Picture by Lori Greig.
If you’ve been freelancing for a while, there might come a time when you lose the connection you had to your business, all motivation and the direction you aimed for. It can happen for an endless number of reasons – listening too much to what everyone has to say about it, working without keeping an eye on the bigger picture, or simply overworking yourself can have a bad influence on the perception you have of your business. It’s a part of the journey we are all into – freelancing always has its bright moments and its not so bright moments. But how do you reconnect to that sense of purpose, that undying and almost unrealistic hope you had when your first started out?
1 – Find your WHY again
If you are into business-related books or into TedX keynotes, you might have stumbled upon Simon Sinek. Sinek is the mind behind the golden circle and most famously the principle of the Why. He puts things quite simply: it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it. Asking yourself this simple question can unlock a million of ideas – not only when you are at the start of your freelance career and you are trying to define where you want to go with your business, but also when you find yourself stuck in a rut. The purpose of this exercise is to recover the essence of what made you decide to become a freelancer. Yes, remember that little spark of hope and of idealism that you had? It’s still there, hidden somewhere, you just need to find it again.
2 – Take your context into account
One frequent mistake that freelancers make is listening too much to what everyone (and anyone) has to say. However, they tend to forget that everyone has a different personality, live a different life and run a different business. We might well all be translators, yet we offer different services, work with different language combinations and, all excuses aside, live in different realities (e.g. translators who live in their source country might have it easier to find direct clients than translators who live in their home country, translators living in economically-challenged countries might have more difficulty to run a thriving business). Equally, we are not all at the same stage of our career. In that sense, asking yourself what you could possibly be doing wrong because a) you have zero direct clients, b) you don’t get paid 0.2 € per source word or c) your inbox isn’t exploding with job offers every day might very well make you end up frustrated – and that’s the worst enemy of inspiration.
The key is to look at your context. I’ll share my own example here: having a toddler to look after on a daily basis, I can’t attend translation conferences as much as I would like to. Some people might find it insignificant; I find it challenging at times. But that’s certainly no excuse to sulk and not accept your situation. It doesn’t stop me from following those events through social media, network with my colleagues online and offline (in local settings) and keep myself updated on the latest developments of the industry. The key word here is acceptance:
- Accept the state you are in.
- Accept that everything is always temporary. Kids grow, people change, trends evolve – and so do you!
- Accept that everyone is different and that you are not the exception to the rule (and what rule to start with?).
And finally: get creative :)!
3 – Look at your competitors, learn from them, then forget all about it
Common marketing strategies include having a look at what your competition is doing. Do it: check what they are up to, and most importantly learn from what works and what doesn’t seem to work. Just like any good translation, let it sink in and sit for a while. Try to integrate that into your own way of running your business (without copying your colleagues shamelessly of course) and then forget all about it and starting doing things YOUR WAY.
I’ve also found that having a peek at what other kinds of freelancers were doing could be quite inspiring. Have you ever thought about what product-based business owners were doing in order to reach success? Some of their tips might still be relevant for you!
4 – Take a break
Your mind is like an engine you need to fuel every now and then, and sometimes it needs to stop running to come back even stronger and more efficient. Focusing on yourself, taking that me-time you deserve so much and treating yourself to one of your guilty pleasures can work wonders – you will come back refreshed, more focused and a whole lot more motivated than you were before. On that topic, I’ve compiled a list of ways you can find inspiration as a freelancer in an older article.
What about you, dear colleagues? How do you cope with situations where nothing makes sense anymore? I would love to know!