Managing Your Freelance-Writing Business When “Life Happens”

4 minute read

All the three-word clichés surround you. Let it go. Get over it. Get a grip. Blue skies ahead. Live. Laugh. Love. My favorite — Eat. Pray. Love.

You may be moving to a new city or country, ending a marriage, grieving the loss of a loved one, or navigating one of a myriad of human conditions that qualifies as “a big change.”

Running your freelance business during a major life change can feel like an extra challenge.

The boon and the bane of running a freelance business is that it’s all on you. Sometimes, that means flexibility to work as you like… and other times, it means shouldering additional responsibility while navigating a big life change.

With the right mindset and a few simple steps, you can do it. Here are a few tips to manage your business while navigating a big life change.

Tips to Keep Your Business Running
During Personal Turmoil

  1. Make self-care a non-negotiable

    Brené Brown calls it “radical self-care.” When struggling with a big change, radical self-care for me means going for a weekly massage, getting on the yoga mat every day (even if all I do is sit silently), drinking enough water, eating twice a day, and journaling.

    Decide what radical self-care means to you and create boundaries for yourself. Your boundaries remind you what you’ve agreed to do for yourself (eat well, drink enough water, do 15 minutes of movement, for example), as well as what you’ve decided to avoid (smoking, too much alcohol, excessive spending, doom scrolling).

    Be honest about your self-soothing (and self-sabotaging) behaviors in times of distress. Do you forget to eat, shop too much, spend too many hours on your phone, or sit all day on the couch?

    Then, create small, reasonable boundaries for yourself to do more of what lifts you up and less of what sends you spiraling.

  2. Befriend systems and structures

    It’s counterintuitive, but systems create flexibility instead of stifling it. Creating a system and structure for your days makes it easier to care for yourself and your business. For instance, when undergoing a personal change four years ago, I started my workday with 15 minutes of marketing. I realized that, if I put it off, it rarely got done, so I made it my first thing.

    Since then, my first task every day is marketing. I post on LinkedIn, reply to prospects, send proposals, send LOIs, comment on LinkedIn posts, and connect with prospects. Starting my workday with 15 minutes of marketing gets me in work mode and helps me keep my calendar full.

    Similarly, you can structure your weeks and months. For example, I work four days a week. Within the week, I can decide which days I work. Sometimes, I take Monday off. If I start strong on Monday, I take Wednesday off or start the weekend early on Friday.

    Create systems and structures in your business and personal life to support yourself and make progress on your most important to-dos.

  3. Offload, outsource, delegate

    When you have energy to spare, you can kickstart projects and brainstorm new ideas and still feel like you have time to spare. But in challenging periods, your battery runs low. So now, you want to focus on the most important things and do them well with the energy you have.

    Assess your to-dos — both personal and professional. Find tasks you can offload, outsource, or delegate.

    I used to do weekly Facebook livestreams. As you can imagine, they took a lot of time and effort. I stopped doing them when I was personally struggling and communicated my reasons with my community in a professional way.

    Let’s say you send emails to your newsletter subscribers every week. Can you outsource the writing or editing to someone else? If you’re in charge of cooking in your household, can you delegate grocery shopping to your partner or roommate? Remember, asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re resourceful.

  4. Set 3 priorities every day

    This practice continues to be life-changing for me. Every evening, I decide on the three most important priorities for the next day. I write them down in my notepad after some intentional and strategic thinking. Here’s what happens:

    1. I wake up knowing what I need to do that day, which minimizes the overthinking, confusion, and overwhelm of figuring it out.
    2. My to-do list tells me what deserves attention, so the unimportant stuff just falls away.
    3. I know I’m moving toward my goals, albeit slowly.

    So, every evening, put on your strategic thinking cap and decide your three most important to-dos for the next day. Tell yourself you can do it and prepare to achieve it the next day.

  5. Safeguard your focus

    When you’re working through big changes, it’s time to focus on the few things that matter.

    Here are a few ideas to help you do that.

    1. Coworking — I use the Groove mobile app. Groove allows you to work in 50-minute windows with 2-4 other participants. Everyone in the group shares their goal. You can even create a to-do list inside Groove and check things off during the work session. In the end, each person shares what they accomplished. Coworking boosts productivity while also giving you a smidge of social interaction.
    2. White noise — The brain won’t stop talking sometimes (most times!). This is where white noise comes in. Studies have shown white noise reduces brain fog, improves focus and creativity, and enhances memory. Pull up a white noise focus playlist wherever you listen to music, put your headphones on and start checking things off your task list.
    3. Pomodoro timer — I’ve been using the Pomodoro method for four years, and it’s never let me down. I may be feeling less enthusiastic or utterly unmotivated. But as soon as I see the timer go off, I start working. Search for a Pomodoro video on YouTube, get yourself the physical Pomodoro timer or set the timer on your phone. You can work for 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break or work for 50 minutes followed by a 10-minute break. Either way, the cycle of focus and then relaxation will help you get more done, so you can turn your attention to managing your other challenges.

You CAN do this, so cheer yourself on! Tell yourself, “You’re doing so great. Look at you go!” Celebrate each little step… even if that’s just getting out of bed and showering. It’s progress… and during difficult times, every bit counts.