As Freelancers, we struggle with doings things today (this hour) to pay the bills, and also the need to think for what’s next. Here’s some strategies backed by science how to align to the longevity of my freelancing career.
As Freelancers, consultants, independent contractors and the like, we are generally hired to put out fires. We have a particular skill set that can come in a fit right in to a project and just go with it, or we need to finish something urgently or have a strict deadline. Either way, we are being asked to move mountains sometimes.
So, we are use to fire fighting or putting on bandaids. We’re like the firemen and women who come in and save the day. Over time and with so much experience, we are good at that — inserting ourselves in tough situations, rescuing our clients from the precipice.
We’re good at what we do.
At least in the short term anyway. We go back and wait for another house that burns down or someone else that needs our assistance. Some of us, the majority of Freelancers and Consultants (the average freelancer, shall I call them) are emergency first responders. We dive head first into a situation and we’re good at getting things done with immense pressure and tough situations.
That’s our bread and butter. That’s what we do.
We tell this to ourselves to much we convinced ourselves that’s who we are. We even put these traits on our resumes to say that we thrive in “fast-pace environments” and we “take initiative” (both traits that can be attributable to EMT personnel).
A Better Way
There will be times when we don’t have clients knocking on our doors. It’s happens all the time. It’s happen to me.
What I inevitably realize is that I haven’t been sufficiently thinking for the long term. I’m so good at reacting and dealing with the situation at hand that I forgot to think about things that will sustain me and not just maintain me. Most people think Freelancing is a short-term gain, but if you’re really serious being a freelancer and staying as one, I realized that I needed to think long-term.
Freelancers Thinking Longer
Like most people, and Freelancers are no different, we struggle to invest for the long term. There’s been many studies on this issue and instant gratification isn’t a good quality to have. Successes from people and in business have been attributed to those at are able to sustainably delay gratification.
That’s because delayed gratification is correlated to longer term thinking.
“If I had that cheesecake today, even though I’d feel pleasure for eating it, I know this will not make me healthy and might lead to other health problems over time.”
This is a very specific (and unrealistic) example of the self-talk we have, but it illustrates that there is a battle between the choices we make for the short term over the longer term.
We’re the Chipmunks of the Working World!
Freelancers, by nature and through experience, have been honed to think in short periods. We’re like the chipmunks of the working world — we store up food in our cheeks! We inherently want to save for a rainy day or for a dry spell (which we know will inevitably happen), so we hoard like no tomorrow. We maximize what we can do for our clients today or for the duration of the contract and we don’t think too much about the consequences of what’s next and how we invest for the future.
It’s not your fault that you think so short term. It’s just the nature of the work we do, which is short, has an expiry and we get compensated for the work we do and time we put in over the presence.
Priming for the Road Ahead
Luckily, there are ways we can prime ourselves to think longer.
There are some strategies to focus on delayed gratification:
- Document Your Why (begin with your core motivation and reminder yourself when you forget)
- Start Small (reduce it to its seed)
- Incrementally Improve Daily (1% rule by James Altucher)
- Tell Others (have at least one accountability partner)