Friday, June 19, 2009

Two Ways to Change Focus from the Economy to Your Economy

I'm hearing from more and more people the state of the freelance landscape today:

"Since January, I've had three assignments (not high paying) and have sold two essays. My financial situation is far from good, and I'm the only breadwinner in the house."

"I have a large project pending but the client's counsel doesn't seem to be in any hurry to review my contract revisions. I am counting on this project to break my slump. "

"I'm only now seeing positive results, with two assignments I'm working on this week and potentially two more coming in this week. I've been at this almost full time each week since December 15. Getting out queries, LOIs, followups, etc. I can't give you an exact count right now, but I've gotten out at least 100 queries (new, revised or tweaked), more than 100 followups, and dozens of very targeted (with ideas) LOIs."

Still, sometimes, isn't it tempting to think it's YOU? In a way, it's almost comforting: If there really is a cabal of editors out there talking smack about that one article that took tons of revisions, then there's something you can do. You can try to change minds.

Whereas, if it's just the economy and the only answer is to stay vigilant and stay persistent and deepen your patience, then you've got nothing. There's nothing you can do but wait. And entrepreneurs? We're not known for our patience. Especially when the mortgage is due.

I talk a lot about the serenity hypothesis: That serenity isn't being happy all the time or getting everything you want (ask most lottery winners and they'll tell you the same). Serenity is focusing on what you can control and moving away from that which you can't.

And this economy? It's the epitome of what you can't control.

So how do you keep focused and sane and serene right now? Here are two techniques:

Look for role models
If you're a lone freelancer, staring at your barren inbox in frustration and worried about bare cupboards, it's easy to think that something has gone terribly wrong in your business. But if you hear, as I have recently, about tons of other freelancers going through the same thing--and getting through it, surviving and actually thriving--you have a road map.

Ask them:
How did you get through the slow times?
What did you do to keep yourself motivated?

How long did it take for the slump to pass?

How did you occupy your time?

How did you develop patience?

Especially those who say they've been through the slump a million times before--grab them. They're the ones whose resilience you want to learn from.

Pull a switcheroo
Serenity is all about switching focus from the uncontrollable to the controllable. So:
  • Instead of focusing on editors not responding, work on a new query.
  • Instead of focusing on two months from now when you're sure you'll be destitute and on the street, start teaching yourself a new skill.
  • Instead of obsessively crunching numbers, revisit your business plan.
  • Instead of replaying every stressful interaction you've had with a suddenly MIA client, send a thank-you card to an editor with whom you've always enjoyed working.

Can you think of more?

Photo by tomsaint11.

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