Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Freelancers Fear

In the world of freelancing, entrepreneurship and artistry, fear comes with territory. And there are certain fears that are unique to our profession.

Financially, we fear the empty calendar. It’s a visual reminder of inactivity and, often times, an indication of financial instability. But we alone control the amount of work we do. We alone determine how busy we are. And if the fear of the work drying up becomes very real and urgent, we have to change the pattern. We have to stir the pot, leverage downtime, cut our own path and find work for ourselves. Whatever it takes to position ourselves as someone worth paying attention to.

Creatively, we fear the blocked brain. Compositional paralysis has ended more careers than rotator cuff surgery. And when our work hinges on the ability to sit down and whip something out of thin air, day after day, we have to become masters of our disinclination. When the brain goes blank, we have to explore places where we’re complete strangers. Throw ourselves into unfamiliar situations that demand a response. This type of displacement provides colorful new dimensions to our work, refilling the creative palette.

Physically, we fear the depleted constitution. That we’re going to burn out and get used up before our time, blowing our chances at a lifelong career. But ambition doesn’t have to carry us away to an abyss of chaos. Not if we pace ourselves. Not if we reserve a portion of our stamina to recover rapidly from disappointment. And even we if we do experience the occasional bout of exhaustion, it’s better to burn out than have no fire in the fist place.

Economically, we fear the unwanted offering. There’s nothing more frightening than the prospect of irrelevancy. That we’ll bare our soul, only to have the marketplace yawn at our efforts. That’s why we ought to take a few minutes each morning to remind ourselves why we rock. That the work we create is necessary, relevant and valuable to the marketplace. Armed with that attitude, fear will eventually howl in protest and find somebody else to annoy.

Individually, we fear the jailed expression. None of us would have joined this freelance circus if we weren’t ferociously independent. That’s why we hired ourselves in the first place, for the freedom. For the ability to turn our desks into cockpits. But minute we start asking permission, our lives are no longer our own. The minute we start merchandising our souls to the highest bigger, we’re toast. All we can hope is to stay surrounded by people who don’t ask us to edit ourselves.

Egoically, we fear the rejected deliverable. Because we’re true professionals, the product people ask us to deliver only exists because we’ve invested the time, money and energy to develop our capacity to create it. So if the client doesn’t like it, if their face screams not impressed, it feels like a spike to the heart. But if we’re smart, we build expectational clarity early in the process. We telegraph our reliability by delivering a series of small promises consistently, sowing a seed bed of future understanding and delight.

The thing about fear is, it’s not meant to be ignored – it’s meant to be invested.

There’s nothing wrong with being scared.

What do you fear?

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Writing, Publishing, Performing, Consulting

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