Five Ways to Get Unstuck in Your Freelance Business
By Jena Kroeker
Have you ever felt stuck in your freelance business? Maybe you want to move forward, but you have no idea how. Or you’re moving forward, but not in the direction you hoped for, and you don’t know how to get off the path.
That “stuck” feeling can be frustrating. Especially when, on the outside, things are going well. Consider this illustration from my pre-freelancing days.
Stuck in the Role of a Lifetime
You may not know this, but I used to be an actor. Okay, maybe not in TV or movies. But one summer, I had the privilege of playing R2-D2, a Star Wars robot character, in a skit at summer camp.
Now, if you’re familiar with the Star Wars movies, you’ll know that R2-D2 is about the size and shape of a trash can. So, what better object to use for the bottom part of the costume? And then for the top part, we found a large metal bowl that fit over my head.
All I had to do was squeeze myself into the trash can so my head was below the rim. Done! And finally, the metal bowl was balanced on my fingertips so I could spin it around. Perfect! Because my head was hidden, I couldn’t see anything. But I could hear laughter and applause, meaning the skit was a hit!
Before I knew it, we were done, and my fellow actors carried me backstage. Time to get out of the costume and resume my previous role as camp counselor. One small problem — I had squeezed down so far into the trash can, I was stuck. I couldn’t pull myself out. We tried tipping the trash can on its side so I could crawl out. No luck.
In the end, it took at least four people to lift me out from the top. Without panicking (and with much laughter), we figured out the problem and used practical strategies and teamwork to get me unstuck.
Five Ways to Get Unstuck in Your Freelance Business
Now, you may not be stuck in a robot costume, but maybe you’re feeling stuck in other ways. And perhaps your clients and audience, like my audience in the skit, are unaware that you’re stuck. Maybe they’re completely happy with your work and expect that you are too. You hear the virtual applause and receive glowing testimonials. Backstage, however, you’re frustrated and wishing you could be freed from this standstill.
An article titled “4 Ways to Get Unstuck in Business” describes that stuck feeling this way:
“The truth is, we all get stuck with our business endeavours at times. Whether it’s the promise of new opportunities coming thick and fast. Or we’re feeling a little bored and worn down by the same old, same old. Getting stuck is a surprisingly common phenomenon that occurs in micro business such as freelancing right through to the large-scale organisations.”
So, remember you’re not alone. In fact, imagine you’re backstage with the most caring friends and colleagues. And surrounded by all this empathy and community, let’s unpack each letter of the word FREED to help you build a successful, thriving freelance or virtual assistant business.
F – Figure out what’s frustrating you and holding you back.
First of all, stop what you’re doing and take a step back. Before you start asking for advice or planning strategies, look deep inside and assess your feelings and circumstances. What’s frustrating you and holding you back in your work and business growth?
In her article, “Get Unstuck in 7 Areas of Your Freelance Business,” Crystal Wright acknowledges the risks of comparing yourself and your accomplishments to “people who have been in the business longer than you” or “people who work in a different market,” for example.
If comparison is holding you back, she recommends you “create your own standard of excellence and measure yourself up to that instead.”
Or maybe you’re experiencing some of these frustrations:
• Boredom with your current niche and tasks
• Trouble keeping up with changes in technology
• Unexpected changes in your industry
• Exhaustion due to lack of boundaries
• Enjoyable work, but insufficient profits
• Unhealthy client relationships
• Too much or too little work
• Imposter syndrome
In essence, this first step allows you to recognize what you’re stuck in and how you feel about it. Use a piece of paper or a note-taking app like Evernote to record your observations. And if needed, speak to a compassionate friend, family member, colleague, or professional counselor.
R – Reassess your niche and freelance business goals.
Sometimes we get stuck because we’ve lost sight of our “Big Why,” the reason we created our freelance business in the first place. So, when you want to be freed, the next step is to see whether your frustrations are caused by a loss of purpose.
Specifically, as we advised in a previous blog post, “10 Ways to Stay Inspired and Engaged in Your Freelance Business,” ask yourself the following two questions:
• Why did you start a freelance business?
• What impact do you want your business to have on you, your family, and your clients?
These questions and the below purpose statement formula are further explained in Freelance University’s “Define Your Big Why” course:
Business Name helps Target Audience to Overcome Challenge that leads to Desired Results.
If you previously formulated your purpose statement, determine whether your business is still fulfilling it. And if you haven’t created a purpose statement, now’s the time to write it out. If you’re stuck because you want a new purpose, by all means, write a new statement. Reassess your niche and see whether you want to make any changes to your services or audience.
E – Evaluate your findings to identify any gaps or issues.
Well, it’s understandable if you’re feeling emotionally drained by this point. The previous two steps involved a lot of soul-searching and deep thought. So, for this next step, you might want to head outside for some fresh air. Take the dog for a walk, set up a lawn chair in the sun, or relax on the beach.
Now that you’ve identified your frustrations and purpose statement, let your mind wander. Think about possible gaps or issues that span the distance between your frustrations and your purpose. How can you build a bridge to get your freelance business to the other side?
Once again, do some brainstorming and document your ideas with a note-taking app or mind-mapping tool like MindMeister.
And don’t feel like you need to make any sudden decisions yet. In an article titled “Getting Unstuck: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do,” Braveen Kumar shares this wise advice from Adam Libunao of N/A Stock Company:
“Sometimes you need to spin your wheels in circles for a bit before you can figure out how to build a well-oiled machine.”
E – Educate yourself to increase your skills and knowledge.
Now it’s time to put your thoughts into action. Find resources, workshops, and courses to help fill the gaps you identified in the previous step. The article above suggests you “keep hold of your curiosity” by pursuing educational opportunities like industry events and seminars, new software, professional Facebook groups, videos, books, and other content geared to your industry, for example.
Here at Freelance University, we understand the importance of constantly upgrading skills and knowledge. Consequently, we make it our mission to offer a wide variety of training to help you serve clients and run your business effectively.
And in addition to training, this is the time to reach out to others. You may want to enlist the services of a business coach, mastermind group, or online community. For instance, many FreeU students find support and encouragement in our private Facebook community, where they can connect with peers and mentors. Our Monthly Mastermind Sessions for Starters and Scalers also help freelancers and virtual assistants become unstuck by providing more individualized attention.
However you educate yourself, remember that lifelong learning is worth pursuing even after you become unstuck. It may help prevent you from getting stuck in the future.
D – Dedicate yourself to new goals and devote yourself to forward motion.
The article above shares an important quote from Lina Ravelojaona, owner of Sooala:
“What got me unstuck was a shift in my mindset.
“I talked myself out of abandoning everything. ‘This is something that you really want to do. Two tries aren’t enough for you to say that you want to stop.’ ”
How many of us have gotten stuck and wanted to give up? When facing a myriad of frustrations, it’s tempting to throw in the towel. And when one solution doesn’t work, it’s easy to become discouraged. But getting your freelance business unstuck requires perseverance.
Remember it took me more than one try to get out of that R2-D2 costume. So, go through the steps above, and don’t be afraid to try out new ideas. If one idea doesn’t work, go back and try another one.
And above all, never freelance alone. With other professionals by your side, you can devote yourself to new goals and forward motion while enjoying the journey. Before you know it, you’ll go from being stuck to being freed. And with that freedom, you’ll enjoy greater fulfillment and success in your freelance business.
And now we’d love to hear from you! How do you get unstuck in your freelance business? Please share any additional strategies or tips in the comments below.