Monday, January 9, 2023

How, as freelancers, we sabotage ourselves without realising it

Being self-employed/freelance is often presented as an aspirational lifestyle: with freedom from bosses, the ability to choose more of the work that makes us happy, greater flexibility to work when and how we prefer, and such like.

I'd written elsewhere about some of the downsides to this model of employment (no sick pay, precarious income, etc), but this time I wanted to explore a possible blind spot that many of us haven't thought about which means that we're likely going to trip ourselves up without realising it.

As freelancers and sole traders, we live and work in a bubble.

You may be aware of the risk of 'bubbles' from things you've read about social media: the algorithms show you more of what you like, and so it creates an echo chamber of your own exiting preferences and biases.

And in being self-employed/freelancing, that bubble can easily start to form without our realising it - unlike our salaried counterparts, we don't have any line management, regular appraisal, or desk buddies. These are the people and systems who might help otherwise highlight potential self-limiting beliefs or emergent prejudice within ourselves before they become a major problem.

In the absence of such 'relatively safe' professional challenge to our thinking, it becomes very easy and automatic to start to entrench bad habits and practices, missing opportunities, and not recognising options we otherwise might and should.

Fortunately, the way to mitigate this risk is actually quite easy - we should form and become part of groups that will allow us to share our stories of "is it just me...?", and equally have people who we can trust as our peers, constructively challenge us over our thinking, attitudes, and approaches.

Whilst this may sound like a 'nice to do', surely it's better to identify and 'air any dirty laundry' with friends in private, than publicly with our clients or HMRC, etc?

And the good news is that such places already freely exist - Freelance Heroes, Being Freelance, IAF meetups, etc are all good starting places to start to create ways to have sanity checks for yourself, and to start to create 'accountability buddies': people who can take the place of a missing line-manager in helping you make sure you're actually getting on with those things that you keep saying/meaning to, but somehow never seem to get done...