LOS ANGELES, CA
It's been just over a year since I turned away from a career in retail video game design. My biggest insight from the past year as a freelance user experience designer here in Los Angeles is that the hardest thing to deal with can be your own thoughts, insecurities, and emotions. I've experienced all parts of the emotional spectrum; from elation to dread and every shade of the blues in between, especially when I’ve got bills to pay, tons of time on my hands, and I’m itching and restless to just work!
So, instead of talking about some new UX-related discovery or opinion, I wanted to put together some thoughts to help other freelance UX designers cope with the inevitable lulls of being self-employed. Here are six tactics to deal with downtime (and your emotions):
- Seek the Hidden Win - I believe that successful entrepreneurs cultivate an ability to perceive hidden opportunities within their setbacks and failures. After all, we learn more from our failures than our successes, so strive to find these secret golden opportunities lurking amidst the clouds of emotional gloom and doom we tend to summon around our setbacks. If I didn't have an unexpected chunk of spare time on my h ands, AMPED-UX would never exist. Opportunities like this are waiting for you to take advantage of them!
- Manage Your Expectations - It's great to hope for the best, but it sucks when you get your hopes up only for them to be dashed. Sometimes what you think will be "YOUR BEST MONTH EVAR!!!" ends up being the least busy. Accept that ups and downs are natural; it's better to assume that things will not always go the way you imagine or want them to be.
- Exercise - If you ever felt you could never hit the gym as a full-time, salaried worker because you were stressing about too many things to do (and no time to do it) it's no longer a valid excuse. Exercise will help you sleep better, which improves your health, your mood, everything.
- Connect with Family and Friends - The freelancing lifestyle has enabled me to be a better, more supportive family member in ways that would simply not be possible in the 9-to-5 full-time grind. Use your newfound time to be more present mentally, emotionally, and physically for family and friends. Make an effort to network and make new friends and expand your network. You can never assume where your next potential gig might come from.
- It Gets Better - Each setback makes your stronger and better equipped to deal with future adversity. Your failures can be the fire that strengthens the steel of your character, giving you the grit and determination to persevere in your future career. I've always felt that a big part of luck is just persistence over time, so be patient and you'll get to where you want to be.
What say you, my freelancing brothers and sisters...anything to add or disagree with? Feel free to share your stories about your own trials on the Freelancer’s Path in the comments below.