself with resilient habits
We most often talk about empowerment as seeing someone rise. However, there’s a second element that is equally important (and has to come first) – a strong and safe base. When you create a safe foundation for yourself you can bounce back from tough things and start planning bigger and better next steps. If you’re freelance this is even more important because you don’t have the safety net of a company behind you. Resilient habits are even more vital now. Your safe base will depend on what you don’t have in place right now – that could be healthy boundaries around work, understanding how to deal with (and calm) the physical impact of anxiety and stress, practical business infrastructure (contracts etc) or learning the language of asking for what you want.
You are the creator
This freelance life means you can live your life exactly the way you want to, making the most of all your talents and strengths. However, to do that you need to know what those talents and strengths are, how to nurture yours and ways of working that will optimise who you are and what you can do. This is a big part of resilience and it all starts with self-awareness – what your values are, what your triggers are, what feels effortless and what needs work. This kind of self-examination is vital when you are working for yourself and you are everything about your brand. Learning how to best use your abilities to make your business fly can be a process of trial and error – and also something you can do through a structured process with a coach like me.
Backing yourself as a reflex
Imposter syndrome, low confidence, waiting for things to be perfect or for others to validate what we’re trying to do – these are some real stumbling blocks for anyone in life but especially if you are freelance or self-employed. They drain resilience and stop growth from happening. If you don’t have faith in yourself then your clients won’t either and this can have a tangible impact on the bottom line. So, it can be transformative to develop backing yourself as a reflexive habit. Backing your ideas, creativity, experimentation and the bold steps that others might shy away from. Part of building resilience is working with your appetite for risk and how willing you are to get outside your comfort zone – the more often we can do this the more we remind our brains that transformation is possible.
Resilient action in the face of anxiety / fear
I’ve been freelance for a long time and I’ve faced those moments where people just keep saying no and it feels like that will never change. Or when a client delaying on a contract is going to cause you real financial problems. Those moments are when you need resilient habits and mindset the most. Otherwise, they can be instantly paralysing and leave you stuck in narratives like “I’m so ashamed that I’m in this position at my age” or “I’m such a failure.” These stories are totally understandable – but not helpful. Being resilient means being able to take action when you want to shut down, run away, eat 12 tubs of ice cream or just pretend this isn’t happening. It can take an almost physical effort not to do those things sometimes.
One of the biggest tips I can give as a resilience coach is to start learning how to work with your nervous system so that you can soothe it when something shocking happens. Because 9 times out of 10 it’s the reaction in our nervous system (fight, flight, fear, fawn) that will throw us off track. When you understand how to soothe this it will give you the space to see things more clearly, make considered decisions and keep feeling good about yourself so that you can stay resourceful. How you breathe is a very simple but effective tool – something like box breathing (4 counts in, 4 hold, 4 out, 4 hold) will physically bring your nervous system into a state of calm so that your prefrontal cortex (perspective and decision-making equipment) can come back online.
Flip the scarcity mindset
Here’s the iceberg for freelancers – a big, looming obsession with lack, whether that’s a lack of work/income/opportunities/network//validation. And the thing about scarcity mindset is that it’s way bigger below the surface too – if you don’t think there’s enough to go round, or you can only see the lack of things, then you’ll miss out again and again on what could help you and your business to grow. Scarcity mindset is something we’ve grown over many years so it can take a while to unpick it. You may not even realise you have it, especially if you’ve got into the habit of viewing it as the ‘realistic’ point of view – and abundance as something much less tangible or adult. Start by listening to the stories you tell yourself around money, success and your own worth. Write these down so you can see them in black and white – what kind of limits are you creating just by the thoughts that you have? Resilience and limits like this don’t go hand-in-hand – that’s why working on seeing, and lifting, this kind of limiting mindset is a big part of what resilience coaching is about.
Make it fun (because it is)
Working for yourself as a freelancer can be like living the dream. And often the best ideas and the most creative strategy come when you take your foot off the gas and stop feeling the pressure. So, the final resilience tip for freelancers is to make sure that you’re enjoying it. Make time for fun, build in play to your development processes (play has actually been found to increase cognitive function and innovation) and give yourself the opportunity to experience what you do as more than just the daily grind.
There is no better investment to make as a freelancer than spending time and effort on more resilient habits and mindset – it will affect everything, going forward. There are lots of benefits to doing this with a coach like me, including accountability, motivation and the support of an expert in getting the heart of your current challenges.
Want to find out more? Sign up for my Resilience for Freelancers Workshop.
Or book in an intro call if you’d like to find out about 1:1 coaching.