Emotions are not easy to deal with.
We live in a society where talking about how we feel or what we’re struggling with can be seen as vulnerable, which then leads to being weak. This is why a lot of people are used to hiding their struggles and dismissing their emotions.
In the creative community, we see this a lot. From freelancers to big brands, we only focus on celebrating our wins—the ad that tripled the business revenue, the first premium retainer client, hitting 10k in a month.
If it’s a good story, we are so eager to share it with anyone who’d listen. But if it’s a roadblock we can’t seem to get past through, if it’s a nagging question we cannot find the answer to, if it’s a failure eating us alive, we are dead silent about it.
And that’s a problem.
For starters, it’s a problem because we’re giving the wrong idea to aspiring freelancers that this path is all good news and sparkly wins. But (and this is more important) it’s also a problem because if we don’t talk about our struggles, how can we get it off our chest? How can we open ourselves to realizations, new perspectives, and wise suggestions?
I’ve been freelancing since 2010. I only started growing my business in 2015. Why? Because I spent the first 5 years playing small, settling for less, and the most destructive of all, scared to be judged that I kept all my struggles to myself. Today, I talk about it all the time - and here’s why you should too!
For obvious reasons, sharing what you struggle with opens you to endless words of wisdom and suggestions. I remember when I was still a journalist, I spent half my time in a Facebook group of journalists just asking questions. There was so much to learn and so many people willing to help out. I have deprived myself of that for so long.
When you share your career-related problems and struggles, you open yourself to other peoples’ perspectives and of course, to helpful tips and advice.
When there’s a problem, there is also anxiety, irritability, and even hopelessness. If you’re a creative entrepreneur struggling to make things work, you might find yourself wanting to go back to corporate. I know I have.
Talking about what’s bothering us or holding us back is a good way to make things lighter and easier. Expressing emotions and unloading those problems helps clear our minds. I don’t think I’d be here if not for social media and the amazing people who just said, “I hear you, I’ve been there. It’s tough but you got this.”
It takes a lot of courage to be a freelancer. It takes a lot of courage to pursue your creative aspirations. But that’s just one thing. To stick around and to stay even when things get tough—that’s another load of courage you need to have.
I am currently struggling to manage my Instagram and build my brand because I’m terrible at it and I don’t have the money to hire an Instagram manager. I did not think about business expenses like this when I was pricing my services. There’s your mistake number one and lesson number one.
As unrelated as it may sound, talking about your struggles helps you practice courage because it’s not easy to say you failed or that you don’t know what to do next.
One of my pet peeves in freelancing is when people only talk about their wins. I have nothing against celebrating your wins, but if it’s only what you focus on, you’re not really giving your community a realistic view of what freelancing is.
Truth is, freelancing sucks sometimes. It’s challenging and it requires a lot of self-discipline, more than anything else. I literally have no words to express how much my perspective changed after reading what other journalists have struggled with. When I thought I was the only one, I’d meet these people who also have the same problems as me. If that’s not giving a more realistic look, I don’t know what is.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, behind every successful business is an ordinary human. Talking about our struggles instills humility. In my case, it helps me remember it’s okay to fail or to be unsure of things. It’s okay to ask for help and it’s definitely okay to not know everything.
Part of being a successful freelancer is being kind to yourself. Another part is staying humble and being there when new freelancers need a piece of advice or two.
In an industry where “positioning yourself as an expert” has become a rule of thumb, we’ve made it difficult for people to be vulnerable. To say, “I’m not an expert on that but I can collaborate with a colleague who is.”
The more I talk about my struggles, the less I put experts on a pedestal and the more I see that vulnerability isn’t such a bad thing. Because it isn’t. It’s simply being human.