Everyone has a level of uncertainty in life, but when you work for yourself, it feels so much more noticeable.
You don’t have a set salary so you don’t know what you’re going to earn from one month to the next.
One day your pipeline can be full of promising leads and a week later, you’re sitting wondering where the next bit of work is going to come from.
Clients can drop off at any minute, change their mind about working with you, or decide they can’t afford to pay you this month.
You can go from having nothing in your diary to being so busy you’re struggling to get everything done.
And this constant uncertainty can cause anxiety.
The best way to reduce this anxiety is to get comfortable with uncertainty. Accept it as part of life. You can’t change it because so many things are out of your control. But you can change the way you think about it.
Focus on the things you can control and don’t get upset about the things you can’t.
Yes – I know it’s easier said than done, but it is possible.
Don’t view it as a negative – view it as something to be planned and prepared for. Because when you put processes in place to manage the uncertainty, it doesn’t feel as scary.
Break the feast and famine cycle
It’s easy to get trapped in a feast-and-famine cycle where you have loads of work one month and not a lot the next.
This can mean you are super stressed when you’re busy and super anxious when you’ve got no clients.
But there’s a reason this cycle exists.
When you get busy, it’s easy to neglect your marketing. You haven’t got time to promote yourself, respond to enquiries properly, or book calls and meetings so you let those things slide.
Then your busy period ends and you have no work lined up because you haven’t been promoting yourself, responding to enquiries properly, or booking calls and meetings.
And because you’re desperate for work, you have a huge push on marketing. You might even agree to work you wouldn’t usually take on or discount your prices just to get some money coming in.
So what happens? You get super busy again and you don’t have time to work on attracting the right type of clients.
And the cycle goes round and round. Feast, famine, feast, famine.
But you can stop it.
Make time for your marketing even when you are busy.
If your marketing is consistent, your enquiries will start to be more consistent, and your workload will be more consistent.
It might mean you have to turn some work away. It might mean you can’t complete projects as quickly as you want.
But you have to make time for your marketing if you want to break the cycle.
Control your cash flow
There’s a lot to be said for having a regular salary. You know exactly what and when you’re going to get paid each month and can budget accordingly.
That changes when you work for yourself, especially if you do project work rather than retainer work.
Some months you can earn three times as much as the month before.
Depending on your invoicing system, you might not always get paid in the month you do the work, which means the impact of a quiet month might not be noticeable straight away.
And you don’t always know when your clients are going to pay. Unfortunately, not everyone pays quickly or on time. Some people decide not to pay their freelancers at all.
My advice is always to get paid upfront for work. This way you don’t put yourself at risk of doing work and never getting paid.
But the most important thing you can do to reduce money stress is to get control over your finances.
So many freelancers just spend whatever comes in, living month to month. They have no system for managing income and expenditure. And they don’t put anything aside for tax or emergencies. Not only can this be stressful, it can also result in debt building up.
And it can be avoided if you treat yourself as an employee of your company.
Pay yourself a set amount on the same day each month. When you have a good month, leave the extra in your business to cover your salary when you have a bad month.
Once you’ve got a comfortable buffer, you can pay yourself a bonus or give yourself a pay rise.
And make sure you set money aside for tax. If this means you have to set up a separate savings account and move money in there every time an invoice is paid, do it.
You’ll feel much less anxious when your tax bill arrives if you know you have the money ready and waiting.